This is a guest post by Conrad Egusa
Many travelers visit Medellin not only to see the beautiful city, but also to work remotely. However when working abroad, a question arises – where can a person or company best work in the city?
There are a handful of options to choose from in Medellin, ranging from cafes to long-term offices. We have listed the pro’s and con’s of each:
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything so I apologize for that. I’ve been asked by a few people to give an update on my experience to date in Medellin over the last year so here it is:
Over the last year, I have mainly been teaching. I started working as an English teacher at the University of Medellin. I then got a job as a lecturer in Business and European Politics at the University of Esumer.
I’ve also been working with both the Economics and International Business departments at the University of Medellin. I was one of the guest speakers at a Forum held by the University on Europe and its Free Trade Agreement with the Andean Community. I was also one of three panel judges for the dissertations of final year undergraduate students. I have also been assisting academics with various Economic research projects.
This semester I start as a lecturer at Eafit University in the International Business Department where I am teaching several courses for undergraduates and masters students. I will also be a lecturer on the Masters program in International Relations at the University of Medellin.
Setting up a business
The teaching and lecturing have been part time – roughly 20 hours a week in total. When I have not been doing that I have been looking at various business opportunities. Initially I was looking at importing Jute – a natural fibre – I was planning on selling to the shoe industry. But after quite a bit of analysis I decided against it as I was ultimately not confident in selling the product for the margin needed.
I have been importing some bags which I sell to shops here but in very small quantities and this has really just been pocket money – not sufficient in itself to live off for now.
There are a couple of other projects I have on the go which I will update you on in due course.
So in summary, I have been very much an academic over the last year and I expect this to continue going forward. Hopefully, one of the projects I am currently working on will come into fruition over the next year but we will see. There remain various obstacles to doing business here in Colombia…
I was in a book shop the other day in Centro Comercial Santa Fe here in Medellin and I stumbled across a rather interesting magazine focusing purely on franchise opportunities in Colombia.
Anyway as I have wanted to write an article about Colombian franchise opportunities for some time, I bought the directory to see what is had to say. The magazine is called ‘Franquicias DIRECTORIO’ and it is produced by the company masfranquicias.com. It appears to be published just once a year (well at least that is what the sales assistant in the shop told me).
It is very much like the What Franchise magazine that we have in the UK and basically provides lots of different facts and figures, some case studies and a list of the various franchise opportunities here.
Some of the companies using franchise models here include: Arturo Calle, Cinnabon, Mothercare, Clarks, Calvin Klein, La Senza, City Sightseeing, Taco Bell, Kid Imprints, Publipan, Helados Woody’s, Divercity, Buffalo Wings, amongst a huge amount of others.
My advice if you want to know about Colombian franchise opportunities by sector is to firstly have a look at Masfranquicias website – it has quite a comprehensive list broken down by industry sector. The only issue is it appears to be just in spanish so for anyone who doesn’t read spanish, feel free to get in contact and I’ll see if I can get a list together for you.
One statistic I found particularly interesting is that in Colombia more than half of franchises are still Colombian brands (51.3% are national franchises, 48.7% are foreign franchises). Of that 48.7% of foreign franchises, the majority are American (20.4%), followed by Spain (6.6%), Italy (3.7%), England (2.6%) and France (2.3%).
I hope this quick introduction to franchise opportunities in Colombia is of use but if you need more detailed information please get in contact and I’ll try my best to assist.
This is a guest post from Adam Fenton
I looked forward to Colombia as I journeyed through South America. Before I set off I had nonchalantly said that I would stop and work if I ran out of money, how hard could it be to find something? Well if you want to teach English in Colombia and you’re a native speaker, you have a right to be nonchalant: the demand for English teachers is soaring as language skills are increasingly seen as a route to an improved livelihood. In this article I’m going to discuss three ways you can find English teaching work, specifically in Bogotá, though I’m sure there are close similarities with other Colombian cities.
1. Work for an Institute
Institutes range in size from a couple of people in an apartment to the giants, such as International House. You can find them online on such sites as google, craigslist.org or your local couchsurfing.org group, or you can meet potential employers and students at events, such as the Gringo Tuesday language exchange. The advantage of an institute is that they will find students for you. They should also offer you more stability, i.e. it’s less likely that students will cancel last minute as the institute’s policy dictates you get paid regardless. (however, I only used this fall-back once during my time).
The disadvantage of an institute is that they can send you anywhere, anytime, at the client’s beckoning. I had lessons at 7:00am, meaning a 6am start, and others at 7:30pm, meaning a late finish. The average pay for an inexperienced teacher without a qualification (as I was at the beginning) is around $20k per hour – I’ve heard places who offer between $18k through to $25k. Be sure to ask if this is before or after tax, some schools will take 11% off. The smaller institutes will pay you in cash and generally don’t care what type of visa you have, so long as you plan to stick around for at least a few weeks. Make sure you know how much they owe you when you go to collect your salary, my institute invariably miscalculated in their favour, but were quite happy to make it up when I pointed out their mistakes.
