Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, Colombia is transforming itself into an entrepreneurial technology mecca. This burgeoning market is in the same hemisphere and time zone as the U.S. With a growing number of college-educated bilingual IT and software engineers, Colombia, the second-most populous country in South America (49 million) and second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world, is aggressively working its way toward modernity.
For the last decade, successive Colombian administrations have marginalized the formerly dominant drug trade. As a result, Bogota is a sprawling metropolis bursting with new high-rise business districts and ritzy shopping zones. More than three-quarters of the population is between the ages of 16 and 44.
But Bogota also has poor peasants living in slums, enormous traffic problems and little transportation or digital infrastructure, and only the professional class speak English. Colombia’s leaders are aware of these problems and the opportunities.
To attract new foreign investment, Colombia is enhancing educational opportunities. In the last decade, 1.8 million engineering degrees were awarded in a population of 49 million, with 167,000 students graduating each year, and the government is working hard to keep its Ph.D.s at home.
Even more fundamental, Colombia is teaching its citizens to speak English. The government has instituted bilingual education and certification to address this need, and many companies conduct their own English classes.
As a result, U.S. companies including HP, Coca-Cola, American Express, Sears, Adobe, Target, Walmart and Travelocity have flocked to Colombia for “near-shoring”—to establish businesses. Colombia has experienced an impressive 12.5 percent CAGR from 2006–2010 in IT alone.
CE in Colombia
Colombia’s primary big box retailer, the 13-store chain K-Tronix, stocks most of the major CE brands found in U.S. retailers. In addition to K-Tronix, Samsung, LG, Sony, Bose and Bang & Olufsen have impressive showroom stores in Bogota. 25–30 percent higher than in the U.S. The 16 GB version of Apple’s iPad 3, for instance, is listed at $667, compared to just $499 in the U.S.; a 60-inch plasma HDTV lis ting for $2,100 in the U.S. is priced at $2,750 at K-Tronix.
Bogota residents avoid high prices by shopping a t two tech malls, Unilago
and Centro de Alta Tecnologia
where everything is sold via negotiation. There are many opportunities for CE companies that seek to expand into this market.
Related: Doing Business in Colombia