The Brazilian ‘ABC’: the best of Brazil, from ‘A’ to ‘Z’

The challenge was ambitious: grasp the fundamentals of Brazil’s culture and economy through an immersive week of meetings and tourism. Have we achieved our goals? Are we able to understand which are the challenges and opportunities Brazil will face in the next few years? As future managers, will we put at productive use our learnings by better handling business in Brazil?

The answer to these questions is not easy nor brief, thus we asked the executives of the companies we visited to provide some insights. Ana Corrêa do Lago, one of our hosts at Natura, defines the main challenge of Brazil as Political stability and reinforcement of the green agenda’, while she highlights as the country main assets ‘People’s warmth and resilience, great modernist architecture (i.e. Brasilia), and outstanding and varied green landscape. Many countries assembled in one!’.

Indeed, Brazil is a multi-faceted country in terms of population, demographic, morphology and even cuisine. To navigate it, you need to understand the ‘Brazilian ABC’: the best of Brazil from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.

 Açai – Now popular all over the world for its nutritional properties, this berry originally from Brazil is at best when eaten frozen, with few slices of banana on top.

Beleza – The cool way of saying ‘Hi’ among the youngest. The perfect start when you want to feel like a local.

Caipirinha – The national drink, made with cahaça and a zest of lemon, to be enjoyed from sunset to sunrise.

Dulche de leche – Argentinian will refuse to  admit that Brazilians have mastered the recipe of ‘dulche de leche’, but this versatile dessert gets as delicious as it sounds.

Empanada – Forget the diet: bolhino, empanada and churros are only few of the many fried snacks that you will encounter. Totally worth the calories.

Farufa – The local version of ‘couscous’ and an alternative to ‘arroz’ (rice). Often served as a side in typical restaurants.

Gente – Literally translated as ‘People’, it is a popular way of addressing the crowd.

Havaianas – The most famous Brazilian brand: the colorful flip-flops are sold and worn literarily everywhere. Just one warning: it is impossible to restrain from buying them.

Ipanema – One of the most famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro, together with Copacabana and Leme. At Ipanema you can get the best view of the ‘brothers’: two rocks characterizing Rio’s skyline.

Leblond – One of the most beautiful and popular neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

MASP – The biggest museum of São Paulo, hosting the largest collection of European arts in the Southern Hemisphere.

Não –  Just to get the basics right, ‘não’ is ‘no’. In case you are wondering, its opposite is ‘Si’.

Obrigado – The first word you will learn and probably the only one you will master by the end of the trip. Works better when accompanied with a smile.

Pão de Açúcar – One of the greatest attractions in Rio de Janeiro. These twin mountains connected by a cable car are a great spot to get a 360 views of the city.

Queijo – … Or better, ‘Pão de Queijo’, are amazing cheese puffs you will be offered from breakfast to dinner.

Rio de Janeiro – No words can explain the beauty of this city: just add it to your bucket list and go check it out!

São Paulo – Paulisti will argue with Carioca on which is the most beautiful city of Brazil. While it is always worth abstaining from such a dispute, São Paulo is for sure the widely recognized business center of the country.

Telenovela – Telenovela and soccer are the favorite forms of entertainment of each Brazilian household. Worth watching one episode to understand why.

Ucuba – A precious seed growing in the Amazon now used in many moisturizers. Not (yet) able to make miracles, but it is as close as you can get.

Villa Madalena – A neighborhood famous for street arts, it is one of the unmissable spots in São Paulo. Mark your map.

Zouk – A traditional dance. Not as popular as the Brazilian ‘Samba’, but danced everywhere from nightclubs to Carnival parties.

~Alice Signori ‘18

São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro: Guess which is our favorite city?

In a country where only 85% of the population has access to basic sanitation, but virtually 100% has access to a TV set, a visit to Globo, the major media company in Brazil, is a mandatory stop.

While strolling into ‘telenovelas’ sets and pretending to be the characters of the Brazilian ‘Game of Thrones,’ our hosts explained the impact that telenovelas, and thus Globo with its ‘100 years of stories,’ have on the local population. Not only sentimental comedies, but often sensitive topics are discussed throughout a whole series, soliciting a real call to action from the audience: for example, when the main character of a telenovela was diagnosed with cancer (luckily only for the sake of the plot), a surge in the blood donation throughout the overall country was suddenly registered.

After such a dense and interesting week of Brazilian immersion, the question seems natural: what’s better, São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro? The class has a clear answer: 63% of the surveyed sample thinks Rio rocks it. Wondering why? The great beaches, the breathtaking views, the presence of one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ (Christ the Redeemer), and the carnival spirits (and parties) pervading the entire city have clearly captured the CBS’s crew. Still, what’s in São Paulo that makes it a though competitor? Its role as an undiscussed business center, being a capital of great food and posh clubs as well as being pervaded by an elegant atmosphere are all elements contributing in making this city a great choice especially for a long-term perspective.

