'Innovation is currently among the most discussed topics'

Leaders League interviewed Thiago Oliveira, Mercado Livre's Director of Software Engineering. He explains the growth of the technology areas in the company, discusses the forecast for this year and other topics.

Posted jeudi, mars 9 2023
'Innovation is currently among the most discussed topics'

Leaders League: Mercado Livre announced your arrival as Software Engineering Director - LATAM for the Cloud & Security Platforms area in June. What are your expectations regarding innovation?

Thiago Oliveira: Innovation is currently among the most discussed topics, primarily due to the company's need to create a genuine, emotional, and disruptive connection with their customers, changing how they relate to each other, and ultimately reshaping the way they sell, buy, consume, and work. Given the change in people's behavior in recent years, the advancement, and the fantastic technological leap we have achieved because of human progress. We are in a new civilization with much more accessible and fluid information.

Therefore, companies must generate more added value, building customer loyalty by breaking paradigms rather than time, which demands much more care in dealing with and meeting a need. At Mercado Livre, which celebrated 23 years of operations in 18 Latin American countries this year, technology and innovation are primordial and are in their DNA.

Consistent with the company's strategy, which is a leader in technology for e-commerce and financial services in the region, I expect to contribute to its journey of sustainable growth through product development platforms, security, and protection in the channels of the entire ecosystem, including Mercado Pago. We focus on evolving how we deal with the growing competitiveness in the industry through the most strategic business items, excellence in customer experience, and time-to-market, enhanced by platforms, always with the commitment to democratize commerce and financial services for people and companies through the Internet.

How is Mercado Livre's Software Engineering structure in LATAM?

Mercado Livre has almost 12,000 team members working directly in the technology area in Latin America, distributed throughout Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, and Chile. The technology and innovation areas have also significantly increased with business expansion in recent years. In 2021, for example, almost four thousand new positions were created throughout Latin America, with over one thousand made in Brazil alone. Experts in information security, business intelligence, machine learning, data science, application infrastructure, and user experience, among other skills, form the teams.

In the IT sector, each team member has a clear objective and a common criterion: to develop and optimize products and solutions that add value and improve the experience of the ecosystem's users. Aiming at attracting and retaining the best talent, Mercado Livre invests in training and technical qualification programs, contributing to the development of a new generation of technology professionals and training highly qualified labor for the Brazilian job market. For example, IT Bootcamp, an inclusive program aimed at accelerating technological professional development, is where the selected participants are hired by Mercado Livre and spend the first three months in intensive training. And Black Power Dev, a scholarship program for black people that integrates the Certified Tech Developer, a traditional comprehensive programming course conducted by Mercado Livre in partnership with Digital House and Globant.

Considering your experience in large multinationals and banks, how firmly has the evolution of technology influenced large companies to invest in this area? 

The technological evolution agenda has increased significantly in the last few years. As in every technological leap, society, and small, medium, and large companies have noticed that investment is fundamental for developing and preserving competitiveness. Investment in creating and structuring innovative processes, reflected in increased productivity, new products, patents, and techniques, directly impacts economic development, generating increased competitiveness and job creation. These are essential factors for the progress of companies and economies.

The search for the differential must be constant; therefore, a company's chance of survival is negligible without innovation. The Babson College (USA) published a study in 2016 which mentioned that 40% of Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist by 2026 due to a lack of adaptability. The fourth edition of the Ace Innovation Survey, led by the innovation consultancy ACE Cortex, provides an overview of innovation in Brazilian companies. It highlights that innovation is a priority for 85% of companies when formulating their business strategies. Business survival is crucially linked to adaptability and changing the status quo. It means changing the state of things and the way of thinking. Consequently, the primary influence for large companies to invest in technological evolution is mentioned in the Babson College study: the need and continuity of the company's existence.


Still, regarding the evolution of the technology area, how do you see any problems in this accelerated development?

The effects caused by the technological evolution, driven by the digital explosion triggered by the pandemic, lead us to conclude that the distance between the customer, the product, and the company has drastically reduced. However, we can also learn about the existing abyss between those who are insiders and outsiders in the economy, commerce, and the digital ecosystem. Some people are ready to exploit the advantages of new technological resources, and others are excluded from the opportunities, exposed to risks, and uncertain about their future. Thus, we cannot deny that, with this accelerated pace of technological transformation, it is necessary to review the strategies for democratizing people's relationships with the new digital ecosystem. Technological evolution can be a great ally in this context. It can collaborate with improving people's quality of life, and their relationship with finances, creating more sustainable products, and, especially, fostering the balance between society and the ever-evolving culture.

At Mercado Livre, the connection with values and the concern with digital sustainability are commonplace. Our main contribution to the economic development of Latin America is the democratization of e-commerce and access to money: our tools enable the development of new businesses, generating income and new opportunities for market insertion, especially for micro and small companies, which now compete with more balanced opportunities compared to the big brands.


What are Mercado Livre's primary milestones in 2023?

The company's priority for 2023 is continued growth, with business expansion in Brazil and throughout the region, generating profitability and strengthening its commitment to democratizing commerce and financial services to allow an increasing number of people and companies to buy, sell, pay, and invest over the Internet.

We had an exceptional first semester, establishing a solid foundation for the coming months. We are the biggest and most complete marketplace in Latin America, with over 84 million active users and over 10 million unique sellers, including large brands. In the second quarter of 2022, we reached a new high in total revenue, at US$2.6 billion, surpassing our first quarter performance, which was our record.

The Brazilian market, for example, already represents 56% of Mercado Livre's total net revenue, reaching US$ 1.4 billion and a growth of 52.5% compared to the previous year. With over 38 million active users, Mercado Pago is also showing a very encouraging performance. The credit portfolio shows consistent profitable growth and expansion in the volume of digital account payments and merchant acquiring. Nevertheless, we regard and pursue this performance to expand our positive impact on the communities where we operate, allowing for shared development.