Friday, September 23, 2011

Business Marketing Academy goes global in Brazil

Working with a top manufacturing firm in the U.S. led Kelley's Business Marketing Academy to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

By Raghav Parthasarathy
Second-Year MBA 

I am a second-year MBA student at the Kelley School of Business and a member of the Business Marketing Academy. For many years, Kelley has provided a global MBA experience to its students through the KIPs and GLOBASE programs. However, the Business Marketing Academy, with support from the school, has managed to bring the global experience to an entirely new level by organizing its Academy Intensive Week #3 in Brazil.

The BMA, which as 31 students, is working on a Rapid Market Assessment project in Brazil for a major U.S. manufacturing firm. Five teams were formed to analyze different industries, with one student leading the effort for each team. In global markets, expansion into new countries has happened for decades and will become even more important as firms consolidate their presence in the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and turn their attention to opportunities in Africa. This experience will allow us to have an immediate impact in solving such business issues after we earn our MBAs.

The preparation to our trip began in Bloomington with a session by MBA Chair Phil Powell on various strategies that firms can use to expand to new countries. This was followed by session by the Analilia Silva, director of global strategy and international initiatives, on the cultural etiquette we should be aware of in Latin America.

The groundwork for this project was done during the summer. We met with OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), distributors and other industry players during our time in Sao Paulo. Finding contacts in Brazil didn’t seem an easy task, but we were able to reach out to folks through the Kelley student network and through alumni. The teams made several key contacts during our meetings in Sao Paulo, and these contacts would help our client during further due-diligence and implementation. This would be another significant value that our client can receive from this project.  Kudos to the student team leaders for driving this effort.

Our meetings kicked off with a visit to the American Chamber of Commerce in Sao Paulo. This meeting was set up to give the team a good perspective on the macroeconomic situation in  Brazil and to understand the government machinery. Brazil under former President Lula achieved tremendous growth, and the people appreciate that. Yet, Brazilians are afraid to say that everything is OK. During our meetings, we heard about the lengthy government processes, the import policies, taxes, lack of airports, poor infrastructure and appreciating currency derailing the growth of Brazil. 

The critical importance of these issues could only be felt after speaking to common men and women whose aspirations are tied to their nation’s growth.  Our client would certainly benefit from our analysis of these macroeconomic issues seen on the ground. To ensure that we provide an unbiased opinion to our client, we approached the problem as if it were work for a research paper. We did not treat the meetings as sales opportunities.

My team is researching the aviation industry, and one of my teammates has worked in the industry for several years. This is very important because he is often able to look at issues that the rest of us aren’t much aware of. I realize this is what the MBA experience is often about at a top-ranked school -- working together and building off each other’s strengths to solve complex problems for businesses.


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