Clearly not ready to face the thermal and emotional shock that going back to the cold New York city and the busy business school’s schedule requires, there is only one thing left to say: ‘Muito Obrigado Brazil’, it has really been a blast.

~Alice Signori ‘18

For more pictures, follow us on Instagramimage2 (4)

image1 (7)
Christ the Redeemer
image4 (1)
São Paulo
image3 (3)
Rio de Janeiro

From São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro: when Social Responsibility is a way of being

‘Bem estar bem’: at Natura wellbeing is not a buzzword, but the overall company mission. The holding company of ‘Aesop’ who recently acquired also ‘The Body Shop’ showcases right from its tagline the dedication in making a positive impact not only for its clients, but for the overall planet. To pursue this objective, Natura has introduced a number of innovative tools, such as the Environmental P&L, the triple bottom line management of suppliers and various projects aimed at preserving the best of Brazil, such as the effort in teaching local populations in the Amazonia how to exploit what natures has to offer while preserving the native environment.

Customer service is in Brazil’s DNA: Azul, the airline founded in 2008 by David Neeleman (the owner of JetBlue and WestJet), is already the 3rd best airline in the world for 2017 according to TripAdvisor’s ratings. The unconventional approach in the airline industry allows Azul to be the number 1 in 75% of routes served and to achieve customer loyalty through a focus on punctuality and proximity to customers’ needs.

Different city, but same priorities: headquartered in Rio De Janeiro, BNDES in one of the largest development banks in the world. With a net profit of roughly 6 billion reals in 2016, BNDES’ priority is to help Brazil prosper. From micro-enterprises to companies and municipalities, BNDES has issued 5.600 disbursements only in 2016, with the overarching objective of making money while helping Brazil’s advance both at the local and global level. As BNDES teaches during the very first training given to its employees ‘Our name starts with a ‘B’ which stands for ‘Bank,’ and that it’s first. But our name also ends with an ‘S’ which stands for ‘Social,’ and this comes second’.

Helping pursue the priorities of the country is something that many Brazilian businesspeople have at heart: it has for sure been a driving value for Jorge Paulo Lemann, the founder of Gera, a VC focused in investing in early-stage education who wants to make a difference in the lives of many young kids. To touch with hands the impact that this VC is already achieving, our meeting was hosted in one of the main (and most beautiful!) schools in which Gera has invested money and talent. Latest technologies and unconventional teaching methodologies (negotiation and public speaking classes are the bread-and-butter of kids from kindergarten to 12th grade), the ambitious goal of the VC is to close the Brazilian education gap, using a bottom-up approach which should complement the parallel work done by the government itself.

Enough of speaking about business: Rio’s incredible vibe and its break-taking views have not gone unnoticed by our CBS crew. Watching the sunset at the Sugarloaf was worth the trip: the sun slowly dropping into the sea was a natural wonder (and a great Instagram favorite).

Finally, the long beaches which surround Rio’s lagoons are a sweet and irresistible call. With temperatures reaching 93 degrees Fahrenheit these days, we are really looking forward to our Friday afternoon at the beach. After all, that’s not how all Friday should look like?

image1 (6)
Natura’s factory
image2 (3)
Natura’s shop
image3 (2)
Azul Headquarter
image1 (5)
BNDES presentation
image3 (1)
Tour of Eleva School with Gera
image5
Sunset at the Sugarloaf
image4
Farewell Dinner in Rio de Janeiro

~Alice Signori ‘18

For more pictures, follow us on Instagram

‘Brazil is not for amateurs, it’s for professionals’

There is always a key to understand a country. According to Patria, the Brazilian Private Equity firm partially owned by Blackstone, the magic formula is a blend of discipline and long-term investment. While Forex exchange fluctuations and the frequent economic downturns that characterize the Brazilian economy frequently make the international news, the reality is that over the long-term the Brazilian economy has showed a tendency to ‘regress towards the mean’. By investing in resilient sectors and taking a very disciplined approach, it is thus possible to obtain significant returns and long-term profitability even in such a difficult country.

Also at Embraer, one of the major aircraft manufacturers in the world, the forty-eight years old company history is a confirmation of its outstanding success. Still family-owned and now a billion making company, Embraer is characterized by the coexistence of difference business sectors, a strong focus on people and by a very high level of innovation. Particularly inspiring was the (surprise) visit from the CEO, who highlighted how in an industry where a single mistake can cost billions of dollars, it is of crucial importance to acquire talents and to have the best business people on board.

On with our company visit, we had the chance to understand the strategies leading Cosan, a huge conglomerate managing businesses as diverse as railroads and gas distribution, and who is convinced that by a strong discipline and a savvy portfolio management it is possible to ‘make a difference in this country’.

