Cuba in Pictures

Welcome dinner in Havana

Lunch at El Templete


Old Havana

Enjoying the view at Hotel Nacional de Cuba


Plaza Viejo

Dinner at El Cocinero


Dinner and meeting with the owner of La Guarida

CBS at an Industriales baseball game in Havana


CBS at Tropicana

Road trip to Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

Topes de Collantes

Thank you all for an amazing week in Cuba!

-Michael Echemendia ’16

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The Spirit of Chazen #Brazil2016

What is Chazen? 

“In 1991, our founder, Jerome A. Chazen, MBA ’50, recognized the need for a new kind of leader: one who understands cross-cultural issues and their impact on business. That vision led to the creation of the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business, which serves as the hub of global activity at Columbia Business School.”

(cheesy nationality jokes aside)

When I step back to reflect, it’s truly remarkable how globally diverse our cohort of 30 students were, representing 14 nationalities (here we go: Netherlands, Italy, India, Israel, Lebanon, Peru, China, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, Canada, Greece, Malaysia and good ol’ USA), but also surprisingly diverse business backgrounds: 

Visiting the Suzano Paper & Pulp factory – who knew that Martina Carbone CBS ’16 would pepper the speakers with R&D questions, given her chemical & bio-engineering background?

Who knew that Audrey Stewart CBS ’16 spent time in Taiwan working on nuclear weapon detection for the US Army?

Traveling abroad with a group as awesome as this is a natural catalyst for conversations about … religion, politics, family, and hey, even hair type (Beleza Natural, Operations Management 101); conversations too taboo within the confines of a classroom, yet somewhat organic and free-flowing when you’re chilling in a bus with the lush forest of Rio as your backdrop.

For me – these conversations are the ‘deep and meaningful’ that help us know each other better; the real forage for international and cross-cultural capital that makes us more informed and educated business people.

That’s the Spirit of Chazen.

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In 33 #pictures – São Paulo & Rio de Janeiro

Reuben Gan, CBS ’16

São Paulo (Jan 17-20, 2016)

Day 0 – Visiting the quickly gentrifying neighbourhood of Vila Madalena.
Pop-up block parties in the neighbourhood of Vila Madalena.
Company #1 – Natura Cosmetico’s headquarters in Cajamar, Sao Paolo.
Glass is abundant at Natura’s HQ, promoting one of the company’s key values & principles – Transparency.
Laura Burkey, CBS ’16 tries on the Natura’s cosmetics line.
Samar Estephan, CBS ’16 tries out a Natura hand lotion.
Andy Zheng CBS ’16 browsing the fragrance section of Natura’s mock retail store.
Men, a natural target market.
Company Visit #2 – As we learnt, Azul’s competitive advantage as Brazil’s no.3 carrier is owning networks of connecting flights that GOL & TAM can’t compete with.
Fun Fact – Azul is known for their gummy candy planes. Children often ask their parents for this when they know they’re flying. How is that for a cost-effective CRM strategy?
Company #4: Donning safety hats & goggles to tour the Suzano Paper & Pulp factory, the global leader in producing Eucalyptus tree-based paper products.
Company #5 – B2W, Brazil’s leading e-commerce company, furnished with plenty of entertainment.
CBS-ers taking last shots at Sao Paolo. Will one of us win the Chazen Travel Photo contest?

Rio de Janeiro (Jan 20-22, 2016)

Company #7 – BNDES takes us through what it takes to work at Brazil’s leading development bank.
The Famous Cathedral de San Sebastian in Rio De Janeiro.
The iconic PetroBras building in central Rio.
Lunch at the historic Confeitaria Colombo, a taste of colonial Rio.
Company #9 – The Operational Centre of Rio De Janeiro, a world class live database tracking weather, traffic and crime to mitigate tim-sensitive issues such as mudslides. (picture by Vitor Selles, CBS ’16)
Company #10 – Beleza Natural prides itself for serving the needs of communities of Brazilian women with intensely curly hair, giving it their signature “relaxante” treatment for more relaxed, softer and shiner hair for better confidence 🙂
Co-Founder of Beleza Natural, Leila Veliz – “Working at McDonald’s was my first MBA”, on understanding the need for a continuous flow system in running an operations-based service business.
“Be beautiful and free!” Fun fact – All Beleza Natural models are either customers or staff; the company believes in realistic, everyday beauty. All smiles @ Erin Williams, CBS ’16
Lesson #1 (from Core Operations Class) – An “assembly-line” (Ford model) process in action. In case recruiting doesn’t go according to plan…
Operations Strategy lesson no.2 – some assembly lines are less efficient than others..
And some others…

