Mr Besseghini, your company has recently opened a new office in Argentina. Why?
We opened a new office in Argentina as part of our company’s regional expansion policy started already ten years ago. Lombardi, as a specialized design and consultancy company in the field of Civil Engineering projects, has a long tradition in the Argentine market both in the private and the public sector, so the opening of the Argentine branch is to be seen as the consolidation of old and strong relationships.
Can you tell us a little more about your project Aguas Negras?
The link from the important central South American region to the Pacific, by means of a 14 km long, double tube highway tunnel under the Agua Negra pass, has been the subject of detailed studies for a long time. The tunnel is situated at an altitude between 3600 and 4100 m above sea level and must fulfil extreme climatic and operational requirements. It will be one of the most important projects in the region for the next 5 to 10 years.
Argentina has been struggling with major difficulties like inflation and bankruptcy. Has the country overcome these challenges?
The country hasn’t probably completely overcome these challenges, nevertheless the general approach seems to go in the right way.
How do you perceive the business environment in the country?
It’s a difficult question to answer. Let's say that, in general if globally analyzed, the business environment presents some problems. The specific business environment we deal in seems to be more favorable.
What makes the market an attractive opportunity for you?
As I said before, Lombardi is already known in the Argentine market in the field we work in, engineering services for underground and hydraulic works. Compared to other countries in the area, apart from Brazil, the Argentine infrastructure market is one of the most interesting, challenging, active and geographically well distributed.
What has been or still is your individual challenge entering the Argentinian market?
Probably the bureaucracy practicing “the art to make the possible (almost) impossible…”. As with all the difficult things, we learned to overcome these hurdles and we were prepared to handle them, in Swiss style, by completing all the required steps. It was actually difficult but finally not impossible…
Do you believe other Swiss companies could thrive or is the market still too challenging for smaller companies?
Argentina, even with the problems mentioned before, is market with a high demand so for companies like the Swiss ones who sell quality both in services and in products, the local market could be interesting and could offer good opportunities. Flexibility and patience would probably be the complementary keys of success.
How is the international competition in your sector, in infrastructure and in the energy sector in general?
Some important international and national companies are of course present in the national market and the infrastructure and energy sectors are no exception. We generally like to operate in markets in which our competitors have an equal or superior level of experience. Considering the highly specialized services we provide, it is crucial to find prepared partners for complementary services or to have a counterpart that gives us challenging and stimulating inputs. This can only be a total advantage for the projects we deal with.
What are the three things Swiss SMEs should look out for when entering the market?
- Becoming part of the dense local business networks quite complicated compared to the neighboring countries
- Dealing with the high number and different kinds of local, regional and national taxes and regulations
- Dealing with the import and customs system
- Finding a local partner.
What would be your advice to other exporters that are considering Argentina – how can they establish and succeed in the market?
Argentina is a big and developed market. For Swiss-made products or services it might probably initially be a bit difficult to enter and to penetrate it. My advice is to just keep working, delivering the high level of quality Switzerland is able to guarantee.
In 1955, Dr Giovanni Lombardi founded his consulting company for engineering services, cornerstone of the Lombardi Group. Today, the company cares for the life cycle of transport infrastructures and hydraulic works from the initial design phases to their operation. Visionary and effective projects, brought to successful completion by its teams in a strong and long-lasting partnership with its clients, are the best credentials for outstanding and high-quality engineering work.