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PANAMA - Telecoms & IT

Luis Gonzalo Marín

CEO, MQA Americas

Bio

Luis Gonzalo Marín Mora is one of the most prominent business leaders in Latin America in the IT sector, with over 20 years of experience addressing the technological needs of companies in various industries such as retail, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and distribution, among others, where he has held various executive positions. His academic background includes a Master in Consulting and Executive Coaching from the University of Salamanca and studies in programs such as Leadership in Innovation; Digital Transformation: Technologies and Their Practical Applications, and Machine Learning: Technology in Decision-Making at MIT Professional Education, among others.

"We have always concentrated on this segment and have expanded the market to include start-ups, providing them with access to technology at reasonable costs."
TBY talks to Luis Gonzalo Marín, CEO of MQA Americas, about expansion plans, digital transformation, and plans for the coming year.
How does MQA Americas’ centralized holding in Panama facilitate expansion across Central America, the Caribbean, and potentially Mexico and Spain?

Within Panama, we have created a holding that groups all operations in the region in a centralized way, including Central America and the Caribbean. In 2025, Mexico will likely be a part of this as well, and we hope to include Spain in 2026. Everything will be centralized in terms of corporate governance from Panama. Panama has experienced significant growth in innovation and digital transformation. The country is service oriented and has started to generate other services in addition to manufacturing. There is a strong trend among companies to include medium-term plans for digital transformation, digital services, and innovation. We have observed managers incorporating projects focused on innovation and differentiation through innovation, representing a huge opportunity for MQA Americas. For example, the Dominican Republic shares a similar GDP growth rate to Panama and also has a strong service sector; however, the Dominican Republic has a more developed manufacturing sector, particularly in food and pharmaceuticals, which surpasses Panama. Panama could leverage this and work on developing its own manufacturing capabilities.

How has Panama’s development trend shifted over the past 18 years, particularly toward technology and digital transformation?

The change is evident not only in business but also in the country’s dynamics over the last 18 years. When we arrived almost two decades ago, Panama had a strong development trend in construction, business, and finance. However, since then, it has opened up to businesses and managers from other regions, which has accelerated development and attracted more companies like ours. This has fueled growth and business development across all sectors in Panama. The trend toward technology, business, and digital transformation has strengthened significantly in Panama over the last decade. This is one of the areas our company is investing in, especially in deepening digital transformation and business management. We are now focusing on cybersecurity and AI, and our growth will be in these two areas. Without cybersecurity and AI-driven data analysis, large-scale solutions are not possible.

How does your company’s focus on SMEs and start-ups contribute to larger-scale projects and innovation strategies?

Our focus is on SMEs and growth. We have always concentrated on this segment and have expanded the market to include start-ups, providing them with access to technology at reasonable costs. Still, the experience and trust we have built over the years have enabled us to work on larger projects with more structured and leading companies in various sectors. We are starting a project with a client based in Panama with a presence in 20 countries, which we will soon advertise on social media. This is leading us to engage with larger clients and provide more options to more companies. Our projects are not solely based on a technological approach. The first step we took five years ago was providing consulting services on the business of clients. In our industries, our teams have learned their business models and provide value to clients using technology as a tool. In addition to the business model and technology, companies need support and management assistance in innovation strategies. Currently, our managers support other managers in innovation, helping them build long-term plans to add more value to the business using technology. For us, technology is the third level of solution, adding value and being part of the plan. Technology and digital transformation do not inherently add value unless aligned with strategy and innovation at the managerial level. It needs to stem from clients’ vision within their own sectors. We align these three visions, and the results are successful.

How has MQA Americas’ recent growth trajectory and expansion into new regions impacted its market dominance and manufacturing partnerships?

2023 marked the culmination of a cycle, where the previous three years were the best in the company’s history. The company’s growth exceeded 35% in the region across all countries, and EBITDA growth was over 85% in company operations. This growth is not solely a result of our management but also the speed of business management in all the projects we have undertaken with clients over the past three years. Our projection for this year is a further growth of 20% on top of the previous results, making it another stellar year for the company. With operations expanding to Ecuador, Peru, and Mexico, we anticipate continued growth year after year. At the manufacturing level, we play a significant role. The level of business Colombia had with main manufacturers represented around 60% of the indirect market. The next competitor after us sold nine times less than MQA. In Central America, our participation was around 50%. And the third competitor sold ten times less. The trust and results we have demonstrated in the market have allowed us a larger participation.

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