An Alumni Discussion About Living and Working in the BRICs

By John Crawford

To better appreciate the amazing growth of the BRIC countries, Babson Magazine spoke with alumni who live and work in these dynamic international places. The term BRIC refers to the four biggest emerging economies, Brazil, Russia, India and China, and here is what alumni had to say about them.

A Look at Brazil With Francisco Viana, MBA ’08

Viana lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. He works for Johnson & Johnson’s consumer division as a brand manager for over-the-counter products.

Q-Can you paint a picture of Brazil? What’s it like to live there? How is its economy doing?

A-Whenever I get asked about how it is to be a Brazilian, I tell a joke that Brazilians like to tell. A version of it appears in the Frommer’s Brazil travel guide and goes something like this:

History says that when the world was being created, an angel looked over God’s shoulder and noticed that one country had been favored. “You’ve given everything to Brazil,” the angel said. “It has the largest river, the biggest forest, the longest beaches, and the best soil. The weather is always sunny and warm, with no hurricanes or other natural disasters. The women are gorgeous, the music is amazing, they host the biggest party on the planet, and Brazilians play soccer like no one else does. Don’t you think that’s unfair?” God replied, “Just wait until you see the people I’m putting there.”

And boy that’s true. Brazilians are known for being among the happiest and most friendly people in the world. For a developing country with enormous challenges in education, public health, and wealth disparity, as well as an ongoing recovery from years of high inflation and political corruption, Brazilians could have been an unfaithful, sad, and pessimistic people. Instead, they historically prefer to look upward and be optimistic about the country’s future. Even in times of global crisis, it seems that Brazilians look around to the natural wonders that surround them and smile at life again.

If I had to describe Brazil with a single word, that word would be “variety.” Brazil is a young (independent from Portugal since 1822), bursting economy with modern cities, comparable in size and attractions to New York, Madrid, or Tokyo. From the Amazon rainforests to the beaches of Rio to the colonial buildings of Salvador, Brazil has a little bit of everything: architecture, culture, technology, music festivals, nature, great food, sports, countless parties, and business attitude. A true mix of the most modern with the most traditional.

Economically, Brazil is still celebrating its recent investment grade rating, but the world’s ninth largest economy could be doing much better if it had been following the same growth trend as in previous years. Supported by a large labor pool, Brazil has well-developed sectors in manufacturing, agriculture, service, energy, and mining. Brazilian exports are booming and the list of products includes: coffee, soybean, orange juice, ethanol, textiles, footwear, electrical equipment, steel, iron ore, automobiles, and even aircraft.

Q-How much importance is placed on entrepreneurship in Brazil?

A-Even though Brazil ranks very high on the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor list of entrepreneurial activity, the country still remains an unrealized potential. One of the major problems with getting started in Brazil is paperwork. Bureaucracy in Brazil can be very bad, and it takes a while for things to go through certain channels. Incorporating a startup requires patience. Despite this, Brazil is still an entrepreneurial economy. The challenge remains for the government and Brazilians to continue addressing the roadblocks to an even greater entrepreneurial success.

Q- You’re involved with other Babson alumni in Brazil. Is there much alumni activity there?

A-I’m one of the people interested in formalizing a club. I’ve done my best to help the other alumni structure it. I truly believe Babson has a lot to benefit from Brazil’s prospective students as the country ranks very high on the GEM list of entrepreneurial activity. Furthermore, if we compare Babson’s brand in Brazil to the brand in countries like Chile, for example, there’s plenty of room to explore in Brazil. As a recent graduate, I feel I can help the school grow here.