China: Free-Market Economics in a Command Economy

Prior to our International Trip to China, I had heard the rumour that China was a communist country. Having spent two weeks there, I’m certain that this is not the case. China exhibits all the elements of a free-market economy, with a healthy display of consumerism and a liberal sprinkling of capitalist greed and exuberance. However, in contrast to traditional capitalist societies, we were told that China is governed by a decisive and strong central governing body, which acts unilaterally to control the market.

There were several examples of where government control is all-powerful in determining the power of the individual players in the market: Continue reading China: Free-Market Economics in a Command Economy

It’s coming home…

Yesterday, the Smurfit Rugby team won the MBA World Cup !

The team was superior in the group play, beating the hosts, Duke (22-12), UTexas (35-12), UCLA/Cal State (22-7) before beating Wharton 17-14 in the QF. The semi-final saw Smurfit beat London Business School 12-8  on a last minute try to win. The final was played against Harvard which Smurfit won 13-10!

What can I say, our guys are great and  the new trophy will look good with the rest in the new trophy cabinet.

Congratulations again to all 29 players – well done and look forward to seeing you back here later this week.

PS: The Rugby team and the trip to the World Cup was featured on Irish TV on 7th April. Click here to watch -the piece about Smurfit Rugby is @ 2:24


– Rikke, MBA Programme Manager.

Going to the MBA Rugby World Cup

The panel’s selected, the fees are paid, the flights, transportation and accommodation are booked and the gear is on its way (they hope)… the UCD Smurfit Rugby Club is going to the MBA Rugby World Championships.

After months of fundraising, training and preparation, the Club is finally in a position to send a team to Duke to participate in this year’s competition. Intending to uphold and build on the fine traditions and reputation of the Club, twenty-eight players will depart Dublin Airport on Thursday 7th April. Bound for North Carolina, these players, and their coach Barry Gibney, will pitch there skills against the best teams from around the world with the sole aim of regaining the title last won in 2009.

Throughout the competition, the Club will be providing continuous updates on their progress using Twitter and @SmurfitRFC. So if you are interested in how they are doing, just log on and follow them.

– Shane Horan, MBA Rugby Club Coordinator

Financial reality of Brazil

Like an entrepreneur half the battle in Brazil was too survive in the short run. As the mullet has often been described ‘business on top and ‘party at the back’, this was very much the motto on the Brazil trip, as all the students tried to experience both the business culture and the social culture. The country was infinitely wealthier than I had presupposed and the level of wealth in Sao Paolo was quite astonishing at times as we passed by a whole street of car shops selling Lamborghinis, Porsches etc. Even Ireland in it’s hey day never saw such levels. However, this is juxtaposed with poverty showing the sharp contrast between the haves and have not’s which is not apparent in Europe. However, it was interesting how business opportunities can exist in both arenas and the interesting lecture we had in how to incorporate poorer communities with large scale businesses in an inclusive style of entrepreneurial businesses.

The opportunities initially appear endless as it rushes headlong forward in growth, the group spends the week between beers (which is rare) attempting to comprehend whether it is purely a commodity boom or a more sophisticated economic development. No one really had the answer, yes it is a commodity boom but at the same time its hard to understand until you are there that Brazil is nearly a continent in itself. What are the chances for Irish business in such an environment? I spoke with a friend who is doing business in Brazil; and while opportunities exist it is not the easy win that people might think. Very few speak English, regulation is extremely confusing, long term financing is difficult to find, local trading partners are required as well as many other barriers? This brings us back to our first point whether an incumbent business can it survive in the short to medium term without cash flow. Many of our fellow students did not financially survive to see a second week in Brazil while some of those who stayed on could be paying back for a considerable time. There might be a lesson in there somewhere.

– Colm O’Reilly

Smurfit MBA Rugby Club

On Thursday 24th February, the students of UCD Smurfit finally went to the dogs.

As part of its fundraising campaign to send a team to the 2011 MBA Rugby World Championships, the UCD Smurfit Rugby Club organised an event at the Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium. This event was intended to provide our international classmates with an unique cultural experience whilst also facilitating a networking and teambuilding environment for the students from the different classes. And, from the Club’s perspective, this event succeeded on both fronts.

