Every year since 1989, Research Project Maastricht selects a multidisciplinary team of 14 top students in the final phase of their study to perform research in emerging economies such as China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Vietnam. This year, the RPM team decided to explore and evaluate opportunities for businesses in Brazil. Jasper van der Ploeg sent us the following report from the field.
The ten-month preparation period for Research Project Maastricht 2013 started in February 2012. I was one among the 14 students who were selected to take part in the programme. The preparation phase consisted in training-days at prominent international consultancy firms where we learned the skills required for field research and team-building.
RPM chose Brazil as this year’s country of destination because of its stable political climate, its promising wide-spread economic growth and, last but not least, the concrete opportunities for Dutch business offered by the upcoming World Football Cup 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Discovering the country of Ordem e Progresso
After the successful acquisition-period during which we managed to secure a total of 13 projects for the whole group, we decided that São Paulo would be our base location for our first month in Brazil. After celebrating New Year’s Eve on Avenida Paulista together with 2.5 million Paulistas, my fellow student Tomas Verkaar and I started our first project which focused on the secondary aluminium market. Our goal was to identify potential clients for a Dutch SME willing to expand to Brazil. We were pleased to see that our client was satisfied with the results achieved and recommendations made.
In February we started six new projects in Rio de Janeiro, also known as Cidade Maravilhosa.
This is proving to be a totally different experience compared to the first project in São Paulo. My fellow team members Janine op het Veld, Joris Valks, Tomas Verkaar and I are currently working on a project for a Dutch multinational company at its local office in Rio de Janeiro.
This time we are based in the same office as native Brazilians who are not used to speaking English. This creates hilarious situations of misunderstanding. It also sometimes forces us to be creative and speak Portuguese. We also get to know the local habits at the firm a bit more in detail. Each first Friday of the month for instance the company celebrates all the birthdays of the previous month. A nice tradition!
Team Research Project Maastricht 2013: a weekend off in Floreanopolis
After being active for more than a decade in the maritime industry in Brazil, the company is now contemplating an expansion into the Brazilian mining industry. The established positioning of this multinational company within the Brazilian market facilitates our research in terms of dealing with local bureaucracies, laws and regulations and helps us to overcome the language barrier. We can rely on our own Brazilian intern, Tamiris, to make appointments and phone calls and assist us during company-visits.
An ideal combination of work experience and cultural exchange
All these aspects are of great value to our research. Furthermore, the fact that we can travel a lot within Brazil to perform our research makes it a very dynamic experience. Mining activities are mostly centred in the state of Minas Gerais and we have already travelled to Belo Horizonte, Brasilia and to São Paulo. Although the project is not finished yet, some of the intermediate results and the contacts that have been made look promising.
And we still have six weeks of travelling across South America ahead of us! The combination between professional research and leisure-time (and travelling) is great. That’s why I can recommend Research Project Maastricht to every (business) student at Maastricht University.
The steep learning curve added to a unique cultural exposure and above all the opportunity to make new friends, make the project an ideal experience.
By Jasper van der Ploeg