Look Beyond Spain’s Tourist Attractions to Find Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and an Economy on the Rise, Says Babson Professor Jay Rao
For more than 12 years, Babson College Strategy and Innovation Professor Jay Rao has focused some of his in-the-field efforts on corporations, organizations, and business schools in Spain.
Between leading executive education programs for some of the most impactful businesses in the country (i.e. BBVA, Iberdrola, and Repsol), consulting for global corporations with a local footprint, and guest teaching at leading Spanish business schools, Professor Rao has developed an appreciation for the region’s business economy, and continues to help boost and promote local innovation.
This April, the broader Babson community will travel to Madrid for its 4th annual Babson Connect: Worldwide, the College’s premier global business summit.
As Babson prepares to convene in Spain for another engaging exchange of ideas and insights, Professor Rao shares some of his expertise from years of experience in the country:
Although Spain was hit hard during the global financial crisis in 2008, it has recovered very well. In 2016, GDP grew by 3.2 percent, compared with France (1.2 percent) and Italy (0.9 percent), and the country maintains an amazing quality of life.
Spain’s healthcare system is ranked No. 8 in the world—above France, Germany, and Japan (the U.S. is No. 35), and its Happiness Index is No. 15 out of 140 (the U.S. is ranked No. 108).
I have found that globally, many people do not know much about Spain other than its wines, painters, artists, sports clubs and tourist spots.
People in Latin America may be aware that some of their major firms are actually Spanish (BBVA, Santander, Telefonica, Mapfre), and some in the U.S. could tell you all about brands like Zara, but very few understand the true impact and potential of Spanish corporations and entrepreneurs.
Take a look at Mercadona, Werfen, Avini, Cemengal, Salto, Citron, and Girbau, for example. All are impressive Spanish firms that are both creative and innovative, and each grew despite the downturn in 2008.
Yet, Spain has some significant challenges. When compared to its northern European neighbors, the income inequality is still high, poverty rates and youth unemployment are high. Most significantly, labor productivity is much lower than other developed European economies. The primary reason being most enterprises in Spain are still small and not growing. For productivity to grow and for the economy to create jobs, three things are needed: (1) more startups, (2) existing small and medium firms to grow faster and bigger and (3) large enterprises to become more productive. For this to happen, entrepreneurship and innovation has to flourish at all levels.
Babson continues to expand its global efforts, and in doing so, helps to advance and promote the entrepreneurial potential of the countries it serves. By raising the profile and visibility of countries like Spain, we continue on our mission to put the power of entrepreneurship as a force for economic and social value creation in as many hands in the world as we can.