Export Experts – Focus on Brazil

by Peter Gillis

For the first Learnovate Lunchtime Seminar Series of 2014 we sought to answer the interest from members in exploring export potential. The session was a focus on Brazil giving an insight into the complexities and opportunities of the market. Andrew Macrae and Colin McCullagh who have a wealth of experience in partnership building in the Brazilian market delivered the session. They are specifically focused on the Edtech and Learning and Development sectors. Colin is ex Enterprise Ireland and set up the Brazil Office.

The picture that emerged was of a market that is very significant in terms of numbers, and scale. The economy is the 7th largest in the world (GDP 2.25 trillion) comprising 200 million people. While poverty is still a major factor it is a nation on the up with 34 million emerging from the social poverty classes of D and E into the social class C with disposable income, known as the ‘digital middle class’.
The south east of the country is 1st world while the north is not nearly as well developed, however the country is committed to addressing these needs and raising the standards in the north.

The general Brazilian attitude to business was portrayed as “what can be done in Brazil, must be done in Brazil” and was reinforced by the speakers’ direction to seek a Brazilian partner if you wish to do business there. In relation to decision-making, and specifically with public funded projects, the Brazilians are very thorough in ensuring they are getting the best value in terms of suitability for purpose and investment. The population is social by nature and is the largest facebook population outside the US. While PC/tablet access is emerging most appear to have mobile phone access.

In relation to K12 and higher education there are different responsibilities. Responsibility for Primary education lies with the Mayor at town level while Secondary is at state level. This means testing a product might be easier at Primary level but the logistics of selling into it are hard, and vice versa in Secondary. There are thousands of private schools and more emerging, including consumer education where children learn English after school in the same way a child might play football after school here.

The Higher Ed level is served by public and private colleges. The public is often seen as providing the better education, with Government keeping a watching brief on standards and the power to remove licences when required.

Corporate learning has massive scale by comparison with Ireland and the vastness of the country only adds to the opportunities. The current appetite for learning and development has seen initiatives such as renting out cinemas on Tuesday evenings to deliver training. Brazil is committed to growth through the development of a smart workforce and as such is investing. The trend has been to use European rather than US models as benchmarks however, as one member pointed out, localization can go further than language with cultural differences needed to be addressed.

The sum up was that this is not a market that will be easy to access and will require a committed effort. The general consensus from the speakers and members with experience was that a partner is necessary. The upside is that it is a vast market and success has real potential of delivering scale business to those who succeed.