Big Data Becoming Big Business in Latin America

Numerous analysts have pointed out that  big data enterprises are entering a rapid growth phase in Latin America, mirroring the developmental curve for big data in the U.S. and Europe. While the players in big data analytics such as SAP, Oracle and EMC are pouring resources into the region, a number of homegrown Latin American start ups are also growing rapidly and claiming market share. Tata Consultancy Services' recent report Emerging Big Returns from Big Data, which surveyed 643 medium to large enterprises across 12 industries, reported that 51% of Latin American companies had undertaken big data-related initiatives in 2012 or early 2013. Sixty-eight percent of Mexican businesses surveyed began at least one big data initiative in 2012.

Telcos are leading the way in developing mechanisms to derive value from big data in Latin America, but a number of other industries are not far behind. Content and video on demand are two areas where big data analytics can clearly create value, and most players are already starting to reap the benefits of giving customers what they really want, but the skill sets needed to set up and run these large scale operations are still relatively rare.

Other areas of growth for big data applications in Latin America include government agencies developing video surveillance solutions, oil and gas companies evaluating huge volumes of seismic and geological data as well as business intelligence and data mining in the finance and retail industries.


Image by NYC Media Lab.

New Wave of Latin American Big Data Start Ups

The Latin American big data market is plenty big enough for homegrown start up companies, and a couple that are already leading the pack might just give the big boys a run for their money in the medium- and long-term.

Aentropico, currently based in Brazil, but founded by two globally-educated Colombians, is building a predictive analytics platform to provides managers with user-friendly and data-driven business intelligence solutions. Founders Sebastian Perez Saaibi and Juan Pablo Marín Díaz are not just interested in a regional market -- they want to become the Amazon of data science.

Papaya, a Peru-based start up focusing on the movie industry, has also garnered a good bit of recent attention. Papaya provides a  real-time, data-driven solution for movie theaters for online and mobile ticket sales, including a customizable revenue management system, as well as an advertising platform for small and large movie studios and distributors.

From Copycat to Locally-Developed Innovation

Until recently, most Latin American tech companies have tried to emulate the business models of successful U.S. and European companies in the same sector, but the era of copycat business models is beginning to draw to a close. Businesses of all sizes across Latin America are realizing that there is more than one way to get things done, and developing models that are an ideal fit for their local or regional markets can lead to significant rewards. Alex Torrenegra, founder of VoiceBunny, puts it bluntly, "[Companies need to] stop trying to copy the business models from the United States, and realize that there are opportunities unique to Latin America."