Written by 1st year International Track MBA Student, Swastik Mukherjee
Long called the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is exactly that, and yet so, so much more besides. Granted, this is a city of wide boulevards and French-styled palaces, but it is one too of wildly exciting innovations and new styles. From the state-of-the-art museums like the MALBA, to the thrilling renaissance of the tango, Buenos Aires now buzzes with a contagious, creative energy and a brash new self-confidence. Sexy, alive and supremely confident, this beautiful city gets under your skin. Like Europe with a melancholic twist, Buenos Aires is unforgettable.
The above snippet is what I took with me to Buenos Aires, on my first study abroad session with The University of San Diego in January 2015. Upon my arrival, I realized how big of a challenge the language barrier would be. I did not know a word of Spanish and the prospect of spending 3 weeks in a country without being able to communicate was scary rather than daunting.
But little did I know that this city does indeed have an intoxicating effect on its visitors. The language barriers were overcome with gestures and smiles, the inability to read street signs or knowing the difference between “caballeros” and “damas” were balanced by the infectious love and hospitality of the locals of Buenos Aires. Who could tell that one of my best days in the city would be one when I would meet six people from Brazil who did not know a word of Spanish or English. This is why we travel, this is why we do an international MBA. To know that what we perceive as differences aren’t differences at all; they are opportunities. Opportunities for us to grow and learn and cherish and admire.
Getting the opportunity to take the Social Entrepreneurship class in Buenos Aires was an eye-opener. Learning about the different bureaucratic styles of government and the ways to do business and the ways to tackle the severe headwinds that entrepreneurs face made me realize how much we take our lives in the United States for granted. Visiting the recovered factories where people work on meager stipends and seeing the efforts they make to keep the people happy and engaged was also a humbling moment. At one point, you stop asking questions of standards of safety and quality and realize that those questions are irrelevant to their aspect of life. These people are working to make ends meet, not to have global levels of quality or safety. Life as we know it, is not how they live it.
For the practicum, I had an excellent team that combined four unique individuals with different industry experience and backgrounds. We were working with Wal-Mart Argentina and the project that we were assigned to was complex and challenging. But the team rose to the challenge and figured out very quickly what was expected of us as deliverables. The team fed off each other’s strengths and ensured that the final product was over and above what the client had expected and thus ensured the client’s satisfaction and possible further interaction in the near future.
Being on a trip such as this, I was joined by a wonderful group of people, friends from my cohort and some new faces from the evening and second year MBA. Suffice to say, we bonded pretty well. We bonded over steaks and Malbecs, empanadas and cervezas, financial models and feasibility analysis and the collective goal of making the best of our time in Buenos Aires. (Read this post to find out more on how to make the most of your experience in Buenos Aires) With a group of high-thinking and highly ambitious students and individuals, the recipe was ideal for ultimate success or disaster. I am glad to say that it was the former. There were differences that crept in but none that we could not resolve amicably. Our local administrator helped make sure we were regularly informed of things that are happening in and around town along with info on study sessions, group meetings, currency exchange and local hotspots to check out for dinners and drinks.
My experience in Argentina can be summed up in three words: enlightening and privileged. It taught me a lot, both academically as well as personally. It was a privilege to be in Argentina, doing the class and the project with a great bunch of people that I would love to work with again.
Company: Wal-Mart Argentina
Project Scope: The project entrusted to us was complex yet intellectually stimulating. The main points were:
1) Analyze current accounts payable process and suggest improvements.
2) Use the suggested electronic invoicing process and make it leaner.
3) Come up with a financial and economic feasibility model for the electronic invoicing go-live
Solution presented: Compared the old process to the new and eliminated 5 days of non-value added work in order to implement the new process. Also analyzed cost savings and revenue to come up with a NPV analysis with an IRR that exceeded expectations of Wal-Mart finance personnel. In short, we presented the worst case, management case and best case scenarios and we decided that the project is a go with huge windfalls.
What about you? Have you also been to Buenos Aires? What would you recommend for students who will be studying there next year?