Interview: Gabriela Castro-Fontoura – Doing Business in Latin America

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Latin America is a complex market with vast natural resources and many challenges to overcome.

In this interview, the Business Consultant and Economist, Gabriela Castro-Fontoura, evaluates the pros and cons of those nations, and also presents her book, Doing Business in Latin America, a guide to inspire exporters in international trade.

Midlands Trade:  Firstly, I’d like you to talk about your experience as Economist and Business Consultant for Latin American market.

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: I set up Sunny Sky Solutions back in 2011 in Skipton (Yorkshire).

As a native Latin American living in the UK, and with strong analytical skills from my studies and work experience, I was often asked about opportunities in Latin America, particularly after the 2008 crisis.

I saw there was an opportunity to support SMEs, particularly manufacturing SMEs in the North, and that’s where it all began. I have now supported more than 35 clients mainly from the UK but also from Spain, Australia, China and even from within Latin America.

Midlands Trade: What kind of readers is Doing Business Latin America aimed at?

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: The ebook is aimed at small and micro businesses that are not doing business in Latin America yet and that want to have a flavour for what Latin America is really like. It’s a very introductory ebook that aims for breadth rather than depth, my aim was to get Latin America closer to Britain and get you thinking…

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Midlands Trade: Talk a little bit about your consultancy, Sunny Sky Solutions. What kind of services does it provide for businesses?

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: Our two core services are market research and partner recruitment. With companies that we have worked with for some time, we also develop more hands-on, long-term services, basically acting as their regional business development manager.

Midlands Trade: What makes Latin America an attractive market?

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: Sustained economic growth over the last 10 years means that, despite this year’s slowdown, Latin America is in need of products and services like never before, to meet the demands that this growth has brought.

So pretty much everything is in demand, from MBA programmes and gourmet crisps through to generators and helicopters.

Latin America is much closer culturally to Europe and the UK than most assume, you don’t really need protocol or etiquette lessons (although cultural awareness is a must).

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Midlands Trade: How should companies deal with the fact Latin America is also a complex and very distinct market?

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: There are 20 individual country markets in Latin America, each must be researched separately and treated in a different way.

Midlands Trade:  Which would you say are the main barriers to trading with Latin American country?

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: Barriers vary across countries. For example, while there are protectionist countries with huge barriers to trade like Argentina, there are more open countries like Mexico.

While corruption is high in Honduras or Venezuela, it is not that high in Uruguay or Chile. Safety can be an issue for example in Nicaragua, not usually in Chile, for example. Bureaucracy is definitely an issue.

Things also take a lot of time, much more than in Europe. Payment is an issue for some companies but not all. The lack of infrastructure can make logistics within Latin America also quite complex.

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Midlands Trade: Right now, which are the sectors that are in the spotlight in Latin America?

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: It’s difficult to say. Energy, mining, oil and gas, and infrastructure are strong as well as for example food and drink processing/packaging.

However, services are also in demand, like education and insurance. A continent of 600 million people needs a bit of everything, particularly after growing for the last 10 years and still growing!

Midlands Trade: What would your advice be for businesses that would like to get into the Latin American market?

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura: Take your time to research the markets, build up as much intelligence, including contacts, as you can, it will pay off.

Look at the synergies between countries but always remember they are separate markets. Make sure you have a strategy and that you’re in it for the long run, with the resources and commitment this implies. And, above all, enjoy it!

Photos | Gabriela Castro-Fontoura

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I'm a Brazilian journalist based in West Midlands. In Brazil, I have worked with International Trade and Logistics publications. Now in the UK, I keep writing and I dedicate myself to a new project : Midlands Trade - a blog focused on business in Europe and Brazil. It's also supporting small businesses throughout the #MeetTheBusiness.

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