Monday, February 16, 2015

Latin conference added valuable diversity to our Kelley experience

By Luis D. Contreras, MBA'15 and IGOE Global Fellow

Kelley’s Institute for Global Organizational Effectiveness (IGOE) and the Latin MBA Association recently organized the fourth annual Latin Week, or Semana Latina. “Building Bridges” was the event’s theme, with a great selection of speakers that gave us different perspectives on how to do business in Latin America and how to understand the challenges of launching entrepreneurial ventures in the region.

Doing business in Latin America entails complexity, from understanding different macroeconomic and international finance situations within the region, as Associate Professor Juan Carlos Hatchondo illustrated, to comprehending the challenges of dealing with counterfeit products and how that affects a company’s strategies, as Augusto Bedoya, MBA ’00, Director of Emerging Markets at Oakley, explained to us.

Augusto also shared with us that, even as a Peruvian, doing business in Brazil represents many more complex challenges than just learning a new language (Portuguese). The cultural differences are very significant, particularly in the way Brazilians do business. In a very engaging talk, he shared from his experience how important it is to understand these differences to really be able to do business and achieve project goals successfully.

While doing business in Latin America brings complexity, it also means opportunity, particularly when venturing as an entrepreneur.

We learned that TaxiTico, an app developed by Jose Pablo Vega, MBA’12 and former IGOE Global Fellow, targeted the Costa Rican market, filling the need for a geolocation taxi service (think Uber in the United States). In a place where landmarks are used in lieu of addresses and “150 meters northwest of McDonald’s” can be the only directions you’ll have, a geolocation taxi service was not only convenient, but necessary. Jose Pablo—aka “JP” for the Kelley family—talked about his journey as a young entrepreneur and how he made an idea come true by addressing a latent opportunity in the Latin American market.

Jesus Ponce de Leon, MBA/PhD’87, CEO and owner of JPdeL Associates and China 4b2b, gave an amazing talk around entrepreneurship, technology, and how he keeps finding untapped opportunities in Latin America, the US, and China. He showed us a prototype of a solar-powered air cooler that makes air conditioning possible for low-income families in countries like Mexico, where residential electricity costs are similar to the US, but with a minimum wage that is almost 12 times lower.

Phillippe Bougard, MBA‘91, who works as Eli Lilly’s Regional Commercialization Director for Diabetes in Emerging Markets, also highlighted the Latin American markets’ challenges and the inherent need to adapt US-based strategies to regional strategies, dealing with different regulatory environments and even marketing communication rules in all these countries.

It was interesting to see how all the speakers agreed not only that to do business in Latin America it is important to understand local idiosyncrasies and economic challenges, but also that by doing this, huge opportunities can be found and developed.

Thanks again to the Latin MBAA and Institute for Global Organizational Effectiveness for supporting these types of events that allow us to enrich our Kelley experience in so many different ways.