Just wrapping a three day visit to Brazil with colleagues and clients in Sao Paulo and Rio. One of the first impressions I had on this trip, my second visit here, is that while most are conscious that Brazil is feeling a slowdown in its economy, they are equally aware that they’re in a better position than many.
Driving to the airport in Rio Thursday morning, the driver proudly pointed out the World Cup stadium and spots where bridges are being built and subways tunnels dug. To my eyes, this appeared to be the earliest stages of construction. Yet with only 18 months till World Cup kick-off, no one seems to worry about making the deadline.
That sense of optimism and possibility permeates business. Edelman Brazil is a wonderful team of professionals from all fields, from anthropologists to economists and all the communications disciplines in between. One colleague is even the first bride in the world to be married on the Internet (a great story she might blog about some time!)
Brazil is as complex as it is optimistic. Before dinner last night, my colleague Sharon Hess mentioned a well-known phrase: “Brazil is not for beginners,” attributed to Antonio Carlos Jobim, who wrote the song, the Girl from Ipanema. I had a sense of what he meant. As the fifth largest country in the world with 199 million people—11 million of them in the largest city Sao Paulo, the sheer size of Brazil presents complexity. There are so many drivers of the economy and variables in communicating with both the private and public sectors that requires nuanced understanding.
The exciting thing to see is that those who master the complexity are poised to take on the world. This was driven home in conversations with clients from Brasil Foods, Klabin and Vale. Both enterprises are as engaged outside of Brazil as they are within. So while Brazil continues to build for its moments on the global stage in 2014 and 2016, the leaders of Brazil are actively engaging with the world now.
A poignant moment that captures the changing times of Brazil was when Rio awoke to the news that Oscar Niemeyer, the modernist architect credited for his work in Brazil’s capital Brasilia, had died at age 104. For Brazil, an end of one era as another begins.
Matthew Harrington is the global chief operating officer
Pictured above: Edelman’s Sao Paulo team