A group of students traveled to São Paulo, Brazil, last summer as part of their Global Business Experience (GBE) course to work for Brazilian coffee producer Ipanema Coffees on a market-entry project for a new product. We spoke with team members Tianlun Hao (MBA’17), Alex Yaraghi (MBA’17), and Jung-Ryun Byun (MBA’17) about their experience as consultants for the São Paulo enterprise.

The Consulting Experience

The team consulted for their client remotely from Washington, D.C., before traveling to São Paulo to present their final recommendations.

“One of the biggest challenges with any consulting engagement is ensuring that you frame your analysis and conclusions within the scope your client has framed for you,” said Yaraghi. “To be successful, we were in constant communication with Ipanema Coffees, scheduling weekly Skype sessions to provide our findings and updates while emailing them our outstanding questions.”

Once in São Paulo, Ipanema Coffees took the student team to one of their three coffee farms in the country.

“We traveled to Fazenda Conquista, located in the State of Minas Gerais, to tour the farm and the warehouses,” said Byun. “We learned how coffee was harvested, processed, and shipped. I was really impressed by the size of the coffee farm’s operations.”

Having the opportunity to understand the coffee farm operations also was crucial for the team’s final consulting report.  “Actually experiencing their farms and their harvesting process allowed us to learn more deeply about their business and the advantages of marketing their new product,” said Yaraghi.

The consulting experience ended with a final presentation to the company’s top management.

“Our client seemed to be pleased with our findings on how they should enter the U.S. market with a new product,” said Yaraghi. “We were grateful as coffee lovers to work on this project and provide analysis that will help them grow their business. Our team looks forward to seeing Ipanema’s new product in coffee shops in the United States soon.”

The Local Nature of Global Business

Students also were grateful for the eye-opening experience provided by the GBE course in terms of deepening their knowledge of global business.

“GBE has confirmed my perspective that while business is global, all business is local,” said Yaraghi. “Our focus on understanding how Ipanema Coffees does business by visiting their farms, spending time in São Paulo, and touring the local coffee market was paramount in understanding what they could provide to customers globally. To succeed in global business, you must understand the local market, business practices, and the customs that have made your client successful from the start.”

Hao also had a similar take on the benefits of engaging with a company from a region where she had no prior work experience:

“In East Asian cultures, sometimes communication is subtle and indirect,” said Hao.  “During GBE, I found our Brazilian clients to be very direct when explaining their expectation and providing feedback. I loved this cross-cultural experience as it confirmed for me that being successful in global business is not only about implementing the frameworks, but also about understanding the cultural differences and developing the right mindset.”