Penn State Smeal MBA students get first-hand look at growing industry in Lima

As part of the Penn State Smeal College of Business MBA Program’s global immersion experience, 22 students spent one week in Lima, Peru, at the beginning of March to experience the business climate and culture.

This is the first year that the Penn State Smeal MBA Program global immersion has taken a group to Lima.

“We like to provide our students with an opportunity to visit developing economies around the world,” said Doug Thomas, faculty director for the Penn State Smeal MBA Program, who also traveled to Lima with the students. “We chose Peru specifically because of its recent pattern of strong economic growth as well as strong projected growth in the future.”

Scott Robbins, an MBA student with an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, chose the trip to Lima because he was interested in seeing first-hand a newer, still-developing economy.

“I thought it sounded like a really interesting opportunity,” he said. “Also, the visits scheduled for the trip provided a broad range of experiences.”

Lima is the country’s capital and largest city, and about half of the country’s population of more than 30 million people lives in the city or its surrounding metro area. Robbins said he was struck by the differences in quality of life within the city compared to that outside of the city.

“The city itself is very developed,” he said. “It was surprising to see how fast that degrades outside of the city, where many people are living in extreme poverty.”

“We like to provide our students with an opportunity to visit developing economies around the world. We chose Peru specifically because of its recent pattern of strong economic growth as well as strong projected growth in the future.”

-- Doug Thomas, faculty director, Penn State Smeal MBA Program

One of the company visits included a stop at Canadian Mining, which, despite its name, is a Peruvian company — the founder is Canadian.

“Mining is a big part of the Peruvian economy,” explained Robbins. “We were really lucky to get to talk to the company’s founder and CEO [Ren Williams], so we got to hear about every aspect of the business.”

According to Robbins, an influx of people are coming to Peru to take part in the growing mining business there, which faces low government regulation.

“There is a growing confidence in the government, and a lot of people we talked to say that the current government is the best they’ve ever had,” said Robbins. “Everyone is optimistic because of the recent growth, and the general sentiment is that the government is aiding that growth rather than hindering it.”

That optimism is opening doors to many new opportunities, which is in turn helping to grow the middle class.

He continued, “It is really interesting to see the process of how the middle class is changing and growing. This will inevitably repeat in developing countries. That developing middle class creates markets with a more dynamic setting.”

Students also visited with Emilio van Oordt, ’98 MBA and general manager for Sodimac, a chain of home improvement centers in Peru.

“As is always the case on our global immersion trips, we connected with Penn State alumni,” said Thomas. “Emilio and his team shared insights into both their commercial success but also their commitment to investing in the community through donations of products as well as employees’ time and expertise in renovating housing in lower-income communities.

Other companies students visited in Lima included ADEX, Peru’s exporters association; Pragma – Brandgroup; startup accelerator Wayra; Cendeit, an educational development center; and Sodimac, a Chilean home improvement chain directed by Smeal MBA alumnus Emilio van Oordt.

All first-year Penn State Smeal MBA students take part in a global immersion. This year, they chose among trips to Lima, Johannesburg, and Shanghai; international students were given the option of traveling to San Francisco. On the trips, students visit companies and factories, meet with executives, and learn about the local economy, business practices, and government.

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Last Updated April 07, 2014