Bonus: Post-Chazen Hangout @ Rio de Janeiro (Jan 23-25, 2016)
(conveniently-timed as Hurricane Jonas hurled through NYC)

#Advice for future Chazen travelers – book the latest flight back! You won’t regret it 🙂

The Christ Redeemer. Photo courtesy of Johnny Yaacoub, CBS ’16
Panoramic chill by Ipanema beach.
The Selaron Steps, the famous work of a Chilean-born artist in the artsy neighbourhood of Santa Teresa.
Parque Lage. Brunch with a beautiful botanical backdrop.
The Orquestra Voadora – world-renowned marching brass band practicing for the Rio Carnival. If we could only stay another week..
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Breathtaking view of Rio De Janeiro from Sugar Loaf mountain.
On the very last day, with the Sugarloaf Mountain as the backdrop.
Tchau Tchau! (bye bye)

Helen Wey’16 – Tunisia

Top 5 Moments of the Trip

  1. Lunch at farm Dar Salima- We had delicious grilled meat in a rural cottage that functioned as a B&B. The home overlooked olive trees, vineyards and mountains. I would definitely consider making a trip back to this place- they even had a honeymoon suite (which we all visited as an awkward group of 30).


  1. Land’or cheese factory tour- As a cheese lover, and consumer of similar products made by the Laughing Cow, I was particularly fond of the factory visit at Land’or. We visited the pasteurization process, the incorporation of bacteria, and the molding and aging process. It was also eye opening to learn how many additives there were in the cheese triangles that I have eaten my whole life. The greatest part though was probably seeing how silly we looked in all our outfits.


  1. Celebrating Maria’s Birthday- Never in my life had I done a group rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the middle of a corporate presentation. While at Carrefour, one of our classmates let out that another classmate was celebrating her birthday that day. We continued the celebration later that night by surprising Maria with a birthday cake and bottle of champagne at dinner.


  1. A night at Le Boeuf sur le Toit- Our TA, Olivier wanted a fun night for us since we were going to have a later start the next morning, and made a reservation at an entertainment-included restaurant. While we were going there for dinner, it was more of a nightclub. They had boisterous live music and the way to clap along or participate was to dance and use your flatware to clang on the metal tables and lampshades.


  1. Curfew goodbye- For our last night in Tunisia, we had planned to have a grand bash. We made reservations for dinner and late-night belly dancing. Unfortunately, all those plans came to a halt when the government imposed a nationwide curfew from 8PM-5AM. There had been some civil unrest in other parts of Tunisia, but it reached Tunis on Friday. The hotel arranged a room for us to have dinner and we played board games long into the night.


The best part of this trip was building bonds with my classmates. Even though everyone was a fall-term second-year, I did not most of them. We had countless meaningful conversations during our bus rides and sit-down meals. Many jokes were told. Many, many shenanigans occurred. We had an amazing time. Shukraan, Tunisia!

Lessons Learned in India

By Clare Premo ’16

Our time in India was quite eye-opening in terms of business lessons learned.

Perhaps the most common refrain we heard, and one that gives me the greatest hope for the future of the country is the major opportunity for economic growth that lies ahead. This is due to a combination of intrinsic factors in India, as well as international developments that make India relatively more attractive. For instance, India’s youth cohort is extremely large and there is a massive number of millennials ready to work. This robust addition to the labor force stands in contrast to many developed nations that face an employment crisis as the population reaches retirement. Furthermore, the slowdown of China and other emerging market nations mean that India is an increasingly attractive place for foreign direct investment. Since India is not a commodity economy and has a massive consumer base, it should be able to capture investments that are leaving these other countries in search of a better combination of stability and returns.

