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Export markets: Latin America.

EXPORT MARKETS: LATIN AMERICA On December 4, the U.S. Commerce department and International Solutions Inc. will sponsor a one-day conference on "Software Opportunities in Latin America" as part of a Miami-based trade show and conference called Data/90. We spoke recently with stephen Banker, executive director of Data/90, about the current state of the Latin America software marketplace:

Because of piracy and government red tape, Latin America has always been a notoriously difficult market for software publishers. Why bother?

"This answer is simple: Market share. By investing now, software companies stand the best chance of establishing a firm place in a very large, very dynamic market. The Latin American market for information systems has been more than doubling every twoo years. Governments are taking the piracy problem seriously, with Brazil and Chile in the forefront. By 1991, Latin America is expected to be a $23 billion market for computer products."

What about publishers who aren't willing to invest in creating localized versions of their products?

"Long term, it will be important for a publisher to offer Spanish and Portuguese versions. But right now there is a window of opportunity for English programs. That's because computers are still largely in the hands of the elite. That situation will change as the technology penetrated the population. Still, it's possible for software publishers to hit the ground running now with existing versions."

Who's the typical customer?

"The market for computing in Latin America mirrors the general social and economic climate. There's a lot of wealth at the top, untold masses at the bottom, and very few in the middle. What that means is that there are enough high-end platforms so that companies like SCO and Novell are doing very well. At the other end, lots of folks are using 8088-based machines with one or two floppes and no hard drive, or a small one. This suggests an enormous opportunity for software that runs well on older DOS machines.

"There's a similar pattern within companies. In Latin America, computers aren't relegated to secretaries, closets, and children. They are used actively for important productivity tasks. In fact, a recent Stanford study showed that senior managers in Latin America spend more time working with their computers than their counterparts here. So it's very likely that the typical software customer in Latin America will be an experienced power user, not a novice."

What's the best way to cope with government red tape?

"Shipping and regulation problems have to be handled country by country, but it's possible to start with a few of the larger markets. For example, Brazil constitutes half of the total Latin American market and is a separate culture. One of the reasons we're producing Data/90 is to explain each country's rules and to let publishers meet distributors who can handle local logistics."

How difficult is it to take money out of Latin America?

"Getting money out is not a great problem. The best advice is: Find a partner or a distributor, cut a deal, ship, then pick up your check at the mailbox. The difficulty, of course, is finding the right partner. But that's a problem with just about any overseas market."

Stephen Banker, executive director, Data/90, International Solutions, 3408 Wisconsin Ave., NW, #220, Washington, D.C. 20016; 202/363-8877.
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Title Annotation:interview with Data/90 conference director Stephen Banker on software markets
Article Type:interview
Date:Oct 21, 1990
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