Pre-Trip Post: Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017

brazil flag

As summer comes to a close, the J Term is saying goodbye to their first year and Fall Term internships are ending. Accordingly, Morningside Heights is buzzing, with “what are you doing on break?” the most heard question in halls from Uris to Warren. For 22 lucky students from the class of 2018, our answer is: Brazil.

Later this week we will be saying “bom dia” to the colorful cities of São Paulo and Rio as part of the Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017. We will be learning about Brazilian business and culture in the most hands-on manner possible.

On August 2, students and faculty met to prepare for the trip. This pre-Chazen ritual was led by our wonderful leaders, Adriana Silva and Matheus Penido, who talked about what to expect in Brazil. We have a great balance of cultural excursions and business meetings that span several industries.

Faculty leader Nachum Sicherman is a Chazen veteran, having run trips for many years. There is no one better suited than this economics legend to facilitate our learning process.

Accordingly, everyone is preparing with final administrative preparations and reading up on the companies we will be visiting. Our diverse crowd of Cluster Y members and other students are even doing some last-minute bikini shopping.

Student Rob Abelson had this to say: “Although I’m on a PE track and therefore eager to hear about Vinci’s business [Vinci Partners], I’m most excited about the visit to Globo, the home of my favorite soap operas.”

Some especially enthusiastic students Arturo Melo and Adam Spencer-Laitt will be arriving in country early to conduct their own agricultural company visits.

So, the next steps are to pack our bags and arrive in São Paulo! Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

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!


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.


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.


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).


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!



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.

IMG_5014 (Edited)


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..
IMG_5014 (Edited)
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)

#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




Now back home in NYC it is surreal to think back about the last two weeks in Brazil. Running into my GIP classmates in the halls of Columbia Business School, we yearn to relive the most exciting and hilarious events from our trip, for we share a journey that will never fade from our memories. On the first day of the Global Immersion class this semester I surprisingly only knew five of the thirty students who were traveling with me to Brazil. I now feel so lucky to have such a unique connection to every one of them. Below is a recount of some of the moments that helped build this bond:

Last night out in Brazil. Dance party at the Jockey Club in Rio.
Last night out in Brazil. Dance party at the Jockey Club in Rio.

Cultural Lessons Learned


Before the trip began we spent part of our last class discussing safety tips for Brazil, especially since one of the stops on our itinerary was a visit to a Brazilian favela (slum). Our Professor and TA’s strongly emphasized a page-worth of precautionary advice such as not walking around with your phone out, not waiving taxi’s down on the street, staying in groups, and not speaking loudly in English when walking around. Though most places in Brazil did feel very safe, we all became very watchful of each other which led to a tight knit and extremely inclusive group during the trip.

First day in Brazil together dressed up after joining a protest march in Sao Paulo
First day in Brazil together dressed up after joining a protest march in Sao Paulo


One of the most shocking discoveries of our trip was just how little English or Spanish the Brazilian community spoke, especially in Rio de Janeiro. In class we had talked extensively about how self-reliant the Brazilian economy was, but one could have never imagined how difficult it would be to find locals, cab drivers, waiters, shop keepers, anybody who spoke anything other than Portuguese. That said, we all quickly learned the basic terms such as obrigado/a = thank you, frango = chicken, conta = bill, bom dia = good day, mais = more, agua sem gas = mineral water, caipirinha = caipirinha, and when all else failed we spent an enormous amount of time practicing our charades skills.

Business In Brazil

One of the best parts of the Global Immersion portion of our trip to Brazil was the amazing variety of industries that we had the opportunity to speak with. The trip was split up for us to meet with four organizations in Sao Paulo (Strategy&, Suzano Pulp and Paper, InBev, Banco Itau) and another four in Rio de Janeiro (BNDES, Petrobras, TV Globo, NGO Favela Tour). Of high interest to our group was the political and socio-economic climate in Brazil, dealing from corruption in business and government, to lack of infrastructure and educational gaps, all issues which we discussed extensively with CEO’s, economists, educators and managers on our company visits.

One of our favorite meetings was with the CEO of Suzano where we discussed the great un-equality between private and public school education and how tough it is for Brazil to retain well-educated workers as top talent are enticed by opportunities abroad.

