Strong relationships energize business in Brazil

By Paul Sjoberg

The forging of strong relationships in Brazil is lighting the way for ORBCOMM Canada, located in Ottawa, to do what it does best: provide telemetry and automation solutions for remote assets—a connection which will help the South American nation in its quest to meet the needs of its growing urban centres.

An estimated 86.2 percent of Brazil’s population of more than 210 million inhabitants—roughly 181 million people—currently live in urban centers. As the population in Brazil’s large urban population continues to increase, energy consumption and demand thereof are also rising rapidly. Brazilian energy providers are looking for more sophisticated technologies to help properly manage the distribution of energy to their growing customer‑base.

While Canadian companies can offer viable solutions to help meet Brazil’s growing energy needs, the market is notoriously difficult to penetrate, says Laura Netto, a trade commissioner based in Rio de Janeiro. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) has six  offices in Brazil including in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo—two of the world’s largest metropolises—in the capital city, Brasilia, and in Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, and Recife. Trade commissioners across Brazil provide prospective companies with key contacts and access to vital networks through which they are far more likely to find success.

It is no simple task to enter the Brazilian market, agrees Silvio Ostroscki, vice president of sales in the Latin American region for ORBCOMM, which provides hardware, software, and services for transportation, heavy equipment, oil and gas companies, and mining companies, as well as satellite and satellite‑cellular devices in the machine‑to‑machine market, and is now able to provide total solutions by combining all aspects of their services.

“It’s difficult to import (from Brazil),” Ostroscki says, “taxes are incredibly high, and the (Brazilian) government doesn’t really help—so doing business there tends to be difficult and complex. To be able to have somebody on the ground like the trade commissioners who already have contacts makes a huge difference.”

Ostroscki, who works out of the New Jersey‑headquartered company’s largest branch located in Ottawa, Ont., says they were able to make headway into Brazil’s energy market with help from the TCS.

In November 2016, Silvio Ostroscki and other ORBCOMM representatives attended the Brazilian Seminar of Power Distribution (SENDI) in Curitiba, Brazil, where the TCS introduced them to Energisa, one of the six largest private power distribution groups in the country.

ORBCOMM, through partners, is providing Energisa with a solution that allows the energy company to monitor and control reliably its power distribution anywhere in its electrical grid, independently of telecommunication infrastructures that are not always reliable or available where companies need them.

Netto coordinated meetings between ORBCOMM and Energisa, foreseeing that they would be a good match. Once she knew both companies were interested in a partnership, she organized follow‑up meetings, and a deal was made.

While ORBCOMM and Energisa may seem like an instinctively ideal partnership, because ORBCOMM is able to provide the automation technology that Energisa requires to continue serving its millions of customers across Brazil, Ostroscki acknowledges that Energisa did not choose to partner with them only because they provided a solution.

“In the case of Brazil and in the case of Latin America, you don’t do business just because you have a better product and a better price—you have to have relationships,” he says.

Ostroscki goes on to explain that in Brazil, and Latin America in general, if you have the best product but not the best network of relationships, you will likely not be as successful as a company with better relationships, even when their product or service may be inferior. This, Ostroscki believes, is a fundamental difference between conducting business in Latin America and in North America.

“If (ORBCOMM and its partners) went alone to visit Energisa it wouldn’t be the same at all,” Netto says, adding they could likely have signed a contract eventually, but that they would have faced much tougher competition without the key connection provided by the TCS. “You need to build credibility in Brazil first.”

Despite Canada’s positive image in Brazil, companies like Energisa still need assurance that the company is going to provide, Netto says, adding she and the other trade commissioners can provide this assurance. “You become friends before you do business,” she says, echoing Ostroscki’s sentiments about the importance of relationships in the Latin American market.

Ostroscki says Brazil has long been one of ORBCOMM’s most important business destinations. Initially, its main business was in the transportation industry, but the company saw opportunities in the energy sector. The satellite‑cellular technology that ORBCOMM possesses does not exist locally in Brazil, Ostroscki says, adding the company is recognized in the market for the reliability of their solutions.

However, Ostroscki says that in Brazil none of that seemed to matter as much as forming relationships with the companies that they wished to partner with. “Nobody in the electricity sector really knew us there.”

The TCS was instrumental in helping ORBCOMM penetrate Brazil’s energy market, and Ostroscki notes they “had support since the beginning from Laura and the TCS in general in Rio de Janeiro.” Even before ORBCOMM attended the SENDI event in Curitiba, he adds, trade commissioners in Rio de Janeiro were opening doors for them with the major electricity companies there.

Energisa became the first large user of ORBCOMM’s technology for electricity. “They were the first ones really believing and interested in this technology,” Ostroscki says, and Energisa has now become an example that ORBCOMM shows to other potential partners in the Brazilian market and in the rest of Latin America.

“We grew into other companies, after that first case, as well. We expect this year to be much bigger.” Ostroscki explains, adding because the energy market is relatively new for ORBCOMM, their business may expand more quickly than in other vertical markets. All of the engineering work for the technology used by the electricity solution is done in Ottawa, Canada, he .

Netto says while Canada has a very positive image in Brazil, it often takes more than that for business success. For ORBCOMM, it made a big difference to have entered into the Brazilian market through the TCS, she says, adding the TCS provided ORBCOMM with credibility in a market that is built on relationships.

From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this story is one example of how trade commissioners located in more than 160 cities around the world help Canadian companies succeed.

Read more about the Humans of the Trade Commissioner Service.

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