UCD Smurfit MBAs take on Brazil! Part 1:

I’ve just returned from what can only be described as a fabulous trip to Brazil.  It was my first time accompanying one of our MBA groups on what I call a “long haul” mission.  Together with our MBA Academic Director, Brian McGrath, we set forth to go and discover this new world for ourselves.

Day 1: Our expedition to the southern hemisphere departed on 10th March and fifteen hours later we reached the promised land of Brazil – Sao Paulo to be precise – thus starting the first leg of our trip. That evening was supposed to be a quiet one, but the excitement of the group became too much and weariness soon evaporated for the large contingent that headed out into the night to a self-satisfyingly posh restaurant selected by one of our fellow travellers – John Wainio. In fact, John and I shared some Amazonian fish – Pirarucu & Tambaqui – beautiful!  This set the tone for the trip – work hard and play harder.

Day 2: On Sunday, we had a leisurely excursion around Sao Paulo with visits to famous monuments, parks, cathedral, sand one very impressive indoor food market – the highlight of the tour for many of us (the piranha there was only to die for!). That night we visited our first “meat” restaurant called Jardineira Grill Barbecue.  This is nirvana for all carnivores.  I am sure there were many who thought they had died and gone to heaven. The main event involved multitudes of servers calling to the table with various types of succulent cooked meats on skewers. On the way home, we stopped off at the wonderful Skye Bar on top of a hotel that allowed us to view what is a truly impressive Sao Paulo skyline by night – Manhattan, eat your heart out! After a brief dalliance of an aquatic nature, we called it a night – and egged our taxis into a race to see who would get home first.  But, don’t tell them I told you that.

Day 3: The real work kicked off on Monday with visits to the FIA Business School.  We did manage to lose one of our troupe that morning, but we won’t name any names now will we, Conor.  We were treated to very interesting lectures on Brazilian economics and social networks that proved to be the inside story on doing business in Brazil – earn the trust of the network is key to success which requires lots of patience.  The Dean of FIA treated us to a fantastic lunch based on the local dish – Feijoada.

We left FIA and travelled across town to the very swish offices of JWT Brazil who gave us a very insightful summary of online marketing in Brazil. That evening we had our first networking event of the trip where we met quite a number of local Irish who are living and working in Sao Paulo.  Dan O’Brien from Kerry gave a short talk on how he ended up in Brazil and his views on life there so far.  Enterprise Ireland were instrumental in setting up the evening and they also gave a short talk on working in Brazil.  The highlight of the evening though was to be able to speak to all the “local” Irish who turned up.  We stayed on far too long as usual chatting away to these ambassadors of Ireland who have managed to build lives for themselves over there.

Day 4: Tuesday involved a visit to banking heavy hitters – Itau!  They are the top retail bank in Brazil whose headquarters also houses a considerable Brazilian national art collection with some very interesting pieces if I may say so. This was followed by Pernod Ricard Brasil.  Irishman Colin Kavanagh is practically running the show there and treated us to very interesting insights into brand marketing in Brazil with a special mention for our own Jameson which is quickly becoming the tipple of choice for the elite of Sao Paulo.  Not only did Colin and his protégé, the fair Bruno, treat us to cocktails at the end of their presentations but they also lined up the evening’s entertainment in a very swish private club in one of the hottest areas in town.  The Irish like to party no matter where they are.

Day 5: Very early next morning we all headed off to our final destination in Sao Paulo – the cosmetics company, Natura. This is a quiet oasis on the edge of this sprawling metropolis of twenty million that is Sao Paulo. Natura are the top cosmetics company in Brazil and only have one shop which is only temporary.  The reason for this is that they are solely reliant on their direct selling though local agents up and down the entire country.  The agents take the orders and the customers get their purchases delivered to their doors a few days later. The beautiful surroundings of this manufacturing facility were a perfect way to remember Sao Paulo. But before we leave Sao Paulo, I want to say a special thank you to our local guide here, Piero, a wealth of knowledge and experience who made everything look so easy. By 2 p.m. we were already in the air winging our way to part two of our wondrous Brazilian adventure – Rio de Janeiro.

– Michael McDonnell, Specialist Executive MBA Programme Manager