IE Business School Online Masters
Ajay Swamy
September 24, 2012

Ola Todos,

I just got back from Sao Paulo, Brazil and what a fantastic trip it was! Sao Paulo is a great city on many different levels. From the favelas to the skyscrapers, from the incredibly poor to the wealthy – Sao Paulo overwhelms you, sucks you in and astounds you with its expansiveness. The week-long trip to Brazil with my Global MBA colleagues was nothing short of fulfilling. We attended various seminars at INSPER (Institute of Education and Research), visited companies, got a firsthand look into Brazil’s economy and accompanying challenges and had a bit of fun in the process as well!

Brazil, the 7th largest economy in the world is a market full of opportunities. It is the 5th most populous country and this represents significant market opportunities to companies & entrepreneurs. Sao Paulo single handedly accounts for 12% of Brazil’s GDP!  The big companies of Brazil are deeply in cahoots with the government and these result in added challenges in terms of FDI, new market entrants and collusion. Our very first seminar focused on an interesting and complicated issue – “Capitalism of Ties”. Along with the Executive GMBA class we explored the corporate landscape of Brazil, more specifically the complex corporate alliances that are intertwined within the economic and political frameworks. Essentially the framework is cross ownership of companies (a convoluted Keiretsu), which results in a cluster of firms that own another firm, all tied to the government. This sometimes leads to a closed door economy where foreign entrants have huge barrier.

We had the chance to visit Odebrecht, the 4th largest company in Brazil operating across the energy, engineering and construction industries. We had the pleasure of listening to the CFO of a $50B company, who touched upon the company’s massive growth, future expansion plans and challenges of sustained growth. The expansion strategy in the construction space was based on moving into locations with similar cultural affinity and influence of the Brazilian government. This is an interesting strategy based on cementing your stronghold in former Portuguese influenced colonies. We also had the pleasure of listening to the CMO of LG talk about challenges about marketing to the various economic classes of people in Brazil – A,B,C,D,E with A being the wealthiest and E the poorest. These classes are further divided into tiers. The aggregate affordability of the D & E classes is quite large and as such most MNCs target these markets almost as equally as the middle to upper classes. Installment / subscription based payment systems are hugely popular among the D & E classes.  This strategy of targeting the poorer classes draws a direct comparison to Prahalad’s paper – “Serving the World’s Poor, Profitably”, a brilliant strategy to offer products to the masses that reside in favelas. The last day involved seminars about sustainability and of course the associated challenges.

This presential session brought about a deep understanding of Brazil and Sao Paulo. Most of all it really brought us closer together as a group. Here’s what a few of my colleagues had to say about the trip:

Davy Sohi: The trip to Sao Paulo was a fantastic opportunity to discover the city and learn more about Brazil and the intricacies of its economy and culture, all whilst networking with fellow IE alumni and Paolistanos.

Thien Le Nguyen: The IE sponsored trip to Sao Paulo was a fantastic opportunity to not only learn the ins and outs of one of the most vibrant emerging economies in the world but also to network and develop a stronger personal relationship with my fellow classmates.  The trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I won’t soon forget.

Aaran Joneson: This opportunity from IE helped the student network and build personal relationships all while seeing first-hand how diverse Brazil is, economically and socially. It was very eye-opening to see the effects of outdated protective trade-laws and how they influence the mixture of poor to wealth, where huge companies have skyscrapers built right alongside run-down shacks.

We also had the pleasure of exploring the night life and various dining options Sao Paulo offered. Sao Paulo offers some of the best sushi in the world – the product of the largest Japanese population living outside of Japan. We made new friends from different intakes, caught up with our GMBA friends based out of Sao Paulo, shared stories, discussed global challenges and even kept up with our regular MBA course loads. Suffice to say, we were all short on sleep.  It was truly a joy spending time with your colleagues and I believe I speak for everyone when I say – we were all a little sad to say goodbye by the end of the trip. By the time we left Sao Paulo, I was just able to grasp the enormousness of the biggest city in the Americas and the abundant opportunities it offers.

Special Thanks to Laura Rojo, Vani Nadarajah, Carmen Garcia and Alvaro Garcia.




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