WOW! South America was an awesome experience!
One reason I selected the Eller MBA program was the International Perspectives trip. I’m not focusing on international business, but in this world you need to think globally. This trip was great exposure to businesses and culture outside the United States. I have lived in Scotland and Switzerland, so I really appreciate how much we take for granted in the US. This trip was a fantastic introduction to international business.
It was not a vacation, nor was it all business. Much of our time was scheduled, travel was arranged, breakfast and lunch were taken care of, as well as a couple of dinner events (one of which included tango lessons and a tango show). We did have some free time on the weekend between countries, and many evenings were ours.
In preparation for the trip we had to write a report based on several articles about privatization in Argentina and Brazil and Mercosur, a South American relative of NAFTA, but with wider implications. We also had to apply for Brazilian visas, and that should be a two credit course in itself. We left for Rio the day after our last final exam was due, so there wasn’t much downtime before getting there, other than a 9-hour plane flight, and we returned a couple days before Christmas.
The companies we met with in Brazil were:
- Petrobras- a semipublic energy company
- Oi – mobile telephone service and other media ventures
- Odebrecht – when you need to build a bridge, dam, or Olympic stadium
- MedInsight – medical information and regulatory consulting
- APPI – point-of-sale and connectivity solutions
Personally I really enjoyed meeting with Oi, MedInsight and APPI. Oi was wonderful because they are a playful, fun company that thinks outside the box and excels at guerrilla marketing. I was reminded of the early days of Google. MedInsight and APPI appealed to my health care and technology interests. The speaker at APPI was especially interesting and enthusiastic, often laughing at his own jokes, and he had the greatest title ever: Head of Innovation.
In Argentina we met with:
- Professor Ruben Marx of Universidad de Belgrano
- Aerolineas Argentinas – the privatized, then nationalized, airline of Argentina
- Central Bank of Argentina
- Bodega Norton – a winery supplying inexpensive, high quality wine
- Argentine Rural Society – a sort of labor union for farmers
- Monsanto – surely you have heard of Monsanto
- TATA Consultancy Services – an global, India-based company offering technology consulting
Meeting with Aerolineas Argentinas was incredibly poignant. The airline had been pillaged by the companies that had taken over when it was privatized, so its reputation was very poor. Now that it was nationalized, he was put in charge, and he was a career politician who seemed to be wrestling with a Herculean task. They had made tremendous progress from what I saw. Kudos! I also really enjoyed meeting with TATA to get an appreciation for a truly global technology company. Need a hundred programmers? They have you covered.
One more very interesting thing about Argentina was that one of our tour guides looked like Maggie Gyllenhaal and another looked like Natalie Portman.
While the trip wasn’t a vacation, I did have time enough to visit local markets and craftsmen, walk along Copacabana beach, visit the Christ the Redeemer statue and the resting place of Evita Peron, and eat the best beef I have ever tasted. It introduced me to both global and local businesses who deal with problems we don’t see in the US and gave me a taste of two countries I will be happy to visit in the future. I’m very glad I had the opportunity.