The institute I worked for was of the two people in their apartment type, and when I resigned (see below) I spoke to one of the owners. He said they turnover most teachers every couple of months. I get the feeling their business model is like this: take in cheap teachers (I don’t think they would pay more if you had experience of a teaching certificate) and hang on to them for a short period before swapping out. I don’t think this is great for the students, who lack consistency and will often find themselves with completely inexperienced teachers. In my opinion this type of institute is run on a short-term, make-as-much-money-as-you-can model, it certainly isn’t built on long-standing quality.
The larger institutes may require a qualification, such as CELTA (obtainable with one month’s intensive study – the only places in Colombia which offer this are IH at around US$1,500 or The British Council for US$2,000). Other teachers have recommended this course as a great introduction to teaching techniques and English grammar, it’s worth looking into if you see teaching as a long term option. These type of institutes will also probably be more fussy about your visa, however they can sponsor you for a work visa if required.
2. Go It Alone
I worked for an institute for the first 1.5 months or so that I was in Bogotá. However, when I saw my first full month’s pay barely even covered my rent, I decided the early mornings, late evenings and countless hours on the city’s horrendous public transport system were just not worth it. Whilst I was teaching for them I simultaneously started looking for private students by placing a free ad on http://www.mundoanuncio.com/, and, after a number of false leads (quite a few people phoned to inquire but never followed through), I found one student this way. I started charging him $25k per hour and then increased it to $30k once I realised I was underselling myself. I taught the lessons in his flat and asked for payment up front in blocks of 10 lessons. I also set a standard lesson length of 1.5hours.
Subsequently I have found a couple of other students, one at Gringo Tuesdays and the other from a referral from his previous teacher who was moving on from Bogotá. I have implemented a policy whereby I will only teach students in their home/office if the schedule is convenient for me (i.e. I don’t have to travel far from wherever I am before) or if they come to my apartment (one student does this).Otherwise I was finding that, for a 1.5 hour lesson, I would spend another1.5 hours on public transport, effectively halving my hourly rate. My time is precious to me, and I have a number of other projects I work on. This is why I kept myself to a small number of students.
One other idea I’ve heard for publicising your services is to put up notices in your apartment building, and neighbouring buildings. This of course means you’re likely to find students nearby, eliminating any travel issues for you both.
3. Approach Universities or Private Schools
I don’t have any experience working for a university or private school, however I’ve heard the best institutions will pay top dollar (I heard of one girl receiving $4million per month from an American school, and I think she was straight out of university). I suspect it would help if you had a teaching qualification (e.g. CELTA) to land these jobs, but it’s worth a try if you want full time work. On the other hand, one university offered me a paltry $750k per month for 20 hours a week, to which I said they would have to double it before we talk. Needless to say, I never heard back from them.
I hope you find this information helpful and informative. Please post any questions or stories from your experiences in the comments box below, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the auther:
Adam Fenton is an former investment banking business analyst, who resigned from his post at Morgan Stanley at the beginning of 2011. Since then he has been travelling through South America and has now set up camp in Bogotá, Colombia. He has also recently launched a travel consultancy business specialising in organising short-term backpacking trips which fit into your work vacation time.
Have a look at his website for more information: http://yourbackpackingadventure.com
And follow his Colombian experience and Latin American travels on his blog: www.oysterforbreakfast.com
You can find the import duty in Colombia for any product via DIANs website. DIAN stands for the Dirección de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacionales de Colombia. It is the Colombian Ministry in charge of tax, customs and excise duties.
Colombian Import Duty – the key webpage
Here is the link to the page on import duties
You can also navigate to this page directly from DIANs homepage by clicking on Servicios informaticos electronicos (on the left hand side, Below “Dian Virtual”) and then on Consulta del Arancel (on the left side, sixth item below “Otros Servicios”)
If you have the HS code…
Once you are on this page, If you know the HS code for your product click on the link “Por codigo de nomenclatura”
If you only have the product description…
If you only have a description of the product click on “Por texto”
Once you have entered either the HS code or product description the webpage will bring up all the relvant information on import duties including preferential rates and any relevant paperwork such as special liscence requirements.
A helpful tip if Spanish is not your first language…
When I’m looking for the ten digit HS code for a specific product I often search first using the product description on the UK Business Link website or via the European Union Taric database. The tariff data on the Business Link website comes directly from the EU Taric database.
Posted in Business on September 25, 2011
RUT is a form in Colombia which stands for Registro Unico Tributario. In its simple terms its the ID for businesses or individuals here in Colombia who earn money.
It is the mechanism used by DIAN (the tax and customs ministry) to identify and classify businesses and individuals for tax purposes.
To take out a RUT is very easy.
All you need to do is take your Colombian cedular and a photocopy of a utility bill with your address on it (it doesn’t need to have your name) to a DIAN office.
You then join the queue and when you are served you tell the adviser what profession you are in or where your main form of income will come from. They then choose the code which covers that profession, put it into their computer system and print you off your RUT form. There is a code for every type of profession from Teacher to Importer.
