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Information technology, as a motor for the development of the commercial and exportation potential of the small and medium businesses (pyme’s), and the impulse that should be given to the exportation capacity of Venezuelan businesses that generate technology,(especially software designers), were among the most important issues addressed in the sixth “Exporting to succeed” seminar, held on September 13th and 14th in Caracas, and organized by Venezuela Competitiva, in cooperation with the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the Venezuelan Exporters Association, and the External Trade Bank (Bancoex).

For the SELA, the internationalization of Latin American and Caribbean businesses as a strategy to develop the national industry and to generate jobs, is one of the main purposes of its Iberian-American Program for the pyme’s (Iber-pyme), which this organization has been working on for several years.

“It’s a matter of increasing their competitiveness and efficiency in markets where international competition demands renewed skills in local as well as in external markets”, said SELA’s secretary William Larralde .

Several successful experiences and new trends in the use of TIC at the service of the businesses’ exporting capacity were presented and analyzed.

According to the different specialists and expositors in the event, establishing alliances with good business associates, being able to adapt, and above all, having a very clear idea of the business intended to start, are key steps to guarantee success in a business.

On this issue, Spanish scholar and European Union advisor, Isidro Lazo explained that one of the trends in Europe is Collaborationist Trade (cCommerce), a system that integrates (electronically) all the businesses linked to a production chain.

Today, the pyme’s in Latin America represent 96% of businesses, with an average 9% growth worldwide; changes that businesses should be prepared for.

“The word growth is in vogue again. Before, people spoke only of efficiency, but now they talk about growth again”, said Francisco Thierman, of IBM, who agrees with Lazo that one of the key factors for the success of a business is innovation.

“Innovation is the key word, and one can innovate by establishing new relations, by creating new structures for the business, by offering either a product with greater aggregated value or a new service, or by completely restructuring the business in order to operate through Internet” said Lazo.

One case of successful innovative businesses exposed in the seminar was La Carretica.com, a small Costa Rican company that has attained popularity among Costa Rican citizens living abroad, especially in the in the U.S.

This company, that started as an initiative by an enterprising young man and a systems engineer, offers traditional Costa Rican products to fellow Costa Rican citizens abroad. The products offered are not innovative, but offering this service is an innovation that has so far rendered a monthly turnover between 11,000 and 12,000 U$, according to Leopoldo Rojas, a representative of Galileo, a Costa Rican organization that creates information systems and services applied to development.

Another successful case is Barrabes.com, a Spanish company specialized in mountain climbing equipment, which opened its virtual shop and is today the most successful Internet sales company in Europe. Such success has this business achieved, that the local government of Huesca, where it was established, opened a technological park with Barrabes.com as its seed business.

“Not only does Barrabes.com offer products; its Internet portal also includes features ranging from information of interest for mountain climbers, to courses and job offers, because their model of business, more than merely commercial, seeks to establish a virtual Barrabes.com community”, said Lazo.

Sources of financing

There are some programs underway for the financing of pyme’s, to which Venezuelan entrepreneurs can have access. Lazo informed that there is a 300 million U$ fund available for the financing of pyme’s in Latin America and the Caribbean that wish to add new TIC to their businesses.

For its part, the Andean Corporation of Promotion (CAF) presented the case of negocios.com, a Venezuelan company that has made progress thanks to the contributions by the Fund for Investment and Entrepreneurial Development (FIDE), which has 15 million U$ available for financing pyme’s.

The Foreign Trade Bank of Venezuela (Bancoex) gave ample details over the Exportic Program, with 300,00 U$ to support pyme’s that develop TIC.

Exportic will select 30 companies that will be assisted for 18 months in all the phases of their internationalization process, which includes training, consulting, technical assistance, commercial intelligence, and international promotion.

The objective of this program, to be carried out by the Technological Park of Mérida, is to determine the exporting potential of Venezuelan TIC’s, and place Venezuela as a competitive TIC exporter in international markets.

The representative in Venezuela for the Fund for Sustainable Development (Fundes), an non profit organization that provides management consulting and training for small entrepreneurs, was among the expositors in the seminar. Information about the different programs brought forth by Fundes in Venezuela is available in its web site www.mpyme.com.

Published in Quantum No.33