Quite often, Time magazine asks me to contribute reporting from Brazil to go into a larger, broader story. As a big emerging economy and an increasing presence on the international scene, Brazil is a more and more of a player and what it does matters outside its own borders more and more.
(That’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my 10 years here but we’ll come back to that topic another day.)
My colleague Michael Schuman wrote this piece about the changes in global outsourcing and asked for my help. I went to visit the São Paulo office of Tata, one of India’s biggest IT firms.
One of the interesting things in doing this was learning how a foreign company comes to a country like Brazil and gets started. It’s not easy, no one knows them, local firms already have their trusted suppliers, and the new boy is very much an outsider trying to muscle in. That’s particularly true in Latin America, where outsiders are often viewed with suspicion.
In this case, Tata were lucky that someone from a European car maker knew them from working abroad. That got them their first contract and they built it up from there. Without that ‘in’ it might have taken much longer than it did to establish themselves as a major player in the market.
It was also interesting to speak to the foreigners working in Brazil and get their take on the business climate here. Tata is run largely by Uruguayans, to my surprise, and it has a dozen or so Indians who are in São Paulo helping teach the local hires.
The Uruguayans made the point that Indians are much more submissive, while Latins always ask why rather than just obey commands. I don’t really agree with that, I find Latins way to eager to abide by senseless rules and regulations.
The Indians, meanwhile, were funny. All the locals knew about India was the Kama Sutra and a local soap opera called Caminho das Indias, which was full of the usual stereotypes. But in spite of that cartoonish element to their relations here, the Indians love Brazil and the openness of the locals. Many are angling to stay.