This is a guest post from Gabriela Mariniuc
Hi, I´m Gabriela, a Romanian national, and I moved from London to Bogota at the end of May 2011, following the man I´m hopelessly in love with. I come from a country where to develop a good quality of life, one has to be rather inventive, therefore I didn’t think much would surprise me in Colombia. Moreover I came open-minded, being advised by my Colombian friends from London about the differences I would find here and I felt prepared to leave my beloved old continent for the new world.
The flight was long and slightly uncomfortable and the Air France flight stewards seemed somehow bothered to assist, in anyway, the passengers. Once I started to see the little islands in the Caribbean Sea it hit me where I was and a flock of butterflies started to rumble in my stomach but everything settled once I received a very warm welcome from my boyfriend, Aldemar and his family.
My first impression, once landed, was of a reinforced security. Armed soldiers are not a common view for me but their nonchalant air made me worry more about what might happen if one of them gets a piece of bad news one morning, than any type of attack.
The second outstanding point was the architecture and people. Somehow I can´t picture one without the other. The architecture has obvious Spanish influences; even the new buildings have that colonial element that brings the Latin flavor. The people, as the architecture, vary greatly, depending of the area of the city where you go – the opulence of the modern age leaving far behind the modest and old city and it´s inhabitants. The good and bad news is that Bogota is a city “under construction”. Good because it´s a sign of progress and bad because it makes the traffic a nightmare!
The people I have met so far have been really welcoming and after passing the initial shyness quite open to communicate with me, being really patient with my weak Spanish. Colombians seem to wrap their life around love: love for their family, love for their partner, love for what they do, love for their country, love for their city, love for football, love and passion for everything that animates them. Quite a different image from the semi -war zone we, Europeans, still imagine about Colombia because of the media or because good news travels slow. Public displays of affection are welcomed, shout out loud, even at the replay, when the football team has scored; sing the favorite song; embrace the person you love. Its wonderful to see.
In the following weeks I will outline about the places of interest from Bogota, people, culture, bureaucracy, overall about the experiences of a foreigner in Bogota.
About the Author: Gabriela is a professional buyer who I met London when she was doing her postgraduate studies. She moved to Bogota in May this year to be with her partner Aldemar.
Gabriela has kindly offered to write a series of articles for TotallyColombia about her experiences to date in Bogota. If you would like more information or want to contact Gabriela directly her email is email@example.com
Photo: From Left to Right: Myself, Natalia, Aldemar and Gabriela. Taken in Bogota, June 2011
I’ve not really said anything anywhere yet about my background. I worked for six years as a UK government economist working for the large part in the area of international trade and country risk.
Economics has always been my passion so I thought I’d create a new section here on the website devoted to ‘economic observations’ in Colombia.
My first article in this section is on the astronomical car prices in Colombia and I wanted to suggest the probable causes of the high prices here (you may have sensed I have been trying to buy a car here and am slightly bitter! )
Here are my initial thoughts:
1) High import duties and taxes – 30% plus 16% VAT (or IVA as it is known here)
2) High shipping costs – the US is fairly close but European, Japanese and Korean cars have a fair distance to travel
3) Non Tariff barriers -most specifically it is illegal in Colombia to import second hand cars. There are various other bits of red tape and form filling that makes importing of cars challenging and costly, not least the requirement to have an import license if you want to avoid an additional 10% agent fee on total import costs (after import duty and taxes have been added!)
4) Lack of supply – there are no Colombian car manufacturers and as above high import duties and no second hand car import market combine to reduce supply of cars. Note some foreign car manufacturers have production plants in Colombia such as Renault but prices are still very expensive.
5) Transport costs. From the coast to major cities there a large tolls on the main roads, particularly high for large lorrys.
6) Corruption and collusion – I have no evidence whatsoever to back this up but I wouldn’t be surprised if the large car importers and sellers had some ‘special treatment’ from the authorities, stifling competition and allowing these powerful companies to maintain high profit margins. Possible price and supply collusion between the large car importers and sellers aswell.
7) Huge demand driven by large population, growing middle class and mediocre public transport system
Here is a list of blogs and forums I have come across so far which focus on Colombia.
I will add to this periodically as when I come across or am made aware of other blogs. Feel free to get in contact if you know of any Colombian blogs I have missed.
I’ve been in Medellin around a month and a half now so wanted to give a quick update with where I am on the business front. The quick answer is at the beginning still!
I’ve done a fair bit of research about different business opportunities in Colombia and had meetings with a range of different people so I’m gradually learning about how things operate here and how business is conducted.
I’m currently focusing on an import business- there are lots of things that remain very expensive in Colombia as well as various items and services that have still not arrived here.
In terms of importing into Colombia it is not too complicated. The tariff structure is realtively simple – 20% import duty is common for most item (detailed tariff profiles will be the subject of another post) and VAT (or IVA as it is known here) is 16%.
The tricky bit that is plaguing me at the moment is getting a license to import here and fully understanding the steps involved for achieving this is my goal over the next month or two. I will report back when I know more.