Another common discussion point was the stark gap between rich and poor and rural and urban. Even as millions of Indians enter into the middle class, there is still a vast chasm between the rich and the poor in the country. This occurs both in major metropoles where 5 star hotels neighbor massive slums, as well as in more geographically dispersed dichotomies between urban and rural areas. Finding ways to lift the fortunes of the poor without triggering even more migration into the already overpopulated major cities will be a major challenge for India going forward.

Another issue that came up frequently in conversations was the importance of investing in reliable infrastructure. From our conversations with Airtel, we learned that telecom is perhaps the most developed form of infrastructure thus far, and one can observe this given the widespread penetration of mobile phones across the country. The train systems are also quite extensive, partly due to the British colonial heritage. However, critical systems like water and sanitation are still underdeveloped, and the lack of these feed the healthcare crisis. It will require significant investment from the public and private sectors to bring these basic pieces of infrastructure up to snuff to promote a healthy workforce. Roads, airports and ports will also require continued attention in order to enable movement of goods and people and to power commerce.

We also noticed the contrast between conglomerates and entrepreneurial ventures in India. Most of the major companies there are diversified corporations, often partly family-owned, that reach across many sectors. These include Tata, Reliance, and Airtel. However, it seems like the next stage of breakthrough growth will need to come from new companies with the ability to hire new workers. In order to employ the millions of people entering into the workforce, the Indian economy will need to nurture start up firms. But the paradox is, most young people aspire to work for one of these well-regarded companies, or to find reliable employment in the very large public sector, and are loathe to try their luck at starting a new company or working for an unproven one. The Indian culture is more risk averse than the American one, and working for a failed company is seen as a personal shortcoming rather than just the way the business world goes. So long as young people shy away from small, innovative companies, India will struggle to incubate the kind of enterprises that grow and create jobs. Fortunately, the national government is promoting a program called “Start Up India” that provides loans to poorer people in order to give them funding for new ventures. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a trend that helps supercharge the next stage of economic growth.

Finally, all of these business lessons are moot if the environmental situation continues to worsen in India. Climate change poses a serious threat to the future of the country, and is already wreaking havoc on commerce and productivity. India is in the unenviable position of figuring out how to industrialize and develop while limiting greenhouse gas emissions and other polluting actions. It will be a major challenge to find clever ways to both grow the economy and shrink the environmental footprint, but it’s absolutely critical to create sustainable development.

Helen Wey ’16-Tunisia


DSC_0133A big focus of the second half of the trip has been on alternative financing of businesses. From the American Chamber of Commerce meeting, we were told that a lot of goals had been set in order to make Tunisia more attractive as a destination for foreign investments. The government institutions and entrepreneurs did not agree on much at the meeting, but they did reach consensus on a lack of capital.

We had meetings with a number of organizations outside of traditional banking that finance local businesses. The African Development Bank focuses on investing in projects in businesses that are intended to further development in Tunisia. Its financing is backed by its member countries and development finance institutions (DFIs). The Abraaj group, a private equity firm with $9B AUM, was the most traditional financial institution we met. Its LPs are focused on a single bottom line. The firm made its first wholly owned investment- a private hospital- in Tunisia in 2014. We had the opportunity to visit the clinic, and it was clear that along with changing management, they were drastically modernizing their labs and rooms. AfricInvest is one of the most experienced private equity firms, but nearly 85% of its funding comes from DFIs. The International Finance Corporation has a triple bottom line with only 0.3% of its total portfolio in Tunisia. IFC’s role in Tunisia is to source and aid investment to make it easier for investments to happen. The organization has connections through all industries and knows the major players. It also funds enda-inter-arabe, the largest microfinance institution in Tunisia. It provides financing to 270,000 businesses. When the local business owners were asked why they preferred enda-inter-arabe for funding as opposed to a traditional bank, their response was that enda provided a lot of advice in starting their businesses as well as emotional support.

The government does not have the capacity to stimulate all economic growth, and has relied on the help of these financial institutions to support entrepreneurs.


Helen Wey ’16 – Tunisia


Brrr… it was a cold first couple of days in Tunis. Most of us were underprepared for the climate. Thankfully with each passing day, it has become a degree (Celsius!) warmer.


