Ultimately, São Paulo is very different. I have highlighted some of the main differences I noticed and what they taught me.
Being such a large city there is a better representation of the socially progressive which is seen through the high social acceptance within the city. Compared to New Zealand the LGBTQ community is far more apparent, and (in the areas we visited) felt very comfortable to be very visible in public. Also, unlike New Zealand, PDA is not given the same attention, people just get on with their days and do not take much notice.
One thing that became very apparent on our bike ride through the city is just how segmented it is. As you travel through different areas the boundaries are very distinctive, they reflect the gradual development of the city through multiple lenses such as, historical, social, financial, and religious. I found this interesting because it shows that it is very difficult to define the culture of São Paulo. The city is full of micro societies that operate very independently. The best example of this is perhaps Liberdade, the Japanese area within São Paulo.
The city of São Paulo is a busy place where everything moves a bit faster than New Zealand. The city is much bigger than anywhere here at home however, its larger size does not automatically make it a better place. Both the city’s problems and virtues are proportionate to its size. Whilst its diversity and vibrant examples of culture are embraced, the inequality is massive. This is where a small place like New Zealand is advantaged. Our small population gives us agility when it comes to addressing societal issues. Not to say that New Zealand is perfect, we certainly have our own issues, but we are far better equipped to address them. A lot of the societal issues within Brazil are going to take a lot more to address. I mention this because it has become quite fashionable to discuss inequality in New Zealand over the past few years. In no way am I denying that New Zealand has an issue, but São Paulo really did put the magnitude of the issue into perspective for me. In São Paulo there about 6 families that own the whole city and the richest 1% all but exclude themselves from society. They travel from rooftop to rooftop. This taught me a lot about Brazil and the barriers its size creates. Brazil is different to New Zealand in that it is much harder to be a “disrupter.” Opportunities do not present themselves in the same way as they do here. It is amazing what learning about another country can teach you about your own.
My favourite business visit was definitely Leitissimo. I was inspired by the faith they had in their planning, methodology, and ideologies. They essentially built everything they have from the ground up, there was no existing infrastructure. As quoted by Craig, one of the founders, “we were like the pioneers but with internet." Now their farming system puts any New Zealand pasture-based system to shame. But what amazed me the most was the meticulous methodology they had adapted to ensure the success of Leitissimo. I learnt about core competencies, value innovation, and the vision led method. They are all systems that nurture entrepreneurial creativity and provide the structure a business needs to form. Also, he does nothing just because, everything is for a reason.
My second favourite visit was Natura. In the same way as Leitissimo, Natura was very well organised. But it just seemed a bit more elegant. This impression probably had something to with the extraordinary architecture and design of the campus, it had a strange calming effect. Natura blew me away on two fronts, the sheer volume of production and the logistics of distribution, and the social engineering. Each factory produced around 20 million individual products a month (there were three factories!). What amazed me is how all of these products were distributed, Natura has a network of 1.7 million sales consultants world-wide, a million in Brazil. Natura puts a lot of emphasis on improving the quality of life of all of their employees, of which there are several thousand, and all their consultants. They provide innumerable benefits for their employees.
For me, the trip to Brazil is an invaluable experience. I gained a new appreciation for Latin America and business in general. I am sure the learning I did will be applied throughout my life for years to come. I am so grateful to the Young Enterprise scheme and the Latin American CAPE for providing me with this opportunity and I say with confidence that your investment in us will reap rewards because I am certain every student on that trip was changed for the better.