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Global Business Immersion Trip 2023: Buenos Aires

By Katie Caffrey

March 7, 2023

Wisconsin MBA students posing behind the multiple bags of trash they collected while cleaning a river in Buenos Aires

This January, fourteen MBA and master’s students traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina on the International Business 765 Global Business Immersion trip. Four of these students were from the SHR center! Our week in Argentina had many impactful visits.

Our first day in Buenos Aires kicked off with an excellent presentation by Cefedais Group. The expert presentation wove together history and political economy, as well as global macroeconomic and broader trends, to help inform our perspective heading into a week of focused industry and site visits.

Our second day in Buenos Aires was a unique blend of visits that spanned value creation in arts and basic materials. We visited The Art Break, which is a woman-owned entrepreneurial venture that seeks to democratize art ownership and provide space for burgeoning artists to produce and commercialize their work. We then visited Tenaris S.A., a leading producer of specialty piping used in energy exploration, infrastructure, automotive, and other applications. We had the opportunity to see recycled metal being melted down in their large furnaces, which was both fascinating and terrifying.

On Wednesday, our group teamed up with the non-profit Plantarse for a river cleanup project which was great for group bonding, and highlighted some of the ecological challenges in the River Plata delta. We then made a visit to Fundación Energizar, where they highlighted Argentina’s grid-scale market potential in wind and solar, as well as its vast lithium deposits. However, given the inequality within the nation, there exists a need for microgrid installations and projects, which constitutes some of the foundation’s work.

portrait of Katie Caffrey
Katie Caffrey

The day concluded with an excellent presentation by historian Dr. Ariel Yablon who explained how certain elements became embedded in Argentina’s political landscape, and the challenges of a sharply divided electorate with a polarized party system. These insights proved valuable as we explored big questions about Argentina’s path forward on energy. On one hand, the government would like to export its shale and oil resources to bring in hard currency. However, that would involve considerable government spending and coordination at a time when the world and investors are putting new energy in focus.

On Thursday, we visited Coninagro, a federation that advocates for more than 800 farming cooperatives in Argentina. Staff at Coninagro helped us understand Argentina’s agricultural industries and capabilities, and the role that global macroeconomic forces and trade policies have had on landowners, farmers, and workers. We were also hosted by Bayer where we learned about their efforts to improve crop yield and quality, enhance disease resistance, and engineer protections from climate change (such as from drought and reduced crop height to protect against higher wind speeds).

On Friday, our group walked a few short blocks from our hotel to visit Globant, a global technology consulting firm. The VP of Technology at Globant hosted us on the 28th floor of the headquarters building, overlooking micro-centro, the port, and Puerto Madero. A beneficial time zone and a unique approach to building a company culture that embraces diversity and transcends geography have helped Globant become a large player in global digitization and IT services.

Several “unicorns” have come from Argentina in recent times, and a presentation from investBA helped us understand how the local government is positioning Buenos Aires to attract foreign direct investment at a large scale, even individual digital nomads. This discussion took place at Centro Metropolitano de Diseno, an old warehouse refurbished into an innovation lab and maker space, that provides office space to help budding entrepreneurs network and prototype.

Our final visit was to Daravi, a design-focused B-Corp factory, that uses recycled materials to create products that give back to the community and empower women. We met with Rocio Gonzalez, Executive Director at Daravi. Daravi is a B-Corp that was co-founded by two women in 2016 through the merger of two certified B Corps, Greca and Totebag. Daravi prioritizes creating products with a high percentage of discarded materials, labor intensity, and the ability to be constructed by anyone with basic tools. They design with a purpose and classify themselves as a “triple bottom line factory model.” They use discarded recycled materials to create new jobs and give back to the community. Daravi’s founders believe that new opportunities for women are a catalyzer and fundamental change agent for growing communities in developing zones of Argentina. Most job opportunities generated by Daravi are meant for women in vulnerable areas nearby the factory. Women from low-income households may be unable to work outside the home due to childcare needs, for example. Daravi provides the opportunity for these women to work and earn money by sending the necessary production materials to their homes. From there, they can use basic household items to assemble the products. This model employs women who are unable to find job opportunities that meet their economic needs and family responsibilities.

After an exciting and educational week in Buenos Aires, we ended the trip with a night of Tango and excellent food! Thank you to all the partners who made this experience possible for all of us!