After kicking things off at a beautiful restaurant the night before, we had an early start to visit SAH Lilas, a diaper and sanitary napkin manufacturing company. We saw the napkin/toilet paper/paper towel production process from raw materials to finished product, as if it were a live operations class. We sat for a formal presentation, where we learned about the start of the business. The founder is a woman, which is something the firm is particularly proud of since she is a self-made CEO of a publicly traded company. The pride of feminine liberalism is a continuing theme throughout our company visits and conversations with locals. During numerous meetings people have made a point to stress Tunisia’s support for women’s rights, especially in comparison to its neighboring countries and other Muslim nations. There is plenty of action to back up these words- every meeting we have attended thus far has had a female presenter or CEO.

While at Lilas, a classmate raised the question of how the company functions in other parts of the world with regards to the Tunisian Dinar. Tunisia has an unusual practice with its currency that prohibits its existence outside of Tunisia. Tourists need to exchange dinars back to their native currency prior to leaving the country. Companies that purchase equipment abroad need to make transactions through the central bank and the central bank pays the foreign company. Tunisia-based multinational companies have reserves held at the central bank, but do not partake in the practice of currency hedging. I imagine this only adds to the more apparent hurdles international firms consider when investing in Tunisia.


We have had great conversations with the other organizations we have met thus far, and are looking forward to learning more. And a lot more dancing

Visit to the Pink House and Mendoza

Ariel Williams ’16

We spent the last day of Buenos Aires at the Casa Rosada, or the headquarters of the President of Argentina. Similar to the White House, the Casa Rosada houses the offices of those working for the Argentine government. However, unlike the White House, presidents of Argentina live elsewhere.  The house is emblematic of Argentina’s Belle Epoque era and highlights many aspects of Argentine history. One of the highlights for me was getting the opportunity to stand on the balcony that former President Eva Peron once stood to communicate with Argentine citizens.

IMG_0134.jpgVisiting the Pink House in Mendoza was an excellent way to finish off our time in Buenos Aires. 

In addition to our tour of the Casa Rosada, we also had the opportunity to meet with President Macri’s Chief of Staff, Marcos Pena. It was a rare chance to ask questions about the new government’s plan for Argentina. Pena was very open when discussing Argentina’s current challenges, but was also pragmatic in their government’s approach to  addressing the country’s major issues.

Once we left the Casa Rosada, we all traveled to Mendoza, where we met with with Governor of Mendoza. It was really interesting to see the contrast between the challenges of Argentina’s national government with the concerns and challenges of the country’s regional governments. He spoke about a number of issues relating to Mendoza including decreasing poverty, increasing investment in education and supporting industries in Mendoza, including the wine and energy industry. Because Mendoza is known for its wine, we  took advantage of the opportunity to visit a winery. We spent time learning about the operations behind wine making at  winery Salentien where we toured the facilities and had a traditional Argentine asado (barbecue). It was definitely a highlight of the trip!

IMG_0125.jpgA top down photo of the oak barrels where wine is housed at Salentein. Once a year a concert is held in this space.

#Brazil2016 – In Anticipation


Reuben Gan, MBA ’16


As the child of travel entrepreneurs, I’ve had the privilege to visit many countries from an early age. Yet with that comes a slight lack of awe and wonder with revisiting previous destinations. The same cannot be said for BRAZIL – a country that I’ve never set foot in, the stuff of films and popular culture and with its own set of stereotypes.


“Brazil is one of the only countries in the world where I truly feel that I am not being seen for my colour” – Professor Medini Singh, our Chazen tour lead. Indeed, what we’ve learnt in the 6 weeks of in-class discussions leading up to this trip is that Brazil is a melting pot and spectrum of ethnicities that like America, stems from a past of slavery. What differed in the development of the two countries (of similar geographical size and population) was the ethnic ratio, level of cultural integration and development since their respective industrial revolutions.


