Among other areas of business, Kodak Alaris provides information management services to companies around the globe. When it comes to creating electronic records, Latin America still lags behind other regions of the world. But the different markets throughout the region vary substantially.
To understand more about how the trend of digital documents and similar services are evolving in Colombia, Finance Colombia’s Executive Editor, Loren Moss sat down with Florangel Álvarez (above), the company’s sales manager for Latin America. Though she recently relocated to Mexico, Venezuela-born Alvarez was formerly based out of Bogotá and has seen first hand how the market has changed.
Finance Colombia: Can you tell me a little bit about Kodak Alaris in Latin America?
Florangel Álvarez: Latin America is one of the most important markets for Kodak Alaris worldwide, and our specialty is in information management software and hardware. Our portfolio includes distributor and low-volume to high-volume scanners.
We have branches in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil. Still, we do use distributors, value-added distributors and value added re-sellers as well. We have special programs for sales distributors and BPOs, but all our strategy is through channels. In Colombia, we have 25% of market share, and in Argentina we have 70% of the market share.
We sold $1.5 billion last year. We have 3,000 employees. We’re the number-one leaders in scanners and information management technology. You know, we changed the world. Since we had the Kodak moments —the image, film, and cameras — we made a big evolution into technology. We also have made many investments in solutions and software. We are now in all the information management processes, and our scanners are using Wi-Fi, USB, Ethernet.
Finance Colombia: What industries in Colombia are the top users of this imaging technology?
Florangel Álvarez: Government. Last year, we made a deal with the Superior Council of the Judiciary for 1,700 scanners. In Peru, all the elections are being scanned with Kodak scanners, and we actually have 25% of the market share. We are the leaders, and our challenge right now is to have more impact in the finance industry, like banks and insurance companies.
Here in Colombia we have like a “micro” finance market, meaning like a mini market. You know how in the U.S. you have the big accounts? Here in South America, the Caribbean, and Central America, we have like teeny-weeny mini markets. That is the challenge, and last year we won the Banco do Brasil with 30,000 scanners for their branches and back offices.
Finance Colombia: How is Latin America in terms of the legislative environment allowing companies in regulated industries to store electronic versions of documents? I understand that, in some countries, the legislative environment requires that the original is kept. What countries are more advanced in moving towards electronic storage of documents?
Florangel Álvarez: Yes, the more advanced countries, among those that I’ve been working with, are Peru and Argentina in South America. The rest of Latin America, Central America, and especially the Caribbean are still being delayed in this stuff. Actually, Colombia is working pretty well. It’s advancing as well in this area.
But what is common in the region is that the advances start with different industries. For example, they start with the government — the federal government — and then go to the financial industry and then so on and so on.
It’s not like a step-by-step. But first of all, it starts with the government. This is the experience that we have in the region.
Finance Colombia: It would seem that private industries would be pushing for electronic documents as a cost factor. Because the cost of handling a physical document is so much higher than the cost of managing an electronic document.
Florangel Álvarez: Of course, that’s the principal reason that they are trying to push for everything to become electronic. But you know that in South America we have a lot of problems, like earthquakes and tsunamis. We’ve lost a lot of information because of that. We have fires and, you know, many, many kinds of disasters, especially in Central America and the Caribbean and the coast.
In Guayaquil, Ecuador, most of the companies have everything digitalized already. They don’t have a problem to get the information to the people affected.
Finance Colombia: That seems like even more incentive to move documents not just to the electronic form but also into the cloud.
Florangel Álvarez: Into the cloud — yes, exactly. And because of that we have our solution so you can digitize everything inside the cloud. But you need to have the solution and the applications to capture the image of the information. You have to have access at any moment — and with efficiency — and have it fast. So if you have the solution, not just the hardware or just the software — but both — you can have this.
The behavior of the customer changed. Now, maybe you and me still have files, and we have everything ordered in our computers. But now my kid has everything in the cloud. Everything is in the iPad. Sometimes I say, “Where is your homework?” And it’s, “Mommy, hello? Dropbox, you know?” This is the real world. This is happening now. This is not the future.
Finance Colombia: So as people age-out and retire, then younger generations move into top management, it becomes less of a sales challenge?
Florangel Álvarez: Exactly. This is the tool of a different behavior for this new generation, so that’s why Kodak Alaris has been working on it. Every year we have new scanners, new advanced versions — with the software according to the new generation — and evolution of the technology.
Finance Colombia: What differences do you see in either demand or in the markets as you go throughout Latin America and the Caribbean? How is Colombia different from, say, Mexico? How is Trinidad different than, say, Jamaica?
Florangel Álvarez: I’m from Venezuela and I’ve been living in different countries. I’ve been living in Costa Rica, Miami, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
I think Colombia is an amazing country, and they are running. At times, they are keeping ahead of everybody. They are moving so fast with everything because of the rhythm of commerce.
But I think they can be more effective and efficient with the tools that they have. We have to evangelize the market to make them understand. And if we have more tools and technology, you’re going to be more efficient and have more access to different kinds of information. You’re going to be having more opportunities.
So what I think is, they’re moving so fast that they cannot stop and think, “Wait, I need to be more strategic and invest in something that is going to reduce the cost.” They think short term to solve the problem right now. That’s because of the rhythm of the market, not because they want to do that. They have to solve the problem.
Finance Colombia: Is that different than what you might encounter in, for example, Mexico, which is a very mature market in a lot of ways?
Florangel Álvarez: The market is huge. Here in Colombia we have to fight to get, let’s say, ten units. In Mexico it’s like hundreds of things. Everything is massive, so you have five or ten customers in just one account.
For example, if you go to Bimbo, every department has different needs. You need to know an accounting process. And you go to the IT department, which has the biggest problem to deal with. It’s not just one decision maker. If you have four different units, you have different kinds of decision makers.
Colombia is at a different place in that evolution — in that growth process — which makes it an interesting opportunity for a company like Kodak Alaris. It’s not like going to go into Brazil or going to go to England. They already have this stuff, and we just have to compete against who is there. Maybe take business away from, I don’t know, Hewlett Packard or whoever.
Here, yes, everybody’s competing, but you’re moving people onto the platform for the first time. So you have a lot more opportunities. This is a pretty good opportunity for companies like Kodak Alaris.
Finance Colombia: I understand that Kodak Alaris, apart from the hardware, has some software that makes it unique. What is it that the Alaris software does, and what is it that differentiates the Kodak Alaris offering?
Florangel Álvarez: Exactly, because the scanners have common tools, but the differentiation is the volume that we have of the software, because the software is inside the hardware, most of them, in the limited edition.
Actually now we have some special software that you can download to your iPhone, Android, or iPad. You have everything and your scan goes straight to the system. It could be CRM or whatever database the company has. So this is one of the advantages that we have against the other competitors.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.