Joe Qiao ’17
Sitting in the hotel room in Rio and listening to the waves hitting the shore, it is hard for me to believe that our Brazil Global Immersion trip is over. Our 7 day trip was so packed that I felt I have been in Brazil for a much longer time. We ended up completing all 8 company visits and a site visit to Rio Metro Control Center. The schedule was intense but I think we achieved what we wanted for the trip. The company visits were well designed. Even with 9 visits, I can still tell what we have learned from each company.
To conclude how our trip went, I’d like to share with you our experience from 2 angles- the business professional aspect and the social/ cultural/ entertainment aspect.
I think the company visits were so well planned that I can hardly give constructive feedback (I probably still will come up with something so that Prof. Singh doesn’t give me a P on this class). I really enjoyed the Natura, Azul, Suzano, BNDES visits. These companies all have their presentations updated for our trip and the presenters were very knowledgeable about their business. I am surprised that we had good communications given the language barrier. Our peer classmates asked so many interesting questions that we almost always ran out of time during the presentation, not to mention Prof.Singh’s double-shot questions made it impossible to finish the session on time (kidding).
The big surprise for me was how well organized the companies in Brazil are. Before the trip, I imagined that for a developing country which is deeply into recession, the companies must be struggling to keep their forms. The reality was that the companies we visit acknowledge the recession but all had very long-term view on the economy and outlook. For example, Natura has a strong sense of being environmentally-friendly despite of the downturn. Azul has an aggressive growth plan and is looking to capture more market share. Suzano is innovating to be more efficient. I see a lot of potential in Brazil after the company visits. However, I also noticed many obstacles that Brazil has to overcome before it develops further.
Our stay in both Rio and Sao Paulo was good. We went to fine dining and did sightseeings. However, after talking with local tour guides, I realized that what we saw in Brazil was just a tiny piece of the pie. We did not really feel how the “regular” Brazilians live. Some of the old and deserted buildings in downtown area reminds me that the country is not equally developed. Many parts of the city is so well-developed that if you told me that I was in California, I would believe it. However, looking up into the mountains, we saw favelas. That immediately reminds me of the famous movie- City of God. We probably will get a more balanced view of Brazil if we watch the movie after the company visits. I think the inequality really created a world of problems to Brazil- violence, a lack of spending power despite a decent average income level, and poverty. There is also another problem with Brazil (similar to Greece) – expensive pension and labor protection. The country pays too much to workers and the high labor cost stole away the companies’ profit. The labor protection also kills people’s motivation to thrive.
Overall though, I do think that Brazil will continue to grow in the long-run and remains an attractive investment choice for international investors. You can either pay 27 times P/E for a company listed in the US or you can pay a 5 times P/E for a company in Brazil. I would place my bet on Brazil!