Guest Blog Post from Chau Mai, MBA Class of 2012
LIFE AT IPADE
UNC Kenan-Flagler professors are well-known for their teaching skills and love for student learning, and they’d find like-minded souls at IPADE University in Mexico City. I spent a week at IPADE, one of Mexico’s top business schools as part of the Doing Business In (DBI) program led by Patricia Collins. The professors were top-notch in their teaching style and through a series of thought-provoking lectures, they had us sitting upright in our seats.
They strode from one student to another, glided from the podium to the chalkboard, solicited student input and peppered their discussion with humor to make their points. It created an incredibly dynamic learning environment in which we discussed Mexican psychology, socio-political influences, and future business opportunities. The experience brought me closer to the realities facing Mexican businesspeople, their desire to create opportunities for their country, and the fervent optimism in their young professionals.
FACE-TO-FACE WITH COMPANIES
Mexico is home to Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest baking brand and 4th largest food corporation (just behind Unilever, Kraft, and Nestle). We toured their flagship factory – it was a sweet deal, literally. The air was heavy with sugar, flour, and yeast being baked and processed. After smelling the hot oil and syrup used to make donuts, our stomachs were rumbling. The Bimbo representatives explained the firm’s history and the background story of optimism and entrepreneurship. The tour ended with each one of us receiving a bag of Bimbo products as we made our way back to the tour bus.
Due to my beer allergy, I had to skip out on the next tour to Grupo Modelo (the largest brewery in Mexico). It is the world’s 6th biggest brewer and is the maker of Corona, which I’m sure my classmates enjoyed. We also found out that one of Grupo Modelo’s top executives is a woman! Very interesting given the historically male-dominated domain of business.
EXPLORING MEXICAN CULTURE
Hearts raced as we climbed the Teotihuacan pyramids, most notably the Pyramid of the Sun – the 3rd largest pyramid in the world. Our hands gripped the rubber ropes leading us to the top, and the panoramic view was nothing short of breath-taking. We immersed ourselves in Aztec and Mayan lore while learning that this huge archaeological site has been under threat from corporate development. Walmart has tried to build a store on the park’s property, uncovering ancient artifacts in the wake of its construction. I hope that the Mexican government will not be persuaded to continue such efforts.
Finally, we also toured the Museo Nacional De Antropologia (archaeological museum) to admire the artwork, immense stone sculptures, and rich history of Mexico. In addition, our trip led us to Kidzania, which I would describe as Las Vegas for children. They are free to roam without their parents and have full access to adult privileges – driving a car, becoming a CIA agent, paying for a spa treatment, attending a university to get job skills and earn spending money, etc. This concept has been wildly successful for the Kidzania executives, who are seeing increased competition among copycats. They aspire to expand to the U.S. market, which they view as the toughest one to crack. Success here would be tremendous validation for them.
We left Mexico City just days before the 7.4 magnitude earthquake but the incident reminded me that, despite the Mexico’s volatile history and struggles, its citizens remain optimistic and resilient. I’ll never forget IPADE’s bright students as well as my fellow MBA candidates from schools all over the world as we explored business opportunities burgeoning in Mexico.
To find out more about the Doing Business In Program, visit our MBA Global Programs website.