Students in an MBA programs in Washington DC and Virginia likely will hear many reports of the growth potential for business opportunities in Brazil, among other fast growing economies. They would be correct to be optimistic, but won’t acquire all of the tools they need in their business school curriculum. They need to experience first-hand the countries in which they are interested.
In George Mason’s global residency, one of the key takeaways for me was that American businesses need to appreciate that not all Brazilians can be lumped into single profile—there are key differences in how they approach their work and consumer choices. Our Brazilian hosts were the first to discuss that Paulistas (from Sao Paulo) were more like New Yorkers compared to Cariocas (from Rio), who tended to be more carefree, easygoing, and flexible. I suppose being in one of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world can have that effect on you. On the arrival flight to Rio, I witnessed a magical view of mountains on the right, beautiful beaches and bustling oceanfront to your left, and wide swaths of lush green forest areas below you. But even with all of its tempting beauty and recreational wonder it’s clear that Rio knows when to get serious. In our global residency meetings with energy powerhouse Petrobras, Rio’s Municipal Operations Center, development bank BNDES, and several very successful entrepreneurs, Cariocas demonstrated that they are quite serious where business matters to them in the industries of oil production, tourism, technology start-ups, and major events (like the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics).
Of course, being in Rio just one week only provides a glimpse of the subtleties and complexities of Brazil. But that’s just the point. The differences also translate into how Brazilian consumers react in the market. For example, according to Arezzo it is extremely important to Brazilian women to stay on the cutting edge of fashion, which results in new products in the store every week and approximately 11,000 different shoe models. Clearly, there are business implications here. To achieve this kind of variety, a shoe manufacturer must go from idea to model in store in 40 days, which is hard to imagine in the U.S. fashion industry supply chain. Senior managers at McDonald’s in Brazil also explained how it had to adapt to the Brazilian consumer and offer rich variety of products. As the Brazilian economy has recently improved bringing more individuals into Class C (middle class), Brazilians want more choices. This is evidenced by McDonalds going from a menu of 8 products on the menu to now over 100.
To appreciate these differences, attending an AACSB Accredited Business School like George Mason is a good first step. The next step is to go and find people who know the Brazil you need to get to know, whether it be future potential business partners, friends, or family. Go and see and feel and taste Brazil for yourself—you won’t be disappointed.