The Caribbean Needs IT Providers

By John Moore  |  Posted 2005-07-13 Email Print this article Print


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Opinion: The search for new markets has brought one VAR to the Caribbean, where there is so little competition that some companies are kept from growing due to a lack of IT expertise and solutions.

The global reach of the IT service sector has left few geographic markets untouched.

But officials at Satyam Computer Services Ltd. believe they have hit upon one: the Caribbean islands.

Satyam, which operates in 46 countries, including the Caribbean region, co-sponsored a business technology conference in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago in June.

Satyam has seven customers in the Caribbean, according to Ram Mynampati, president of Satyam's Commercial and Healthcare Business. He said financial services, telecommunications, and manufacturing are areas of vertical market activity. He also said he sees opportunities in government, health care and insurance.

What he doesn't see is much in the way of competition. He mentioned IBM as another company working in the area.

In general, Caribbean companies "are constrained in finding solutions" due to a lack of local expertise, Mynampati said.

That's one of the reasons Satyam has decided to build a beachhead in the region.

Mynampati predicted that competitors may well follow the company into the Caribbean nations.

But in the Caribbean, first mover advantage may prove to be a lasting one. "The market is small and finite and may not be able to accommodate as many companies" as other markets, Mynampati observed.

But there's another draw for Satyam beyond the relative lack of competition: cross cultural connections.

Mynampati said the Caribbean company business model is similar to what Satyam has experienced in Canada, where the company has offices in Calgary, Mississauga, Toronto and Vancouver.

That's because Canadian companies have a presence in the Caribbean, Mynampati said.

Canada's Scotiabank, for example, has an affiliate in Trinidad and Tobago. And the Royal Bank of Canada once owned the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, Mynampati noted.

Trinidad and Tobago pursued localized ownership of industry during the 1970s, according to the Country Studies Web site.

Local connections.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Satyam partners with a local company, McEnearney Business Machines.

The company, which provides office equipment and technology solutions, co-hosted with Satyam the recent technology conference.

Attendees included managers from Scotiabank; RBTT Financial Group; and Petrotrin, the nation's oil company, among other companies.

Satyam appears particularly interested in Trinidad and Tobago, which the CIA World Factbook calls "one of the most prosperous [nations] in the Caribbean, thanks largely to petroleum and natural gas production and processing."

Mynampati also cited Trinidad and Tobago's proximity to Venezuela.

Satyam pushed into Latin America last year, opening an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"We see … an opportunity to look at these markets in an integrated fashion," he said.

Satyam currently supports its Caribbean customers through its Canadian operations; the company has yet to open a local office. That will happen over time.

Meanwhile, Satyam will continue to cultivate what it perceives as a mostly untapped market.

A jump into the Caribbean isn't something most IT service providers are willing or able to do.

But Satyam's approach in the region demonstrates a classic two-step business development approach that may be emulated elsewhere.

First, take the time to research markets and identify the underserved ones.

Second, look beyond your immediate customers for business opportunities among their affiliates and business partners.

John writes the Contract Watch column and his own column for the Channel Insider.

John has covered the information-technology industry for 15 years, focusing on government issues, systems integrators, resellers and channel activities. Prior to working with Channel Insider, he was an editor at Smart Partner, and a department editor at Federal Computer Week, a newspaper covering federal information technology. At Federal Computer Week, John covered federal contractors and compiled the publication's annual ranking of the market's top 25 integrators. John also was a senior editor in the Washington, D.C., bureau of Computer Systems News.



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