For all who have never intended a Shelbourne Park ‘night’, it involves watching eleven races where six greyhounds race each other whilst trying to catch an electric ‘hare’. Furthermore, just to add to the occasion, alcohol, food and gambling are also included for good measure. On the night, we had a reserved area on the restaurant level of the grand stand where we had a fantastic view of the track and a warm environment in which to socialise and network.

Greyhound Night with the Smurfit MBAs (Tham, Ruairi & Blonde)

From a fundraising perspective, the Club would sincerely like to thank its partners – CRH, O2 Ireland, Largo Foods and Mason, Hayes + Curran, without whose support, it would not have been possible. Furthermore, the sponsorship kindly provided by Smurfit Kappa added that extra bit of spice to the eight race in which Diarmuid O’Keefe won the €500 buster prize that was on offer.

Smurfit MBA Rugby Club presenting prize to Diarmuid O'Keeffe
Smurfit MBA Rugby Club presenting Smurfit-Kappa prize to Diarmuid O'Keeffe

Congratulations to Diarmuid and all involved in making this a memorable experience.


– Shane Horan, Smurfit MBA Rugby

Shane Horan Smurfit MBA Rugby (2nd left) presenting prize to race winner

Smurfit – great for socialising

And so we’ve all arrived back safe and sound from our international study trip. About thirty five members of the full-time class went to Brazil with the balance opting for China.

The trip turned out to be a fabulous experience. We learned a lot about the Brazilian economy and society. Of course, there was an onus on the travelling group to take a holistic approach to sampling Brazilian culture.  This sampling of the culture ranged from sipping caipirinhas on Ipanema to some of the group attending a local football game. These extra-curricular activities could be viewed as burning the candle at both ends but we would like to look on it as making the most of the trip.

The other group seemed to have just as interesting a time although based upon the photographs of their trip we seemed to get the better weather – hats and coats for them, shorts and flip-flops for us!! One of the more unexpected benefits of the trip has been the manner in which it allowed us to get to know each other even better. This is especially true for those of the people who were not part of the same study group up until now.

What I would like to understand is how the students of MBA programmes with classes of more than 250 manage to get to know each other. With that many in a class, it must be difficult to get to know everyone’s name!  Within Smurfit, the class is less than fifty so everyone knows each other a lot better. This makes for a great atmosphere and a more rounded experience.

-Donal O’Sullivan

A jamming visit to the favela of Rio

Last week, a group of MBA students went on an epic trip to Brazil, as part of our International Study Programme. It started in Sao Paulo with visits to Walmart and Natura, amongst others. Then we all headed to Rio de Janeiro, hoping to catch some sun and fun! The days passed so quickly; we had so much to see, so much to do! The one day, which really made the trip, was Friday, 18 March 2011. After a very impressive session with Deloitte, we all got on the bus to go to Vigário Geral favela (slum).

Eve, our guide for this part of the trip briefed us about the place we were going to visit. It was a slum area, known to be a very violent place and a hub for drug dealing. In the past, there have been horrifying instances of gang wars and young children becoming a part of the circuit. With all that at the back of our heads, (and instructions not to click pictures without permission!) we reached the favela.

There we were greeted by a hundred kisses from a woman, who owns a restaurant based in the middle of the favela, cooks all the food herself, is more than 50 year old and still has a dummy pacifier in her mouth, most of the times! The food was delicious! The variety was commendable.  Good food and warm hugs from the lady herself made us happy, but none of us knew what to expect ahead!

Smurfit MBAs and Afro Reggae dancers

Continue reading A jamming visit to the favela of Rio

Brazil, an amazing country – A Vietnamese comparison

We were back from Brazil three days ago but I still feel the strong energy of that country.  Before getting on the Smurfit MBA International Study Trip, I always thought of Brazil as a home of football and samba with many beautiful beaches and one of the key emerging markets. However, there is actually much more than those in Brazil. If I have to tell everything I have learned from this trip, it would be a lengthy report or say a learning journal which I need to write later on as a part of the course.  Nevertheless, there were three things that impressed me most in terms of comparison between my home country, Vietnam which is also an emerging country, and Brazil.

