Indecisive about taking an Elective Abroad? Babson Industry Trekking in Brazil
Many of our beavers chose sunshine blended with fun and productivity in Brazil, as a spring break destination from the variety of ambiences the wide, wide world had to offer.
They visited a bouquet of companies to gain cross sectional industry insight:
- American Chamber of Commerce – Non-profit facilitating cross border commerce
- Cyrela – Construction company in the Real Estate space
- Primo Pastificio – Pasta manufacturing company
- Tarpon Capital – One of the largest private equity firms in Brazil
- Embraer – Leading jet manufacturers in the world
- Top Sports –Digital service specializing in sports content
- Afro Reggae – Media company designed to counteract the violent drug industry
Here’s a peak into their industry trek and boardroom meetings for which you might want to thank our one-year MBA’s namely, Rahul Maheshwari & Rishabh Saraf.
Why did you decide to choose an elective abroad?
Rishabh Saraf: The country in question. Given the safety conditions, I would think twice before going to Brazil alone and would also have to go through the trouble of coordinating calendars with friends and scheduling the trip. With the elective abroad we had the opportunity of meeting good companies and accomplished professionals from whom we could gain fresh insights. This would have been a little impossible had I decided to go to Brazil by myself in which case the trip would have more likely come off as touristy.
Rahul Maheshwari: I went with the objective of gaining some insights into the work culture of Brazil and developing relationships with industry professionals as I look forward to expanding my family business which is marble and stone, in that region. Much of the stone we retail back in India is actually sourced from Brazil, which has a few natural stone quarries. The agenda was to get a feel of the country, get a sense of the people, business culture and analyze possible future business partnerships.
Tell us some more about the work culture in Brazil and your evaluation on whether it is in fact a country you recommend to partner with for business relations?
Rishabh Saraf: The work culture is more relationship based. The people are friendly and will go out of their way to help you. The general perspective people have of Brazil is a country where it is not possible to do business easily because of language and location barriers but being there in person you realize that there is a lot of opportunity that Brazil presents as a developing country with a low cost structure. Coming from India, the most striking discovery for me was realizing that we have a very good export potential to Brazil, which is untapped across industries.
Rahul Maheshwari: From the perspective of the companies we visited in the cities of San Paulo and Rio, we found that people are more open about sharing insights and humble in terms of their achievements – what worked for them and what didn’t, which is slightly different from what we see in the U.S. We met with founders, CEO’s and they provided a window into their thought process rather than just delivering a company presentation. The work culture is definitely more laidback, creative and entrepreneurial as opposed to the strictly professional culture we see in theWest. Government initiatives are very supportive for upcoming businesses in Brazil. We visited the American Chamber of Commerce and realized that Brazil is a country that is rich in natural resources. The government is pushing initiatives in technology, setting up manufacturing plants, and IT operations so it’s a good time for outside investors to look at Brazil to set a base in. In terms of a market, looking at it from a sourcing point of view, great country to do business with and I look forward to establishing partnerships with quarry owners and local producers to source materials for my business.
What are the different types of industries you visited? What learning did you take back?
Rishabh Saraf: The course was divided into 6 diff sectors: Investment and Financial, Construction, Manufacturing, Social Entrepreneurship, Lifestyle Entrepreneurship and Media. We visited diverse companies in different markets. Brazil has seen a rapid development in the last 10 years. The construction industry has seen a good boom especially in Sao Paulo and Rio, which are very developed compared to countries in South East Asia in terms of infrastructure and housing. We had the opportunity to meet with the founder of a very interesting company, Cyrela, which is a high-end housing company in Brazil. We saw their projects, learnt how they had strategically expanded over the years and the kinds of problems they had faced in the process. During our meeting with the product development team it was surprising to learn how a large established company like Cyrela still faces challenges to continuously innovate, identify and develop profitable products to boost their revenue streams and maintain track of current global trends to stay ahead of the curve.
We also visited the facilities of Embraer, one of the biggest airline manufacturing companies in the world. It is interesting to note that aircrafts account for the top 5 exports of Brazil. Embraer organized an exercise for us wherein they briefed us on global trends and introduced us to new business projects they were working on. In return, we were to provide them feedback on trends that we thought would influence their industry the most and evaluate their business projects based on those global trends and the knowledge we possessed as MBA students.
Rahul Maheshwari: Financial investment industry visit to Tarpon Capital was an eye opener. Tarpon is a private equity firm started by a young guy aged 23 years. While making an investment decision, Tarpon prioritised the culture of the organisation it was looking to invest in over the financials. It was great to see it in practice because we hear about this all the time in our M&A lectures at Babson but always believe it to be superficial. It was good to see that even in the finance world companies are focusing on culture, people and core values of an organisation. Tarpon Capital is a 10-digit private equity fund. In a span of 10 years if the founder has brought the company to this stage it only reiterates the importance of culture as a crucial factor in making investment decisions.
How conducive is the atmosphere in Brazil for startups and entrepreneurship?
Rishabh Saraf: Most of the companies we visited were very entrepreneurial and were started by young people. On the main shopping street in Sao Paulo most brands with good shops and good merchandise were local Brazilian brands as opposed to other countries where you find big foreign brands like Louis Vuitton dominating the streets. It was inspiring to see Brazilian people appreciate and value local products. According to the data we received, there are a lot of incubators available to aspiring entrepreneurs in Brazil. It is a very conducive atmosphere to start a new business in with sufficient help available.
Rahul Maheshwari: Lifestyle entrepreneurship is big in Brazil, which goes to say people love what they do. In Brazil, people look for jobs or create schedules that fit into their lives, are naturally creative, and maintain a healthy work life balance. Brazilians love culture, lifestyle, surfing, beach related activities, owning themed restaurants, selling surfboards, havaianas flip flops and surf related gear. Lifestyle entrepreneurship ventures produce products of high quality and are very local at heart when it comes to manufacturing. We met with a small start up that prided itself in making pasta from scratch. They had small machinery and made hand made pasta, very niche, premium and very ‘Whole Foods’. We tried our hand at it and immersed ourselves in the Brazilian culture.
1 key takeaway?
Rishabh Saraf: Brazil should be a compulsory trip it is a great example of a developing country and a wonderful place to live and work. Brazilians show you how to live and enjoy life and maintain a healthy work regime at the same time. It is a good view into what the future will
look like. From a business perspective it has opened up good export opportunities for me with the advantage of India’s lower cost structure.
Rahul Maheshwari: Sao Paulo and Rio were both more developed than I expected them to be. Brazil is a fast growing economy with lots of potential for development in other regions. The exposure was immense coupled with great learning; good break all in all a great trip. I definitely recommend people to choose Brazil as an elective abroad option.