Posing with the CEO of the Suzano Pulp and Paper Company
Posing for a photo with the CEO of the Suzano Pulp and Paper Company

Perhaps the most fun was visiting TV Globo studios, where we rode around in golf carts from set to set. It was exciting to see first hand how this telenovela factory produces 2,700 hours of in-house original content and over 3,000 hours of news content per year.

Behind the scenes on the set of TV Globo's famous telenovelas
Behind the scenes on the set of TV Globo’s famous telenovelas

One of the most eye opening experiences of the trip was visiting a favela (slum). We spent our last afternoon in Rio de Janeiro with two volunteers from a local NGO that provides educational services to the community. It was remarkable to learn about how the favela that we visited was once run by drug dealers just years ago, but recently overtaken by Brazilian police and military in a large pacification effort. Interestingly, many of the favela’s residents actually preferred life before the police took over arguing that many officers are corrupt and how the government provides less safety and infrastructural support than the drug lords.

A Trip We’ll Never Forget

Going to Brazil with this group truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity and will go down as one of my top memories at CBS. I really enjoyed the class time that we took to learn about the Brazilian history, economy, and culture. Having that background about the country made exploring Sao Paulo and Rio a much richer and more rewarding experience than I could have ever imagined. I think from now on I should only visit new places after first doing extensive research and selecting 30 amazing people to travel with 🙂

Stoop kids on set of a favela novela at TV Globo studios
Stoop kids on set of a favela novela at TV Globo studios
Enjoying giant desserts at our last dinner together
Enjoying giant desserts at our last dinner together
Loving the buffet line between company meetings in Rio
Loving the buffet line between company meetings in Rio
Joining a local soccer game
Joining a local soccer game
Soccer Everywhere
Soccer Everywhere
Enjoying unlimited meats of a fine Churrascaria
Enjoying unlimited meats of a fine Churrascaria
Tram ride to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain
Tram ride to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain
When our powers combine...
When our powers combine…

To explore our trip check out #GIPBrazil #CBSChazenTravel #ChazenBreadBasket on social media.

Andrew Zalk ’15

Lovin Life in RIO!


Two nights ago we flew from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and we have been super active over the past 48 hours with amazing company visits and extracurricular activities 🙂

Learning about financing long term investment projects at the Brazilian Development Bank BNDES
Learning about financing long term investment projects at the Brazilian Development Bank BNDES
Discussing energy production at Petrobras
Discussing energy production at Petrobras
LIFE IN THE SLUMS  On set for one of Brazil's most popular telenovela tv shows at Globo Production Studios
On set for one of Brazil’s most popular telenovela tv shows at Globo Production Studios

The most important thing to know about Rio? Always keep the Caipirinhas flowing! Whether you drink them with strawberry or lemon, vodka or cachaca, they are absolutely delicious and guaranteed to get you into a party mood.

Enjoying caipirinhas and dinner at Bar Astor in Rio
Enjoying caipirinhas and dinner at Bar Astor in Rio
Night out at Rio Scenarium for some samba and techno fun
Night out at Rio Scenarium for some samba and techno fun

In Rio we have been exposed to an amazing beach life culture. This is a city of impressive architecture, unmatched natural beauty, and a fun-loving lifestyle like nowhere else in the world.

Lunch at a beautiful restaurant in Rio between company visits
Lunch at a beautiful restaurant in Rio between company visits
Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião
Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião
Admiring the beautiful stained glass windows from inside Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião RJ
Admiring the beautiful stained glass windows from inside Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião
Posing in front of the iconic Christ The Redeemer statue
Posing in front of the iconic Christ The Redeemer statue
The beautiful Ipanema Beach
Ipanema Beach

Tonight will be our last time all together in Brazil. To celebrate we are off to a churrascaria for endless meat and caipirinhas. Brazil will be forever in our memories and our hearts. What an amazing trip it has been. Time to say goodbye to Rio in style!

To follow the fun, check out #GIPBrazil #CBSChazenTravel #ChazenBreadBasket on social media.


Andrew Zalk ’15