A contemporary company of the Argentine tech giants Mercado Libre and Despegar, Globant, a Buenos Aires-based IT and software development company, has “come of age” a few weeks ago. A publicly-held company since 2014, Globant has been accelerating its international expansion since then, in and out of Latin America, and is currently valued at $8.5 billion.
Founded with digital DNA by engineers Martín Migoya, Guibert Englebienne, Martín Umaran, and Néstor Nocetti, Globant emerged with the idea of solving real-world problems with cutting-edge technologies. The company’s first major turnaround was about three years after its founding when it became Google‘s external provider. The strategic project relationship with Google has reinforced the company’s culture. Unlike the large Indian technology companies that do application support and software maintenance services, Globant focused on services related to the user experience. Thus, the company gained more strength and visibility.
After going public, it accelerated the number of acquisitions (17) and expanded to other countries: United Kingdom, Colombia, Uruguay, United States, Peru, India, Mexico, Chile, and eight others. Recently, Brazil and Spain are among the countries receiving the most investments from the big tech. Still, there are also expansion plans that target especially Australia, Canada, and Central America, and the Caribbean.
Globant operates mainly in the finance segments (banks and insurance companies), retail, health, that is, institutions and organizations that speak directly to the consumer, but also develops B2B2C services and products.
With more than 16,000 employees, Globant has customers such as Rockwell Automation, Electronic Arts, Santander, American Express, and Coca-Cola. In Brazil, the company a list of “must-have accounts” to work with. Alexandre Thomaz, director of the multinational in Brazil, talked to LABS about this and much more.
Isabela Fleischmann: Globant recently acquired Habitant, a European digital marketing consulting firm, what do these mergers mean to the company?
Alexandre Thomaz: The M&A strategy is global and in Brazil, it is also very strong with the same objective: to complement capabilities. Besides Habitant, which is focused on digital marketing, Globant acquired a consulting company of high level in Spain, Bluecap, and one in South America more related to Salesforce issues and ERP (enterprise resource planning), which is Assa Group, always with the idea of complementing capabilities and offering our services to the customer base of these companies, what we call cross-selling. Globant’s solutions often fit the clients of the companies we acquired.
IF: Although contemporaries, Brazil knows much more about Mercado Libre than Globant. Does your entry as director of the company in Brazil mean more investment here?
AT: Brazil and Spain are countries that are receiving a lot of investment from us. Brazil because of the spectacular opportunity to have very large companies. And there was a big event that made this happen strongly, which was, unfortunately, COVID-19. The pandemic made digital projects and initiatives go from being “nice to have” to “must-have” and this changed [the ecosystem]. And when these companies demand digital transformation there is alignment with Globant’s value proposition: make better use of data, use more artificial intelligence, use a little more gamification, and digital marketing. In other words, the demand is very similar to what we have been doing. Suddenly Brazil appears with a great opportunity.
Before [when the operation started in 2012] in Brazil we were much more focused on serving a few local clients, we used a lot more offshoring. And the big change was that we needed to have a local force with local executives, both for commercial issues, technical issues of delivery centers, and spokespeople speaking Portuguese for Brazilian clients.
This made all the difference. When we started taking Globant’s messages from people who speak Portuguese and understand Brazilian specificities, we quickly managed to accelerate Globant’s growth in Brazil.
IF: How much was this growth in Brazil?
AT: I can’t share local numbers, but in about two years the size of Globant Brazil has multiplied by three [in revenues and staff]. We have four offices in Brazil and we are accelerating and looking at other places.
Globant bought a company called TerraForum in Brazil in 2018 and the SaaS company Avanxo in 2019. That was when we strongly accelerated the expansion here in Brazil and then we complemented it with the acquisition of the Assa Group, and other things that are being prepared, right?
We have been working remotely for many years. The presence of Brazilians is important for us to support clients in other countries. So, before, we were supported by people from Argentina, Colombia, and the U.S.. Now, we not only support local clients, but we also support international clients from Brazilian employees.
