Brazil Tour Conclusion

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!

 

 

 

Brazil Company Visits

Joe Qiao ’17

I would like to first respond to my presumptions from my previous blogs. One of my observations during the weekend was that Sao Paulo was a quiet and calm city. I wanted to see if the city will become hectic on workdays like other similar size cities around the world such as Tokyo or Shanghai. After two days touring around the city, my observation tells me that Sao Paulo is indeed a calm city. We had traffic but nothing like those in New York. We saw people on the street but nothing like those seen in Beijing. We see some high-rises but nothing like those in Hong Kong. Like I said, Sao Paulo has its unique charm from the relax and calm environment. I do have a question. Where are the 20 million people? !

The second observation was that Brazil does have a large income gap between the rich and the poor. Brazil’s GDP/ Capita is slightly over $10k, which is almost doubling that of China. However, the rich part of the city looks like any developed countries around the world whereas there are still many slams in and around the city. I can see why it is such a priority for the Brazilian political leaders to address the inequality problem in the society. I was told that Sao Paulo and the Southern states are considered the wealthiest part of the country. The Northern states and Northeastern states are in very bad shapes.

Back to the topic of company visits. I have previously attended world tours in a few cities but I have to say that the company visits in Brazil so far are the most professional and well-prepared. The company presentations were full of interesting content. For example, we had so many questions during our Natura and Suzano visits that we run over our schedule in almost every session and had to rush through our plant tour. Sadly we didn’t even get to shop at Natura after all the talks about their all-natural and environmentally-friendly products. We had a great time regardless. I was pleasantly surprised that the companies were so willing to receive us and spent a lot of effort giving us the best experience. The CEOs of both Natura and Suzano gave us warm welcome and high level company officials gave speeches and took us on the tour. We asked so many questions during the presentations. Of course the best questions always came from Professor Singh’s “I have two questions for you”.

My favorite experience was seeing the wood logs turning into packaged A4 paper at Suzano’s factory. Learning about how the company became so efficient made me wonder if I still want to work in Finance after graduation.

We also had a great time at Ambev and learned a lot about beer market in Latin America. We had a happy hour in their office and enjoyed some good food and beer. One of my takeaways was the Zero-Alcohol beer taste just like a regular beer!

And of course, I have to show off my favorite picture from today!

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Great experience so far and I look forward to seeing Rio tomorrow! Stay tuned.

First Day in Brazil- Downtown Sao Paulo & Best Steak in town

Joe Qiao ’17

After 6 hours of flight from Bogota, I arrived in Sao Paulo International Airport. It was 12am and I found the ATM machine in the airport charging an eye-opening 24 $R fee for withdrawing cash… Not a good first impression, at least not yet.

Our group met up at 2pm and went on a city tour. I have to say that Sao Paulo is far more calm and charming than I expected. Maybe the Bogota experience was too hectic but I found Sao Paulo is like a relaxing giant. The streets are busy but not overly crowded for a city with 20 million population. I will have to confirm my feeling tomorrow since today is Sunday.

The downtown Metro Catholic Church is a landmark. I was surprised that such a beautiful historical district is deserted. It is different from many of the “Plaza de Armas” in other Latin America countries. It is calm and beautiful. Our tour guide Lee did a great job explaining the history and how coffee made a huge contribution to the wealth of people in Sao Paulo.

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We also went to the Batman Alley (Beco de Batman). Many street arts, bars, and tourists gave Sao Paulo a more lively image and strong contrast to downtown area. We spent half an hour taking the perfect pictures here.

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We had dinner at well-regarded Figueira. The steak was amazing and I really regret having had a heavy lunch. I still managed overdosing both beef and watermelon though. The dinner ended with a few of us playing some high-intensity drinking games. Overall, a great start and we look forward to the first day of company visits (not so excited about getting up at 6am).

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Chazen Brazil GIP Read more

Pre- Brazil GIP Trip Note

My name is Joe Qiao. I am a second-year MBA student from Cluster G. I am very excited that my Brazil Global Immersion trip is coming up in 2 days. This is going to be my third time stepping on the mysterious continent within one year! I am just as excited as my first time visiting South America because I have heard so much about Brazil and the difference between Brazil and other Latin American countries. Most importantly, I am craving for an authentic Brazilian BBQ.

I would like to share a little about my previous experience in South America and traveling with Chazen and form some expectations for this upcoming trip. I previously went to Chile and Peru with business school friends. I went to India with Chazen. To people outside South America, it seems reasonable to generalize and classify South America as one culture. I do admit that there are many similarities between countries in South America and of course most countries speak Spanish. I also assure you that Ceviche tastes very different between Lima and Santiago. My experience in Peru is quite different from my experience in Chile. The Inca culture root and different climate made Peru a lot more “culturful” whereas Chile feels like more developed and westernized. Therefore, I would expect my experience in Brazil will be dramatically different from my experience in Peru and Chile due to its culture and history differences. I do expect (based on what I learned from class) that Brazilians will be very welcoming, laid back and cheerful as people from other Latin American countries.

I usually check a country’s macro-economic condition before visiting to form an expectation on cost of living, spending power, and business environment. It also helps me establish a pricing reference in case I need to bargain. Brazil is the 9th largest economy in the world and the GDP per capita (adjusted for PPP) is around $11K. This puts Brazil ahead of many developing countries that I have visited. We also learned in class that the cost of living in large cities in Brazil can be even higher than in America. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume a large gap between the rich and the poor. I am also curious to see if businesses in Brazil get too much negative impact due to the high cost of operating in large cities.

I will write a few more blogs when I land in Brazil and we can check if my expectations are correct. Stay tuned!