Finally, we spent an afternoon wandering around the campus of Itàu, the first bank of Brazil. At Itàu, we had the unique opportunity to take a tour of its proprietary art collection (the 8th largest corporate collection in the world!) and to discuss the future of banking and its digital transformation. Closing the circle right where we started, our guests proudly shared why many foreign companies are not thriving in a country where there is huge space for growth. ‘Brazil is not for amateurs, it’s for professionals’: same recipe, but spelt in different words.

And finally, to understand a country, there is no better way than wandering around the city and making the best out of it. After a walking tour of the city center, a stop at Vila Madalena and Beco de Batman where street art prospers, a visit to the Brazilian’s Central Park (Park Ibirapuera) and a lunch break spent visiting the MASP museum, where the largest collection of European art of the Southern Hemisphere is treasured, we learned a fun fact about São Paulo. Unlike their carioca cousins, Paulisti do not have beaches. How they compensate? Having the best Malls and calling them ‘their beaches’. Hard to miss the resemblance: a part from the long-hours spent there and the warm heat filtering through the large glass windows, Malls display similar therapeutically effects as beaches. For each hour (and dollar) spent, there is a significant surge in mood and relaxation. Money back guarantee.

~Alice Signori ‘18

For more pictures, follow us on Instagram

Embraer
Embraer
image1 (2)
Itàu
image3
Itàu Art collection
image1 (3)
City tour
image1 (4)
Graffiti – Street Art

‘It’s not difficult to disguise in Brazil, it’s unnecessary.’

‘What’s next for Brazil? It has been said about Italy – It’s not difficult to govern Italy, it’s unnecessary –  I would say about Brazil – It’s not difficult to disguise in Brazil, it’s unnecessary.’ Fernando Cardoso, former President of Brazil, concluded his address at Columbia University last November with these provoking words. Why and what is Brazil disguising? What is preventing such a large a powerful nation from growing faster than China or to transition from the developing to the developed world? And, more importantly, which are the businesses and people who are driving the change?

If even Mr. Cardoso struggles in finding the perfect answer, we can be granted some pardon as well. Or at least some of the time. The Fall 2017 Global Immersion Program in Brazil is about to start: not only a week dedicated to the the discovery of Brazil and of immersing in the Brazilian culture, but also a one of a time opportunity to let each student develop a personal perspective on the future of Brazil.

The official kickoff of the GIP Fall 2017 is scheduled for this Sunday, the 14th of January in São Paulo. During the following week, a group of 30 students lead by Professor Medini Singh and his Teaching Assistant Maria Morad will have the unique opportunity to visit some of the best Brazilian companies. The program is packed, with more than 10 visits scattered across São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, spanning across a pool of diverse industries. From aircraft manufacturing to venture capitalist, from media companies to beer giants, and from wellness to banking, the Global Immersion will hold true to the long-lasting Columbia promise of ‘being at the center of business.’

While company visits will give an unconventional glance on the business side of Brazil, the cultural and social side will not be overlooked: after all, let’s not forget we are still (MBA) students. Afternoon and nights will be dedicated not only to enjoying the warm Brazilian summer (which will hit us up after this extremely cold NY winter), but also to check out of our bucket lists some unmissable sightseeing (such as the ‘Cristo Redentor,’ one of the ‘Beauty of the World’), as well as to enjoy the preparations for the upcoming Carnival in Rio.

Are you already green with envy and wishing to have bid for the coolest Fall GIP? No worries: we will keep you posted. In between one caipirinha and the next.

Até logo!

~Alice Signori ’18

{ Reflections on Tartarugas } – Chazen Brazil Summer Study Trip 2017

They say hindsight is 20/20, but I wish it was more (robot vision?) because I never want to forget a single moment of the epic Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017.

As we’ve all settled back into out New York routines – exercise, class, not eating cheese bread all the time, it’s easy to have the memories of an amazing week and a half fade away. Thankfully we are at CBS, so we get to see each other all the time (and still can’t get enough of this crew!). Everyone at school is super jealous of our strong Brazilian friendships and awesome Instagrams.

Reflecting on the trip, we did learn quite a bit, in both the business and cultural realms:

On the business side, we had a truly well-rounded and complete view into Brazil. Each meeting complemented the other and seemed carefully curated to show views from multiple industries on similar topics. Overall, the takeaway is that Brazil seems to have bottomed out from its recession and barring any major political upheavals, is on track for a strong recovery. Business activity, both from domestic players and foreign investors, seems to be supporting that. Our access to the C-suite at the companies (pronounced “coompanies”) was unparalleled, and for any of us that end up doing business in Latin America, I’m sure our new contacts will be helpful.