Clients that are classic and important for Globant, like Disney, for example. There is a large group of Brazilians accessing, supporting, and developing the services for Disney from Globant in San Francisco. So, it is a Brazilian team supporting an American team for this American client. Or in Europe, for example, Brazilians from Globant helped the creation of digital banking and open banking for Grupo Santander from scratch.
IF: What does Globant do?
AT: Unlike many rivals, Globant does not work only in the healthcare area or only in the finance or telecom area. We have a structure here that we call studios. The studios are cells where we have the talents and the best practices on certain themes or technologies. So, for instance, we have the IoT cell or the cloud cell.
Another key point is how Globant offers a helping hand to its customers. Globant helps the customer revisit their business, does consulting work focused on how the foundations of their organizational culture are, and helps design a roadmap of how they can move forward and stay relevant.
We do software development, application development, website improvement, agile projects, etc., but always with this idea of making better use of data. That is, how can we make this consumer, who is very well covered by legislation, want to share data with us so that we can better understand him, make recommendations, and personalize the service.
Recently Globant partnered with Apple Watch to make a platform to encourage health, and we are working with a Brazilian insurance company so that clients of this insurance company can use this solution that encourages exercise. We know exactly the number of calories, the heart rate, the time dedicated to health and, with this, the person receives bonuses, receives points, can get a reduction in the monthly fee, or buy medicine in a drugstore chain in a cheaper way.
IF: You are opening delivery centers in small cities in Argentina like Viña del Mar and Bariloche, why?
AT: We try to choose the cities that we are going to invest and expand in based on the existing talent or the potential of the existing talent [there]. The war for talent has been going on for a while. Therefore, establishing delivery centers where we identify opportunities to have access to good professionals or near universities is fundamental.
So, this has been happening a lot, there are about 14 cities in Argentina with investments of this nature and we are finishing a plan here for Brazil, of which cities we call low-cost but that at the same time have access to good professionals. We will go to one in the South of Brazil, others in the North and Northeast.
The idea is to have access to talent, and the talent is where there are universities. But even if we don’t have universities in certain places, this doesn’t mean we won’t hire people from remote places.
There are also internal initiatives, such as the one we did with Mercado Libre and Digital House. We sponsor programs for about 2,000 scholarships here in Brazil and 10,000 in the Latin American region to train front-end and back-end developers in two years. It is a program for young people, all they need is a high school diploma. We also have a partnership with FIAP, a university in São Paulo, where many Globant executives and seniors teach classes.
IF: How do you operate through your ventures and private equity arm?
AT: We have Globant Ventures with nine companies within this portfolio, such as the Colombian Lookap (market intelligence) and B2Chat (instant messaging). An important point for us is to look at Globant Ventures and identify alternatives to take to our clients.
One of Globant Ventures’ companies is Drixit, a Brazilian IoT solution that captures various information such as geolocation. We are working with a mining company, using the Drixit solution in the employee’s helmet. We know how much he moves around per day, how much he is exposed to more or less humidity, and more or less temperature. For occupational safety, it is a spectacular solution.
There are many cool solutions in these ventures that we are incorporating into our day-to-day activities. It is a winning strategy, there is a committee with 12 people that make these investment decisions, some even external.
IF: Globant was part of the technological revolution in Latin America. Now, with so many technology companies emerging, how do you see the ecosystem in the region?
AT: We have a creative hub in the region. We just need to have companies like Globant that foster these kinds of experiments and allow people from outside to discuss other solutions to show the strength that Latin America and professionals, especially South Americans, have. Borders are increasingly open and we can interact with people from other countries much more easily, showing our ability to create and innovate.
In Q3 and Q4 last year we did a study called Sustainable Business, where we dealt with ESG issues. I think this has also drawn attention, especially from Brazilians. Today we have a platform with artificial intelligence that maps how the company is emitting carbon and accounts for the emissions footprint, then it helps to identify actions to offset these emissions or reduce some type of water and energy waste.
Globant has been positioning itself in a very strong way in Europe and here in South America with initiatives to take care of the planet. We are talking to big companies, especially in the energy sector, oil, gas, and mining. I think that on this point [solutions to measure and reduce carbon emissions] we are leading the way.