Foreign investitorss: the new entrepreneurial community in Brazil

May 15, 2012

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Many Italians who have made their fortunes here in Brazil are well-known. I consider some of these phenomena in the immigrant community, such as the Matarazzo and Cutrale families, to be “lucky cases”, because the characteristics of the Diaspora communities 50 years ago were much different than today’s reality. When I came to Brazil, Jim O’Neill had just created the acronym BRIC . Today, the concept is so widespread that we are already using the new term BRICS .

Here, the economy is growing in a structured manner. The giant described in the Brazilian National Anthem (written by Joaquim Osório Duque Estrada) who was, until recently, sleeping, has now woken up and is decidedly hungry. And this is a reflection of the Brazilian economy, which is, today, characterized by gigantic reserves of potable water; gigantic untapped undersea oil reserves in the pre-salt layer, which will be the envy of the entire Middle East; massive soybean, beef, and chicken production; mineral deposits; and an advanced financial system, with a balance of payments in surplus.

The new generation of entrepreneurs and the offspring of foreign entrepreneurs see in Brazil a perfect place to live and do business. Unlike the waves of European and Japanese immigrants of times past, they come here by choice, not an obligation. Within this context, the term immigration, which used to be associated with abundance or scarcity of foodstuffs, is out of date. I prefer the term “spontaneous and globalized migration”, because if it involves any appetite at all, it’s for business. This is the new entrepreneurial community. And I’m not talking about the members of the Italian Diaspora that get together in the Trattorias of the Bixiga neighbourhood in São Paulo to eat pasta on Sundays.

Fabio Matarazzo is a direct descendant of Count Matarazzo. He lived in Brazil 30 years ago and then went to Europe and Asia. When he came back to Brazil, he found a profoundly different city: today, São Paulo is an economic powerhouse. Currently, he is a partner and managing director of a multinational strategic consulting and marketing firm that applies the success it has obtained abroad to its new Brazilian clients.

In the education area, we are experiencing a phenomenon that is the opposite of what has taken place over the last 25 years, when well-heeled Brazilians had to leave the country in search of quality learning institutions. Now we have great schools and universities that enable the development of an international curriculum. Besides the noteworthy Getúlio Vargas Foundation, there is also INSPER (Teaching and

Research in the Business and Economic Areas) for those who intend to obtain an MBA, which has been gaining space and international recognition. The academic director is the very Italian Luca Borroni, whose alma mater was Bocconi University, in Milan. He was also a professor in Mergers and Acquisitions at IBMEC (nowINPSER ).

An authentic young person who I saw grow up as an entrepreneur here is Edoardo Tonolli. His family is very well-known in Italy for their investments in the metals sector in the 1970s and 80s. Until 2010, he was in Milan, and he decided to come to Brazil in pursuit of a business idea: he noticed that this country did not have a habit that was very common in Italy: there were no artesian ice cream parlours. When Edoardo told me his idea, I felt that he was right, and I supported him because I myself felt the need for more of them. This is a success story: in less than a year, the ice cream parlour had opened for business and had already won several awards from gourmet guides. Currently, he is opening his third artesian ice cream parlour and he has plans for another ten. And we cannot forget to mention the top Italian managers who are doing some very good work in Brazil. These are people distinguished by their seriousness and professionalism.

Salvatore Milanese came here ten years ago and started with a project inside an investment bank. When he was once again called back to Europe, he was grateful for the invitation, but he decided to stay here, developing his business activities and believing in a Brazil that was still not considered an international player. Today, he is one of the most well-known and respected partners at KPMG, one of the four multinationals known as the Big Four (a group of the largest auditing and consulting companies in the world). Marco Fracchia grew up in Italy and New York and came to Brazil to fill the main position at Intesa Bank. He patiently remained here until the Italians requested their banking license from the Brazilian Central Bank this year. In the future, Italian companies will have a real banking reference here.

Giovanni Giovannelli is another manager who has certainly helped to make Brazil shine, and who I have had the good fortune to meet. He was CEO of the start-up Terna (Enel Group), in Rio de Janeiro, which became the second-largest non-state-owned electric energy transmission group in the country. It is currently listed on the Stock Exchange after a very successful IPO. Today, he is delegate administrator of Allis – a company specialized in the development of human resource solutions and services, which has hired more than 80,000 Brazilians over the last year.

Another professional worthy of note is Giacomo Guarnera, who I do not mention by chance, as he could win the prize for being the pioneer of this new Italian entrepreneurial community. Guarnera came to

Brazil more than 20 years ago and founded the law firm that is now a reference to Italians who come here and need to know the ins and outs for doing business locally.

I really love the moment Brazil currently finds itself in, and I’m happy to live here and to be part of a moment similar to what has already happened in other places around the world. I quote an advertisement from a multinational strategic consulting company: “instead of seeing Brazil grow, grow with Brazil”. And that’s the message I leave to the new Italian entrepreneurs interested in investing.


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