Some of the world’s leading corporations, in industries as wide-ranging as cosmetics, passenger jets, and medical imaging, are based not in the United States, Europe or Asia, but in nearby Brazil.
“A great deal of emphasis has been placed on the emerging markets in India and China, and rightly so,” says Richard Torrisi, Associate Professor of International Business. “But Brazil, which has only a three-hour time difference from us, has the seventh or eighth largest economy in the world.”
While the world-wide recession has slowed the economic engine in most countries, Brazil continues to grow, and with a population topping 200 million, a politically stable government, and an abundance of natural resources, business opportunities are plentiful.
“Our trip in January [Jan. 9-17] was the fourth one I’ve led to Brazil and each time we discover new possibilities for investment and market development,” said Torrisi. “I think Brazil suffered from concerns on crime and poverty, but every group we’ve taken has traveled safely and returned much more engaged what’s going on there, and several of our MBAs have developed business ties there.”
The trip goes to both Sao Paolo and Rio, which Torrisi said offers a sense of the size and diversity of the country. “Sao Paolo is like New York and Rio is like Miami,” he said. “A visit to just one city would present too narrow a view.”
Torrisi, who teaches international business, said his focus had always been Eastern and Western Europe, but after working for the United Nations in the ‘90s on foreign investment in South America, found Brazil surprisingly open.
“There are a tremendous mix of companies,” he said, including Natura, a leader in South American cosmetics, Embraer, a world leader in passenger jets, Telefonica, a leader in wireless communication, Philips, which focuses on medical imaging and electronics, and Vale, a world leader in mining. “In addition, an awful lot of U.S. companies have major production facilities there, including Ford, Microsoft and Proctor & Gamble.”
The wide variety, said Torrisi, makes the seminar attractive to graduate students who are focusing on any number of topics, including marketing, human resource management, or finance.
Like all the global travel seminars, Torrisi says the classroom work involves giving students an overview of the Brazilian economy, business climate, and culture. “Their own research allows them to ask specific questions at the corporations we visit,” he said.