The world’s second Latin American Industrial Gases Conference began this morning with aplomb. Marking gasworld’s seventh industrial gases conference, Rio de Janeiro’s Windsor Barra Hotel saw around 150 key industrial gas professionals gather to discuss ways to harness and manage the bounteous growth available in this region.

The first session, entitled, “The Success Factors for Growth” provided delegates with a trio of presentations from three select industrial leaders and commentators.

Raul Ferro, Director of Business Development for Business News America began the conference presentations with his insight into the “rising star” that is Latin America. Using his extensive background as a seasoned economic commentator for the region, Ferro explored the constituent countries within Latin America and their respective macroeconomics.

Particularly prescient was his analysis of corporate and sector growth across the South Americas: Ferro left no aspect untapped discussing growth in terms of mortgage markets, inflation, oil output and agricultural business. But perhaps the most indicative statement of his presentation was the moment when he drew attention to the non-homogeneity of Latin America.

According to Ferro’s synopsis the region is highly variable. For instance, he noted that Brazil is expected to increase its importance as an iron ore and steel provider, while Colombia is rising as ‘the new frontier’ in terms of mining investment. Nevertheless, Ferro was keen to convey how the group maintains common characteristics – and encouraging ones at that. He advised, “The whole Latin American region has a GDP of $5tr, and in many sectors, such as mining, Latin America is already the leading region in exploration.”

Following on from Ferro, an equally venerable speaker, Jaime Castaneda took to the floor. Castenada, Managing Director of INDURA utilised his extensive experience with the firm to discuss the significance of innovation and critical success factors. Drawing upon INDURA as a case study, Castenada highlighted the importance of recognising the differences between individual markets, applications, and most crucially – individual customers.

He explained the idiosyncrasies of INDURA’s business model, Delta and the nine market sections in which it operates and serves to date. With authority only gained from real-life industrial experience, Castenada advised delegates on best practice with regards to strategy, mission and vision, organisational structure as well as more tangible assets such as annual reviews and $quot;permanent$quot; customer satisfaction assessments.

Nevertheless, INDURA’s Managing Director was cautious not to conclude without consideration of future technologies and future successes. Castenada noted that typically companies spend only 3% of their sales revenue on research but that this 3% is essential to future success. Indeed, he concluded, “Although many companies spend 3% of sales on research, that percentage of sales should be transformed into improving economic results. What we, as company have learnt, is that innovation is the transformation of money into knowledge, but also the process of transforming knowledge into money.”

Although a difficult act to follow thanks to Castenada’s expertise and charisma, the closing session speaker, Newton de Oliviera rose to the challenge. In an interesting and unusual presentation for this genre of event, Oliviera explored the demanding venture of breaking the mould and 'going it alone' as an entrepreneur. Given that many major gas companies began as small independents, Oliviera’s presentation though unusual, was undeniably pertinent in the emerging context of Latin America.

He offered wise words of encouragement for the more courageous delegates, “I’ll show you a few rules for survival, the goal is not just starting a new thing – you want to add value and you want to generate cash flow. When you start you need to define focus, looking at what you do best and are, as such, most competitive at. Also importantly, you must attract professionals to your company and keep them there.$quot;

Thanks to three inspiring presentations, they were followed by a contentious and enquiring Q&A session in which delegates seized microphones to address issues of tax export taxes and regional bias towards corporate success.

All-in-all an informative first session despite, some early sound issues. Ferro's closing remarks though made with regard to the region were equally apt for those lucky enough to be at this season's gasworld conference: $quot;I believe there are opportunities to improve, but the opportunities to succeed are brilliant!$quot;