DSC09937

Culturally, I think it’s safe to say we are all a bit more Brazilian now. Our capacity to drink caipirinhas, the national Brazilian drink, has increased immeasurably. I’ve heard some students are still ordering cachacas at the bars of New York. We were fortunate to experience two of the world’s great cities in Sao Paulo and Rio. As Paulistas for a few days, we got a taste of what life could be like in a “lifestyle” city that is as much defined by its people and culture as anything else. Often disregarded as a concrete jungle, our amazing hosts showed us the vibrant side of Sao Paulo. As Cariocas, we were blessed with amazing weather that allowed us to experience the beach and outdoor culture the city is known for. We played beach volleyball with locals, watched the sunset from amazing vantage points, ran along Ipanema, soaked up as much sun as we could. Each outing in Rio was better than the last, and no one was ready to leave when it was finally time to go. Yours truly even improved his Portuguese to the point of being conversational about animals.

DSC00049

The point of a Chazen trip is to have fellow students show you a side of their country you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. For the Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017, that was accomplished and more. We love you Chazen! GO LIONS!

This is your correspondent signing off for the final time. Tchau!

 

{ Board Rooms and Beaches } – Chazen Brazil Summer Study Trip 2017

Hello. This is your correspondent reporting from Leblon beach in sunny Rio de Jienero. Our Chazen crew has been doing our best to live like Rio locals, soaking up both the beach culture and flare for life that Cariocas are known for. While we do that, here’s a quick recap of all the exciting things we’ve been doing in Brazil:

On Tuesday the 22nd, we had our marquis company visit at Embraer, the region’s largest aircraft manufacturing firm. We headed out to their manufacturing facilities outside Sao Paulo and began the visit with breakfast (cheesebread of course) and a tour of their museum. Following that, we were privileged to hear from the group CEO, the head of innovation, as well as the heads of each of their three main business units: commercial aviation, executive jets, and defense & security. Aviation is an incredibly complex business that touches nearly every area across the business world, and everyone was able to take something valuable away from those talks.

Our tour in the afternoon took us to the production lines for both commercial and executive aircraft, and a state-of-the-art paint center that uses robotics technology. In addition, we saw new warehousing tech on display alongside a service center that works 24/7 monitoring planes around the world. The visit ended with a tour of the prototype aircraft for Embraer’s new line of commercial jets. While no photos were allowed on the tour, we certainly left with a lot of mental pictures! Few understood how planes fly before our visit, but by the time we left we came a lot closer. Flying will never be the same again.

The following day, our last in Sau Paulo, we visited Itau, the country’s largest bank and one of its most respected financial institutions. We had a presentation about company culture, which Itau took an incredibly unique approach to. We also had an insightful conversation with the former CEO of 20+ years about how the bank grew to dominate the market. We also saw the sun for the first time on the trip in the afternoon.

Our lunch at Fogo de Chao, which started in Brazil before becoming ubiquitous in wealthy US areas, was one to remember. The unlimited meats in the rodizio restaurant saw many different eating strategies employed by students, but none escaped without the inevitable meat sweats. Recovery occurred over the course of a typically delayed flight to Rio, where we were going to check out its beautiful scenery, beaches, and people. First, of course, we needed to get our business game on in board rooms!

On the morning of Thursday the 24th, we boarded the bus and drove to the headquarters of Grupo Globo, the biggest media company here. We started with an in-depth presentation on their television business, which had the best-produced corporate videos we’ve seen all week. They are a force to be reckoned with in Brazil, having the vast majority of the country as their audience. Following that, we had a studio tour where we saw how the telenovelas that Globo is famous for get made! Student Bani Bahari was star struck when she learned that her teen idols Hanson were in the building filming one of Globo’s shows.

The iconic and famous Christ the Redeemer statue was next. We all did our best Jesus impressions and snapped those postcard-perfect photos that Rio is known for. Dinner, drinks, and dancing were on the menu in the evening.

On Friday, our last full day in country, we went to meet with BR Malls, the largest shopping center company in Latin America. They spoke about the opportunities and challenges in the real estate industry in Brazil. The new CEO came in the room to give his insights into the company and personal management style. Student Murali Krishnan was especially inspired by this talk.

We wound down our ‘ChAMAZEN’ trip with a lunch at Rio’s Jockey Club, our second horse club related meal of the week. With pristine weather and lovely scenery, each student shared their insights gathered in Brazil and said what they took away from the trip. A common theme was that everyone was thankful to the organizers, who worked tirelessly to ensure a seamless, productive Chazen Study Tour. We all are leaving better educated on and prepared to do business in Brazil – what more can you ask for?

It’s sad the trip is over, but before we leave, there is time for beach, beach, and beach. In fact, your correspondent needs to get out there as well to work on his tan. In just a few days it’s back to NYC, where you can expect a trip recap! Talk to you soon!