When I asked 21 people about the state of offshoring services in the Americas today at the SIG Global Leadership Summit here in Huntington Beach, Calif., what do you think became the most talked about issue? Was it about the influx of India providers into LatAm, Brazil landing the Olympics, or the remarkable transformation going on in Colombia?
Nope. The top concern, by far, was the drumbeat of downbeat and depressing news coming out of Mexico.
Now, let’s be clear, I was talking (during a corporate speed-meet session) to 21 outsourcing and procurement industry professionals. These are people who have some degree of higher knowledge about geography and its sometimes complex relationship with offshore outsourcing functions. In other words, this is a group of people who might have a more rationale and less reactive view on the popular images of a particular offshoring destination.
In the case of Mexico – however – the comments came across as one big flashing sign of caution. One colleague said, paraphrasing: “When you see the problems in Mexico running during the first 15 minutes of the ‘Good Morning America’ broadcast, you know that devastates a country’s image.”
The damage to the Mexico image is severe, but not fatal. The point I want to stress here is that when I inquired about the topic of Latin America outsourcing with the sourcing professionals, the response was solely about Mexico. But I kept making the point that Chile, Costa Rica and Brazil are very far away from the troubles in Mexico and that its deeply unfair to use the Mexico lens to characterize the larger nearshoring community. Too bad – the professionals said – the fear is outstripping rationale understanding. So once again all countries in CALA, besides Mexico, need to recognize this reality and find creative ways to get more existing customers talking about the very real satisfaction they receive by nearshoring.
The Real Picture
I thought it was more than ironic that moments after this session I met a gentlemen who works for Chevron who told me about a new shared services center Chevron open just a few months ago in Mexico where application support services are provided. Just weeks ago Brazilian provider Stefanini opened a new office in Guadalajara to keep pace with growing demand in the market.
How then do you reconcile the fact that there is clearly a solid offshoring/ outsourcing industry in Mexico where billions of dollars are exchanged between US and Mexico firms on an annual basis, yet a group of executives are looking at Mexico like it’s the new North Korea?
Does anyone else see this profound gap between the reality of Mexico’s business and economic climate and perceptions (obviously fictional) that the entire country is engulfed in a war zone?
The Waiting Game
Many industry watchers, including those who sell services as nearshore providers in Mexico, may just be biding their time until the day when things just start to get better. The problem with that approach is that its the equivalent of burying your head in the sand. “It will eventually fix itself.” But of course the actual mis-perceptions will persist. Ignorant understandings will thrive and the opportunity to educate, to reveal a deeper, more realistic picture of economic life in Mexico will be lost.
I know when I went to Guadalajara four months ago I walked around freely on the streets and discovered a clean and youthful city. But I was lucky, I got to see it first hand.
Do you think those 21 sourcing professionals would accept a free trip to Guadalajara to tour the city? Probably not. The news is too grim and they don’t have enough readily available insight, data, facts and peer-driven advice from the likes of Chevron to recognize that the violence, as sensational as it is, is certainly not enveloping the country.
It is my sincere belief that greater knowledge will dissolve barriers and heal many wounds, but that knowledge can’t be transmitted without some form of amplification.
– Kirk Laughlin, Editorial Director