Entrepreneurs and perspectives in emerging markets

In our lives we are always dealing with the future, with perspectives: will my football team win? will my project to succeed? my sector to perform well? my country to grow? Entrepreneurs, in the other hand, tend to think most about: will my service/product to succeed? will people accept it and see the value I see in it? But entrepreneurs are very fortunate people in emerging markets. Regular citizens of emerging markets do not have time to spend in those quasi philosophical questions about the future. Simply because they first have to survive. I have a restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a humble restaurant for day-by-day lunch meals. Four years ago, I asked to whom my employees would vote for president and why. Some of them told me they would vote for Lula simply because before Lula was elected they tended to eat eggs, beans and rice everyday at home with their families and after Lula was elected, with the same salary, they were able to add meat to their diary with higher frequency. That was the “huge” change in their lives: their ability to buy more with the same salary, to live better after all. For people that get survival salaries like my employees, a huge part of the population in emerging countries, dealing with long-term perspectives is a privilege for few. Money to invest in an idea is even scarcer. They have to worry with the basics before.

Yet, there is another important variable in that issue, the importance of religion. It is true that religion is losing power in some regions of the world but definitely not in large parts of the emerging markets. Do you know what happens after we die? I am sure you don’t. However, most of the religions of the world claim they know. This is purely an issue of perspective, I think. If you believe in a religion that tells you you’ll go to heaven if you do good things this means something, but if it tells you you’ll come back to Earth as another person or another animal, this means another thing. This issues impressed me a lot during the time I spent living in India and traveling to China and Africa because that kind of beliefs changed the perspective of millions of people, including the way they consume, of course. In China, for example, religion is almost forbidden. In Russia, it used to be. What is the impact of that to local entrepreneurs? And to foreigners? In Brazil, Christian Evangelists are building a market-friendly Protestant kind of religion. Big thing. What is the impact of that in people’s perspectives? How does people start a small business in each one of those places? If they are born there, they will know, almost intuitively, what social norms they will have to deal with in order to increase their possibility of success. If they are not from there, they will have to study or to learn about local social norms either to build something in accordance with local perspectives or to question, to change, to modernize those perspectives. This may represent either a great innovation or a pitfall. Definitely a complex issue in a world getting global.

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The role of luck in entrepreneurship

When I was still an accounting undergraduate student at PUC-SP the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo I had a Professor of Performance Measurement called Jose Carlos Oyadomari that used to finish his exams with these words:

Good Luck!!!
Observation: luck favors those who are prepared to receive it.

I always thought his sarcasm brilliant and I never forgot the final objective of his words. As much as I study entrepreneurship in emerging markets (or emerging countries as some people like to call it) more I think that luck play probably the most important role in the establishment of successful business ventures.

For my Ph.D. dissertation I had interviewed more than 20 entrepreneurs, very much successful in their sectors and publicly recognized by that. I am not saying that they were just lucky people. Most of them were in the right place in the right moment. Besides, due to my work in a Business School known by its commitment with entrepreneurship, I meet many entrepreneurs from different countries quite frequently. When asked, most of them answer that a good amount of people in their situation and in their place at that time would have taken similar decisions in the first years of the venture.

The implication of that is that entrepreneurs should not be as praised as unique visionaries as they often are. As Schumpeterian theory always reminds us, nobody is entrepreneur forever, just for the short period of time when they are innovating and succeeding in promote that innovation. They are just regular people that had the “luck” to be in the right place in the right moment, being, of course, “prepared to receive this luck”.

Devastation of Haiti

It’s strange to be apart from this blog for so long. This happened because I am having to dedicate an enormous among of time to my Ph.D. dissertation so I barely think of using a computer during any free time I get.

Port-au-Prince in 2007

My big deception with destiny regarding what is happening in Haiti is now emotionally controlled and I feel better to talk about that too. A week has passed since the big earthquake and I can’t even imagine what people there have been through. These kind of natural disasters seam so unfair to me and make me to remember the little importance of our species to the planet and to life ultimately.

I have been to Haiti a couple of years ago and was planning a return in the next weeks (I went to the office of Copa Airlines before Christmas to book a ticket for the 20th of January, tomorrow). My goal had been the search for innovative entrepreneurs acting in Haiti and studying the obstacles they have faced to be able to establish their entrepreneurial ventures there, contributing to the academic debate on entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Haiti was considered as having one of the worst scenarios for establishing any kind of human organization in the world, considered by many scholars as a real “laboratory” for social scientists.

I went there first to find out about the existence of innovative business ventures and then to see how entrepreneurs, despite of all the massive hurdles they face, were able to start really innovative organizations, some with potential to succeed in any current market of the world.

Hotel Montana in December 2007

Hotel Montana in December 2007

Being there was incredible for me, witness their reality was a sad thing even for a person who had lived or visited the poorest places of Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Johannesburg and Kolkata. Port-au-Prince was different. It was different in many aspects, usually for worse. The lack of safety and very basic things like water, electricity, food or clean air to breath worried me. All foreigners that I met there in 2007 felt that the country was constantly at the border of a generalized collapse in all political and social structures, given that situation. Now we will never know what would be of Haiti without this earthquake but we can be sure that the life of almost 10 million people living in the country will get even more delicate than before, as if it was possible.

In my oppinion, the worst thing about all of that is that there is not leadership available in any country of the world today to refund the Republic of Haiti, neither there. Only bureaucrats and politicians are taking care of them now. I hope they can get through althought I am afraid Haiti is about the become in the next years a real “laboratory of hell” for social scientists.

Pictures show Port-au-Prince when I landed there in December 2007 and the beautiful Hotel Montana (one of the best of the city), now completely destroyed as seen at CNN.

Click on the following link to see this post in French

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Welcome to my new transparent place

For more than 4 years I have been publishing some thoughts and opinions in two blogs. It has been a wonderful experience. Things change and for different reasons these blogs died. The first one, eleicoes.org I did with great passion, talking about Brazilian elections for almost 3 years. The other one, about IE Business School was hosted at iebrasil.com, talking about career, MBA and entrepreneurship and has died just because Movable Type seriously stopped working (so I created the www.shifmais.com to substitute it). I also tried to keep a webpage about myself but due to the difficulty in keeping it updated I decided to create this mix of webpage and blog, combining fix information with updated ones, facilitating interaction and transparency.

With the time, as I started to feel I was getting old – I’m 33 today – I became a huge fan of transparency. I think the world will become a much better place when people start to become more transparent with other people and especially with themselves. This space represents my contribution to this way of thinking and due to my conviction that the world must be more integrated to sustain peace and human consciousness, I will try to publish the most I can posts in languages I appreciate with the great help of Google Translate. My native language is Portuguese, but the posts here will be usually written in English, every 15 days, with translations to Portuguese, Spanish, French, Hebrew and/or Hindi trough Google Translate (including its mistakes, sorry for that). I may include translation to other languages depending on the subject.

By clicking on “continue reading” you will get this text in those languages (the reason why I use those languages is because people surfing on the internet from those places will be able to end up here).

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