A fake break to Brazil

I write this blog contemplating the previous 6 weeks of the MBA program which have flown by at break neck speed. I did not think my schedule could get much fuller but the MBA is starting to prove that there is always room for more.

The undoubted highlight of the recent past has been our international study trip. I chose the Brazil option and was not disappointed. Leaving Dublin in sub-zero temperatures and arriving in Sao Paulo at plus 25 degrees was certainly a contributing factor. The Sao Paulo leg of our trip consisted of an introductory lecture at the FIA Business School and 4 company visits. The FIA lecture presented us with an insightful overview of how the Brazilian economy has got to where it is today (6th largest globally) and specifically the challenges it is facing in continuing its growth.

Of specific interest to me, was how a government policy of poverty eradication through social grants, had inadvertently lead to the stimulation of the local economy through increased public consumption. This is a significant departure from the current populist theory of poverty eradication through industry initiatives and private sector development. I intend performing greater research in this regard and specifically understanding such a policy’s applicability in the South African context.

The business visits and presentations that followed were varied and informative. From a business perspective, I went to Brazil to gain insights into what it is like to do business there and what the key challenges are for international businesses to overcome. The business presentations provided clear and repetitive guidance on the key requirements and challenges for international business in Brazil. I was interested to note that speaking the local language was a prerequisite to building strong relationships, which in turn was a prerequisite for doing successful business. I noted at JWT and Pernod Riccard that this language bridge could be overcome by employing educated locals, but that this would come at a price itself due to the high salaries demanded by skilled local labour.

I came to learn that some things will not change in the near future in Brazil and that making adjustments for the poor transport infrastructure and complex tax regime would be a requirement for undertaking business in Brazil. Much like South Africa, I noted that an approach of seeing opportunities as opposed to obstacles could prove successful in Brazil. This was borne out by companies such as Cosan that had seen an opportunity to enter the logistics and infrastructure fields, or Deloitte who provide consulting services on the complex tax system.

Our 3 days in Sao Paulo flew by and before long we were in the air again heading for Rio de Janiero. The flight and landing in Rio is something I will never forget, for all the right reasons! Flying in over Guanabara Bay, with the smattering of islands below, the Corcavado (Christ Redeemer Statue) and Sugar Loaf Mountains in the distance, and the Rio beaches ahead, is an amazing entrance. Rio’s status as the prettiest city I’ve ever been to was affirmed when we took the tram to the top of the Corcovado and spent the afternoon enjoying the views of the city.

The business part of the trip started up again in the morning with visits to the Brazilian multinationals of Petrobras and BNDES. These visits provided examples of the potential for Brazilian businesses to become world leaders in their fields, and exhibited the rich talent and skills that Brazil possesses. I was impressed with the ambitious nature of these companies, their striving for excellence and their national pride.

Having seen some of the best Brazil has to offer, I was eager to get a fuller picture of Brazilian life which our next scheduled visit to the infamous ‘favela’ slums of Rio, would hopefully provide. Entering the drug-lord controlled ‘favela’ under surveillance from a teenager with a radio and hand gun was always going to leave a lasting impression. I was surprised however with the relatively good condition of the houses and living areas, and saw no trace of the abject poverty that I was expecting. This dangerous illusion that crime does pay is possibly a detractor from the superb social work being done at the development centre we visited.

Ending our week with a view of the darker side of Brazil helped provide a broader picture of life and business here and its related complexities. Our 12 hour flight back to Dublin gave me time to reflect how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to experience at least a taste of the diverse country that is Brazil. I was leaving with fascinating insights that would assist me in my life and business decisions into the future, and a much deeper understanding than any readings could ever supply. I found myself pleasantly surprised again by my MBA experience far outweighing my initial expectations, no matter how swamped I feel at times.

Neil Krige

– Neil Krige, FT MBA 2013

The Boys and Girls from Ipanema

Reflecting on our recent international study trip to Brazil, I am enthused by the prospects for the country. Our opening visit to FIA provided us with an excellent macroeconomic overview of the country and its forecasts.  The young population (38% below the age of 20) bodes well for the country in providing a large labour force to fund retirement obligations that will only increase as the standard of living rises and life expectancy increases. In the short term however, this demographic structure creates significant costs for the state in education and healthcare. There are bottlenecks in infrastructure and skills (only on average 7.5 years of schooling) which if not dealt with with harm growth prospects and make inflation more difficult to control.

The visit to JWT, an advertising agency, in Sao Paolo, was a very informative one with interesting statistics on consumer habits and crucially the rise of the middle class or migration from social class C to B over the past decade.  The country is short-circuiting the communications changes that have evolved in more developed countries by information and advertising being accessed through mobile smart devices from a strong traditional television base, thereby bypassing the switch to PC/laptops seen in North America and Europe 10-15 years ago. The rate of change in Brazil is much greater than for more developed markets and this poses great challenges for enterprises, such as Pernod Ricard whom we also visited in Sao Paolo, to keep pace with these consumer trends and stay in the game.