As we learnt, understanding this socio-cultural context is crucial to understanding all of Brazil’s business and political issues – from the fluctuation of the Real currency (vôo da galinha, “flight of the chicken”), the contrast of Sao Paolo and Rio’s riches with that of its poor Northeast, to Lula’s successful reign vs. Dilma’s more challenging tenure. (Status: Dilma is currently fighting back corruption charges against her, against a backdrop of political uproar and protests for democracy)


To understand a country in its entirety requires more than a week in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. But with our trusty TA and SP native Vitor Selles as well as our Chazen in-class learnings we’ll certainly have a better lens to observe the country with.


In the words of our immortal TA, “As the weekend approaches, I start to imagine people arriving in Brazil and being dazzled by Rio’s beauty and Sao Paolo’s ugliness” – Vitor Selles, MBA ’16



Company Visits in Buenos Aires


Ariel Williams ’16

In my last post, I highlighted many of the cultural aspects we encountered during our first few days in the city. Since then, we have had the opportunity to learn more about government, business and society from our visits in Buenos Aires. While the visits represented a number of different industries throughout Argentina, many of the firms echoed the same optimism about Argentina’s ability to be a much better environment for business in the coming years.


We first visited Banco Galicia, one of the country’s oldest and largest private banks, where we met with CEO Sergio Grinenko. The visit highlighted how different the commercial banking industry was from other countries. Banco Galicia focuses mainly on transactional operations and short-term lending. This differs greatly from banks in other countries where mortgages and long-term lending play an integral role in their core business. The differences are reflective of the tumultuous economic environment that has plagued the country since the turn of the century. But despite the high rate of inflation, the government defaults, and mismanaged economic policies; Banco Galicia has been able to persevere for more than 100 years.

We then also had the opportunity to meet with prominent economist Miguel Kiguel (Columbia University Grad!) who gave us an overview of Argentina’s potential for growth in the next few years. Kiguel’s remarks focused on the future of Argentina in the context of the Macri government and he expressed that new policies would help Argentina to resolve its debts and begin to experience a healthy growth rate. When we heard from Puente, CEO Emilio Ilac illustrated how these policies would positively affect their plan to expand aggressively and serve as the prominent Argentine small/mid market investment banking and financial services firm.

Columbia University visits PUENTE.JPGVisit with Puente.


Our second day of company visits focused on media, agriculture, and real estate. Grupo Clarin, which is a media holding company, highlighted the challenges they have had operating under the previous Argentine government. It was interesting to see how impactful government could have on the ability of businesses to operating efficiently. Similar to previous visits, Clarin expressed excitement about being able to manage their businesses under a much better working relationship with the new government. Our visit with CRESUD reflected the new transition to develop agriculture and technology related to farming. In addition, it also illustrated the government challenges the firm faced when transitioning from an agriculture firm to a firm focusing on developing real estate.

That same day we met Domingo Cavallo, a famous economist who was instrumental in developing the fixed peg to the U.S. dollar in the 1990’s. It was fascinating to hear from him as he helped to illuminate the rational for developing the fixed peg (to stabilize inflation) and he was also frank about the missteps the country faced in managing the peg, monetary and fiscal policy.


Our third day of visits brought us an opportunity to connect with a fellow Columbia Business School Alumnus during our company visit at Tenaris. Tenaris, a supplier of finished steel piping to the oil and gas industry is part of a major international conglomerate Technint. The business was my first opportunity to visit a manufacturing firm where we learned how important process and quality control is to creating the pipes that move our energy. Moreover, the visit brought a lot of insight into how the effects of a global glut of oil will impact their business. It  not only was great to see a company with such a commanding international presence in Argentina, but it was also great to see the efforts Tenaris has made locally to impact their community.

IMG_0696 (1).jpgLearning about the steel making pipe process from the factory.

CBS at Tenaris.JPGAs part of our visit with Tenaris, we visited a technical and engineering school they created near their headquarters

We finished our day out with one of my favorite highlights of the trip – visiting River Plate, Argentina’s largest (and best!) soccer team. Chazen organizer Nicolas Kiguel (a very loyal fan) said that visiting the stadium would teach me the meaning of true passion. He was definitely right!

IMG_0712.jpgChazen organizer Nicolas Kiguel teaching us about passion!

I look forward to updating you all on our visit to the Casa Rosada and our adventures in Mendoza next time!