Give me some sunshine
Give me some rain
Give me another chance I wanna grow up once again.
Humming this beautiful song from a popular bollywood movie, I geared up for my journey to Brazil. Having spent my last 7 months in Ireland I had already seen enough rains and now was the chance to see some sunshine.
“Doing Business in Emerging Markets” module is one of the most eagerly awaited modules of our MBA program. As part of this module half of the MBA class went to Brazil and the other half to China in order to get a better understanding of the business and cultural environment in the emerging nations. While business was always my top priority for this trip, I never lost sight of the fact that this might be my only trip with my fellow classmates as everyone gets busier with job search in the coming months. Hence, I wanted to make the most of it by getting to know them well. This trip was a welcome break for all of us and both the groups wanted to outdo each other in having fun on their respective trips.
With Brazil being another emerging economy like India, my home country, I was under the impression that things would be pretty similar there. While it had several characteristics of an emerging economy it had certain contradictions as well. For instance the price levels in Brazil were similar to or even more than that in a developed nation. Through our interaction with companies like Cosan, Petrobras, JWT, Pernod Ricard, etc. we got insights on the opportunity that lies ahead for these companies in Brazil. We also got an insight on the cultural issues and consumer behavior in this economy.
Visiting favela’s was an experience in itself. We felt a certain amount of fear while going there as we had been told how dangerous the place could be. Our fear was not unfounded as we noticed a teenaged guy with a gun in his hand and possibly keeping a watch on unwanted elements entering in the locality. We were amazed to see how an organization like AfroReggae is transforming the life of adolescents through the use of music. By doing so it is preventing these adolescents from going astray into the world of drugs and crime.
Amongst the various skills one gains as an MBA, multi-tasking is one of the significant one’s. Despite the hectic schedule which comprised of visits to companies and business schools, networking events, etc. we did manage to have considerable amount of fun (definitely more than our friends in China). While we were pretty occupied in Sao Paulo, the business capital of Brazil, we did find some time to explore Rio de Janeiro, the leisure hub of Brazil. The scenic locations of Rio are bound to take anyone’s breadth away and we were no different. We were left spell bounded by the beauty of Rio. These vivid memories make me feel that I took away more than I had bargained for. Obrigado (thank you in Portuguese) to the Smurfit School for providing us this tremendous opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the business environment and culture of Brazil.
As China gears up to overthrow the U.S. as the leading superpower in the world one can only expect things to heat up on the world stage. It has become almost impossible these days to not find a mention of China in the leading business newspapers of the world. As some of us are gearing up to visit China next month as part of our course module “Doing business in emerging markets”, the School decided to play host to Michael J. Enright, “one of the world’s reigning strategy guru”. Michael is a leading expert on the regional strategies of multinational companies in the Asia-Pacific and he shared his insights on China’s business environment.
Michael explained the magnitude of opportunity that exists in China for businesses to exploit. It has become one of the largest markets for numerous consumer and industrial goods. As per the data provided by China Statistics Bureau, 25 provinces in China had a GDP of over $100 billion for the year 2011. The two major drivers of consumption have been economic growth and growing urbanization. Clearly, China is an opportunity which global heavyweights can’t afford to miss. In fact it needs to be an integral part of the strategy of these companies. Though, China is based on different values but it has still been able to prosper, which is a fact many people in the democratic part of the world find hard to digest. The government has played a dominant role in China’s economy until now and it seems it would continue to do so in future as well but off late it has been taking steps to enable the private sector improve its contribution to the economy.
The challenges of operating in China are as big as the opportunity. Companies are discovering that many industries are in the nascent stage of growth and this rapid growth is sometimes not turning into profits. Also, consumers are not that brand loyal in China. Communication can also be a big issue for foreign multinational companies operating in China. It’s not being right, but being on the right side and having effective communication. Though it can be a difficult market to crack for businesses, the potential rewards can be enormous. In the words of Michael, “China changes, China adjusts.” The lecture provided us with valuable insights which not only helped us understand the Chinese market but also understand the nitty-gritty one can expect to encounter in an unfamiliar environment. These are lessons for lifetime and I would be looking forward to more such intellectually stimulating lectures.
Life as an MBA can be an eventful journey. I have been on this journey at Smurfit for the last 5 months and I can definitely say that it has been an enriching experience. I have met interesting people, gained valuable knowledge and visited exciting places. One of the best things to have happened to me during this short duration was my selection in the team which represented Smurfit School at the John Molson MBA International Case Competition held in Canada. Apart from me there were five other students in the team namely, Conor O’Donovan, Michael Munevar, Ian Nolan, Dita Zavrelova and Francis Pérez Colomina. Our team was a blend of different cultures with one American, one Czech, one Indian, one Spanish and two Irish people on board. Our team had to win an internal competition at Smurfit to get this opportunity to represent the school at such a prestigious competition. I feel all the more privileged as I was the only Full-Time MBA student in the team, the rest happened to be from the Part-Time Executive MBA program.
The competition was held in Montreal from 6th-11th January and was organized by the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University. 36 teams representing 14 countries from 5 continents participated in this competition. An interesting fact about the competition was the presence of over 250 judges (most of whom were well established leaders from the business and management world) to judge the presentations. Our team was accompanied by Professor Pat Gibbons, who acted as the academic coach for the team. The competition involved solving business problems of global companies. Each team was given 3 hours to read a 20-25 page case and prepare a 20 minute presentation giving recommendation on how to resolve that problem. The presentation was followed by a 15 minute question session by the judges. The learning was as much from solving our own case as it was from observing other teams present the case. Our team had a decent run in the competition and one more win would have taken us to the semi-finals.
In between solving business cases we took out time to attend various networking events scheduled by the organizers where we got the opportunity to mingle with our counterparts from other business schools. Some of these events also provided us opportunity to meet industry leaders and interact with them on a one to one level. Some of us did take out time to go around and experience the snow clad Montreal city. Despite our decent performance the competition the learning and exposure the competition provided was worthwhile. I believe this is just a start and I will have many more exciting opportunities and experiences in the coming 7 months of this journey.