We had a very interesting meeting with the Brazilian development bank, BNDES, in Rio de Janeiro, where they outlined the major projects being funded across the country, solely or in collaboration with commercial financial institutions.  Their portfolio was extensive and wide covering private enterprise and trade, education, transport and infrastructure and health. They are committed to modernising the country and making it more competitive but have tall hills to climb. I was struck by one of their immediate projects being the arenas for the World Cup and the surrounding infrastructure.  Being in both domestic  international airports in both cities, I couldn’t help feel how underprepared they were for the influx of football fans next year and that it was now too late to really modernise the airports at this stage but they might just have to grit their teeth and hope for the best.

Cathal O'Ceallaigh

– Cathal O’Ceallaigh, FT MBA 2013

Delving deep into the opportunity called Brazil!!

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.

UCD Smurfit MBA group visiting FIA Business School, Sao Paulo

“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.

Sightseeing in Sao Paulo

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.

Rahul Jindal

-Rahul Jindal, FT MBA 2012/13

MBAs in Brazil

This morning a group of UCD Smurfit started the annual International Trip which forms an integral part of the module Doing Business in Emerging Markets.

First stop this morning for the group in Brazil is a visit to FIA business school in São Paulo with talks by Prof. Simão Silber and Prof. Alfredo Behrens.

Stay tuned for more from Brazil…

-Rikke Budolfsen, MBA Programme Manager

From India to Dublin

It’s almost six months gone by and today we are in the second month of the second semester… and yes, I survived. Nonetheless I’ve come out stronger. Time flew and when I reflect back on the days spent on campus, it has been a hell of a ride. Lectures, presentations, group submissions, reports, continuous assignments and what not were the order of the day. The saga still continues but as the say in the old mafia way, I guess we have “made our bones” and are much better positioned to take on the world.

As we progress in to the second semester, it’s time for a reality check. Finally, why did I come to Smurfit School to do my MBA, in an unknown terrain, far away from home and with most basic factors working against me like the weather and food to name a few? Have I taken the right decision?

Well, the answer today is a thunderous YES. I was happily cruising along in life with a well set job but being in the field of human resources, I was convinced of the idea that a master’s degree could add to my future prospects. After completion of the application process, I had offers from universities of global repute but I finally zeroed in on the Smurfit School as a few facts stood strongly in its favour. First, the reputation of the college itself which has been ranked consistently in the top 80 in the world (we jumped 22 places this year…hurray!!), second the location, Dublin, the European tech capital and the last and most important, people around here who are warm, friendly and just make you feel at home. I cannot forget the date, 2nd Sept 2011 when I first stepped into the class. I was facing a cohort of 34 members representing 14 nationalities and I must admit, I was nervous for a while but as time moved on, it is this active group of fellow class mates who rode the highs and lows with me and I think my biggest learning’s have been from these turbo charged set of people who all, I am sure, will make a mark someday.

Life is not limited to study alone in Smurfit. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Rugby, a sport lesser known in India, has been an instant attraction. UCD, having won 10 out of the 11 finals of the world rugby championship is the place to be if you aspire to master the art of this game.  Drawn to the game, I can be occasionally be traced to the rugby field in Belfield campus. The Smurfit School is home to a great student cultural scene as well. Socializing and networking activities are regular. The recent Vietnamese social night was an opportunity to learn more about their culture while we couldn’t stop grabbing their delicacies.

Another exciting event is knocking at our doors, the international trip and me and my fellow mates are travelling to Brazil on an exchange program and are hoping to make the best of it. Brazil is an emerging economy like India and I am keen to have a first-hand experience of what life in Brazil is like. The study trip will help us appreciate the cultural differences between regions, culture being at the core of any major internal and external business decision makings.

The advantages of an international qualification, studying and living in a multicultural environment present an opportunity to learn even outside the classroom. While the MBA curriculum in the Smurfit School has, in what I believe, contributed to my professional development, the wholesome approach of the school combining the multifarious aspects of student life has indeed summed up in personal development as well resulting in a total learning curve. It has been a wonderful experience in so far whose benefits and value stand undisputed.

Sundeep Patnaik

– Sundeep Patnik, FT MBA 12/13

UCD Smurfit MBAs take on Brazil! Part 2:

Day 5 (continued.): We landed in Rio de Janeiro after four exciting days in Sao Paulo and headed straight to Corcovado, where the monumental statue of Christ the Redeemer is located. Once arrived, we were left standing in awe of the legendary figure and the spectacular view from the top of the mountain. In the evening we had a Brazilian style dinner at a local Churrascaria.


The group at Corcovado

Day 6: The day began with a presentation by major development bank BNDES in down town Rio. It was very interesting to find out how Brazil was preparing for major sporting events including the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016. Following the insightful morning session, we had an eclectic lunch at Café Colombo. We then attended a meeting with Brazil’s largest company, Petrobras. After that we were free to explore Rio and the beautiful Ipanema beach by night!

