Annual McGill University Tour To Emerging Economic Cities Returns From Latin America

Mar 17, 2016

Every year, the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal assesses emerging economic areas around the globe.  They then take about 40 students, alumni and faculty to an area pinpointed as experiencing the strongest growth. This year’s “Hot Cities” tour has just returned from three cities in Latin America.

This is the eighth year a group from McGill University has traveled to areas of the world experiencing considerable economic growth.  This year the targeted cities are Santiago, Chile and Bogota and  Cartagena, Colombia.  

Desautels Faculty of Management Professor Karl Moore explains how this year’s cities were chosen.   “The slogan of the trip is ‘Taking the future to the future.’  That is young people to where the world economy’s enjoying considerable growth.  So when we looked at Latin America – Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela are in trouble but Columbia and Chile are thankfully relatively bright lights in the Latin American firmament of economies.  So that’s why we went there this year.  (What is driving their economies?)  It’s been commodities just like Canada and the U.S. to some degree. But the price of copper and coal, we met with the CEO of the largest coal company in Columbia, is down considerably, and oil as well. But I think the central thing is relatively good government. When you at it compared to Brazil and Argentina and Venezuela better governments than they would have in much of Latin America.”

Payal Aniche is a fourth-year management student originally from Madagascar.  She wanted to go because she was curious about the countries chosen.   “It was specifically Columbia, ‘cause what I heard about Columbia is all about the problems, the political problems.  How it has all this drug.  But then when we went there it was completely different.  It was really developed.  Which was surprising for me. There were some places that were even better than the downtown of Montreal.  And also the security there, we were safe, not as I was expecting.”

Students talked to ambassadors, bankers and businesspeople. They learned about the Chilean banking industry and talked to copper and coal mining CEO’s.  They looked at an UBER start-up in Bogota and how cosmetics company L’Oreal had to adjust to the Colombian market.  While in Colombia, the Hot Cities group took the opportunity to stop by the San Alberto Coffee Estate.   Payal Aniche calls it one of the best tours of the trip.   “It was really interesting to see everything from the start to the end.  So from the coffee beans to the roasted coffees.  And doing that tour and then talking to the CEO and just him telling us how his model is different. Because we have seen the whole coffee plantation we can actually relate to whatever he’s saying and noticed that he was saying he wants to be a unique and boutique style coffee. And we could see from the way everything was designed that he was right.”

Moore hopes the annual Hot Cities tour exposes students to entrepreneurial potential outside North America.   “They’re nineteen, twenty, twenty-one years old on average, so they’re young people. They compete on a global level so they go out there and meet a lot of senior leaders in Latin America and get a sense of their culture’s different.  How you do business is different in Latin America and so you’re getting a sense of global experience so that as your career unfolds you can understand other people, other cultures, and you may well live somewhere else.  But those students are more apt to have global careers so this is part of that preparation for it, getting them thinking about it, getting them open to the idea and experiencing other cultures.”

Payal says she learned that networking is crucial, but also discovered the importance of understanding cultural differences. “Business is done differently in different cultures.  So just having those different knowledges and those different ideas about doing business, it’s really important to get that insight.”

Previous Hot Cities tours have gone to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, India, South Africa, Russia, Mongolia and South Korea, and Hong Kong and Indonesia.