Amidst chilly Andes peaks and 300-year-old buildings Tobias Kerkhoff has newly joined the Ongresso team. Since February 2019 he has been working as Customer Relations Manager in Colombia’s capital Bogotá, a meeting point of cultures in colonial style.
In this interview he talks about his favorite moments in Colombia, about Colombia’s entry barriers and potential and about Ongresso.
Tell us more about you, why did you decide to come to Colombia and why did you choose Bogotá as your new home?
I decided to come back to Colombia for my master’s degree. During my bachelor’s degree I already studied in Bogotá, so I am pretty familiar with the Colombian culture, which fascinated me straight from the beginning.
I chose Bogotá as my new home, because it is an international city with many business opportunities for growth and personal development.
Moreover, the warm-hearted people with their joy of life and entrepreneurial spirit facilitate my stay here in Colombia’s capital.
What makes Colombia so special?
For me Colombia is special, primarily because of its kind people and the diversity within the country. Unfortunately, even today, many people still have prejudices against Colombia, due to the recent history of the country, which is illustrated by some series on the internet. Nevertheless, the country is much more than Shakira, Pablo Escobar or Chiquita bananas.
As a coffee lover I highly appreciate Colombia for the varied offer of some of the best coffees in the world. In addition, the country disposes of pleasant weather conditions during the whole year, a notable target group with almost 50 million inhabitants, and a strategic location with access to both, the Atlantic – and the Pacific Ocean.
Tell us one of your favorite moments in Colombia so far.
One of my favorite moments in Colombia has been the visit of the carnival in Barranquilla. Although carnival is pretty popular in Germany as well, Colombians celebrate even more, so that the Carnival of Barranquilla is the second largest carnival in the world, right after Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Besides, there are many more outstanding festivals in Colombia, for instance the Flower Fair in Medellín, the Carnival of Blacks and Whites in Pasto or the Fair of Cali, which I am excited to experience.
In Latin America, in what sectors do you see potential for economic development?
From my own point of view, especially the IT-sector offers a lot of potential for economic development in the country, due to the law of the orange economy (tax benefits), affordable wages and the growing connectivity of Colombia with Medellín as one of the centers of the industry 4.0. Furthermore, the tourism sector has grown a lot within the last decade.
Each year more and more tourists choose Colombia as their destination for vacation, which results in an increasing number of international hotel chains and touristic activities.
What are the obstacles that foreign companies face when trying to do business in Colombia?
Above all, the main challenge for foreign companies consists of understanding the local culture and the legal framework. Therefore, Spanish language knowledge and intercultural competences are indispensable. Moreover, I highly recommend cooperating with local business partners, in order to facilitate the market entry and avoid beginner’s mistakes.
In what way do you think Ongresso can help these companies entering the local market?
Ongresso is an excellent example for a highly reliable local business partner in Colombia, composed of an international team with different cultural backgrounds and expertise.
As the company itself already went through all the different steps of the market entry process and business development in Colombia, since the foundation in 2010, Ongresso is the perfect contact for companies, which are interested in entering this market. We offer a full-service package, so that interested companies are able to focus on their strategic business development pushing forward the company’s growth, without worrying about their daily business or compliance issues.
What is your job at Ongresso?
I am the Customer Relations Manager at Ongresso, working in my office in Bogotá.
My daily tasks are very varied, due to the fact, that I am in a permanent exchange with our clients and local partners from different cultures. One of my main tasks is to push forward the company’s growth by the acquisition of new clients and strategic alliances, thanks to the support of our proactive team in Medellín and Lima.
Furthermore, I strive to improve the awareness level of the company’s brand by attending many events of our business partners in Bogotá.
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