Day 7: We had a meeting with Deloitte that morning and then visited Vigário Geral, one of Rio’s favelas for lunch and presentations by the social enterprise organization, Afro Reggae. It was a once in a lifetime experience where we witnessed a few exhilarating music performances and got to do some drumming ourselves! The final dinner was held that evening at one of Brazil’s finest restaurants, Porcao Rio’s. Most of the group then headed to Lapa, probably the most happening place in Rio on a Friday night!

Getting a taste of Brazilian music

Day 8: The last morning in Brazil was at leisure and I took that opportunity to visit the landmark Sugar Loaf Mountain. We all then boarded the flight back to Dublin after an intensive week of work that gave us a wonderful opportunity to get a first-hand experience of rich Latin American culture and understand how it influences business and society.

– Vishal Balasubramaniam, Full-time MBA 2011/12

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

MBA International Study Tour 2012

Time has never passed as fast as it has done since I began working on the MBA International Study Tour. I started planning the trips in October of last year, and March 10th seemed like light-years away.

Now here we are, only days before the group of 81 MBA students head off for their 8 day intensive trip, which is part of the MBA module ‘Doing Business In Emerging Markets’. This year, one group will be going to China while the other group is going to Brazil. The China group will be spending their time in Beijing and Shanghai. The Brazil group will be visiting the cities of Rio Di Janeiro and Sao Paulo. This is Smurfit’s seventh MBA Trip to China and the third year we will be visiting Brazil.

During the trip, the students will be meeting with a vast and varied group of International Businesses and Institutions. These include CELAP, Treasury Holdings Shanghai, 3M, JWT, Motorola, FIA Business School, Deloitte and Tesco, but to name a few. They will also attend a number of social outings, and for the China group, this includes the St. Patrick’s Day Black-Tie Ball in Shanghai.

At first, the task of co-ordinating two international trips for over 80 people was extremely daunting. However, as the first couple of weeks passed, I became more confident with the task in hand. The strong  relationships that Smurfit has built up over the years with the various International businesses and institutions became very apparent to me. The companies whom we have visited before were delighted to have us visit again and likewise, we are delighted to be returning. The strong relationships between the MBA Team, the businesses and Legacy Ventures, made working on the trip a pleasure. The reputation of Smurfit also meant that setting up visits to new businesses was warmly welcomed.

The great itineraries for both Brazil and China are surely going to guarantee an excellent, once in a lifetime opportunity for the MBA students to develop their knowledge of International Emerging Markets, expand their professional networks and of course strengthen the bonds of the friendships formed since they joined the MBA Programme.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the organization of the trip. It gave me the chance to communicate with the students on a regular basis and get to know them (even if it was just to give out to them for not meeting deadlines!) I can safely say I won’t know myself when the students depart on Saturday. Although I will miss working with Legacy and everyone involved in the International Tour, after one incident (or maybe two) of waking up in the middle of the night wondering if had forgotten someone’s visa or given out the wrong flight details, I will also enjoy the fact that the preparation is now over! Working on the trip taught me a lot of new and amazing facts about China and Brazil, it helped me to build new relationships and expand my business network. Overall, it was a great experience.

So now, it is just days until the students depart, I’d like to wish each and every one of you every success on your journey. Make the most of every opportunity, get involved as much as possible and most of all, ENJOY! I look forward to hearing all about it on your return. Safe travels.

– Avril Donohue, MBA Programme Assistant

Networking: Learning the Basics

“Fifty percent of your career success depends on networking” that’s one of the first statement we heard on MBA.

We even have been proved of power of the networks on one of the sessions organized by our Career Service. There is a website called The Oracle of Bacon. If you enter a name of any actor, they will show you the number of movies through which your actor is linked to Kevin Bacon, who is also an actor. The amazing thing is that you can enter the name of an actor who is from a different country and even from different generation, but he will still be linked to Kevin Bacon. And it’s not because Kevin Bacon is a very popular actor or had played in enormous number of movies. I think he was taken just as an example in order to show that you can link anyone to anyone. And the practical use of this example is that you can link to anyone you want. All you need is just to tell your friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and etc that you are looking for someone who know that person. They say that usually acquaintances are even more useful for networking than your close friends. So feel free to tell your hairdresser or a man from grocery shop what you are looking for. You never know who will give you the precious contact.

Finding the right person is only half of the success. Next step is to talk to that person, and preferably make good impression. There are rules like, don’t talk too much about yourself and in general don’t talk too much. Active listening! At the end of the day it all seems to be common sense – be nice, be polite, be interesting and don’t forget to listen. However, even knowing all the do’s and don’ts it’s not that easy, because you can never have one key for communication with everybody. My answer is practice. During this year we had lots and lots of opportunities for networking – presentations, receptions, interviews, sessions, study trip… in fact, any event can be your opportunity for networking. Our facilitator of Effective Networking, Tony Newton said that even after years and years of business experience he is still a bit nervous before meeting new people; but you would never say that when you look at him.

MBA Smurfit School Networking event
Networking events during our International Study Trip to Brazil

Some interesting links:

Ten rules of networking

The Elevator Pitch

A blog about a person who has 16000 contacts

– Nargiza Kalmamatova