Vietnam mainly relies on agricultural exports and Brazil is our main competitor in many areas, especially the coffee market where we are only  second to Brazil. Therefore,  my initial perception of Brazil was more of an agriculture-based country rather than a service-based one. And then I was impressed by knowing Brazil’s services now accounts for 66% of the economy while agriculture contributes only 20%. Moreover, most of their population (193 million, the fifth largest in the world) is now living in urbanised areas. For instance, Sao Paulo, our first destination in Brazil, is a huge modern city with 20 million inhabitants.



Sao Paulo - a modern city
Sao Paulo - a modern city



In addition, I had an expectation before the trip that Brazilian would have many characteristics in common with the Western people as Brazil used to be the Portugal’s colony for over 300 years. However after the trip, it turned out not to be true. In fact, Brazilians are group-orientated and collective. They collaborate in group and compete as a group. These characteristics are very close to Vietnamese ones.

More interestingly, I got a chance to go to an open market in Sao Paulo. It was just a small normal area with many small shops selling foods, stuff and the like. When I worked around, I saw that most of the shops accepted payments by credit cards even if they sold 4-5 Real stuff (approximately €2). I found out later on from the tour guide that almost everywhere in Sao Paulo they do the same. I was very surprised at that time as the number of electronic payment in Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnam’s largest city, is still  very small as compared to the cash payment. This has been a challenge in Vietnam hence seeing how Brazil overcame it really impressed me.


– Khoi Le,



Sao Paulo - open market
Sao Paulo - an open market



Smurfit MBA Int’l Study Trip – China

Life is just returning to normal after our return from China which was one of the two MBA study trip destinations for 2011.

This tour was an 8 day intensive trip to Shanghai and then Beijing which took in a range of educational, political, business, social and cultural visits and meetings.  Between Monday and Friday we visited with a large and varying group of institutions and businesses – the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP), Bristol-Myers Squib, Deloitte, Coca Cola University, JWT, Treasury China Trust, Tesco, Motorola, the China Education Initiative, Enterprise Ireland, and Aramark. We also had a climate change panel comprising representatives from orbeo, Azure and Rhodia who are companies in the renewables business at the prestigious Chang An Club in Beijing.

In between the business and educational elements of the trip we managed to fit in a river cruise in Shanghai, a visit to the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, a walk on the Great Wall of China and under our own steam visits to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City among others and any number of markets, pubs and restaurants in both Shanghai and Beijing.Smurfit MBA Int'l Stuiry Trip 2011 - The Great Wall of China

The group celebrated St. Patricks Day twice, on the day itself in Paddy O’Shea’s pub in Beijing and then on the 19th March at the Irish Ball in Beijing run by the Irish Network China with approximately 720 members of the Irish ex-pat community in China and their friends, this ball is a major social event and is one of the largest in the region.  Some other things may have happened too during the course of the trip but it is probably diplomatic to forget them!

The word I heard most commonly to describe the trip was ‘intense’ but this was always said with some satisfaction and not a little awe at how much we managed to fit in.

– Roisin O’Loughlin, MBA Programme Manager

Smurfit MBA Int'l Study Trip 2011 - China

Smurfit MBA Int’l Study Trip -Brazil

As my colleague said in her blog post, we have just come back from this year’s MBA International Study Trips.

Each year, the Smurfit MBAs choose one of two destinations for the trip which in turn forms part of a module on Doing Business In Emerging Markets. This year, the Smurift MBAs chose to go to China and Brazil.

The Brazil group visited Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in 8 hectic days. Similarly to the China trip, the trip was a mix of educational, business, socal and cultural visits and meetings – but I guess we had the better weather in Brazil!

We first went to FIA Business School for two very interesting lectures on Brazilian economy and culture. Following that we visited the Brazilian stock exchange BM&FBovespa, retailer Walmart Brazil,  Natura cosmetics manufacturer, BNDES (development bank), Petrobras the Brazilian oil giant, and Deloitte Brazil. We also met with a number of Irish businesses and business people in Brazil as well as Enterprise Ireland’s Brazil Office.

Smurfit MBA Int'l Trip 2011 -Brazil
Visiting Afro Reggae in Rio



The social aspect of the trip was a visit to impressive social enterprise organisation Afro Reggae, who work to keep youths living in the slums of Rio out of trouble through music and education.


Continue reading Smurfit MBA Int’l Study Trip -Brazil