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By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit says that Brazil is among the worst at coping with the language barrier of the English-speaking world of business, and that deals are being hindered because of it. Experts are warning that, with increased international interest in businesses based in Brazil, the need to break down the barrier has never been more acute.
The report says that 74 percent of the Brazilians surveyed admitted their company has suffered “financial losses as a result of failed cross-border transactions” – much higher than the global average of around fifty percent.
The Brazilians who took part in the study seemed to recognize the issue – described in the report as a “significant hindrance to effective cross-border relations” for companies – as 77 percent of them believe better communications could improve productivity, while in the UK, for example, the figure is only 43 percent.
Although expanding internationally is always fraught with complications, the prospect was seen as most difficult by Brazilian companies – nearly eighty percent of Brazilians surveyed said cross-border difficulties hampered their expansion plans.
With the boundaries between old and new economies become increasingly interdependent, experts are warning that good communication skills have never been more critical. English is the recognized international language of the business world, and as such Monica Szwarc - cross-cultural coach and Country Manager for Bridge Brazil - stresses the importance.
“Internationalization is becoming each day more relevant to Brazilian companies in general as they start to move beyond the local market to grow further aiming at sustaining long term competitiveness and becoming major players in the global economy,” she says.
However Ms. Szwarc says that schools are taking the situation seriously, and are aware of the needs of the market in terms of the level of language control a student needs to exhibit – and to this end Bridge Brazil will be opening specialized, business-focused, and even oil-industry-focused courses from this August.
Ultimately, she concludes, the situation is definitely improving: “Young Brazilians are more familiar with English in general and very keen to invest in international education. Governmental programs have shown increased awareness of the need for English Proficiency and we now have kids that are able to face the challenge and compete at the best universities around the world.”
The language barrier can also be seen as an opportunity for those with an entrepreneurial initiative though, to capitalize on doing business where others dare not tread. As a positive example of work with Brazil, the report highlights the experience of Swedish truck manufacturer Scania, which now delivers more vehicles to Brazil than any other country.
Scania believes technology has played a huge role in improving the performance of cross-border teams, but that cultural barriers – particularly between Sweden and Brazil, whose work cultures the company describes as “pole apart” – are “always present and need to be constantly managed”, particularly at the outset.
Industry experts say that despite the possible setbacks caused by inefficient language communications, a multinational approach can yield the biggest gains, as long as initial cultural misunderstandings can be overcome.
The IBP Rio Oil & Gas Conference Arrives
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference, perhaps the most important event of its kind in South America, is set to run next week (September 17th-20th) in the Riocentro Convention Centre in Barra de Tijuca. Organizers of the biennial event are expecting a record turnout of 55,000 visitors from over fifty countries at the expo this year, with 1,300 exhibitors.
This year marks the 16th edition of the industry gathering. “The event has grown and strengthened in parallel with the changes in the Brazilian and global oil and gas industry,” according to event organizers the IBP (the Brazilian Oil, Gas and Biofuels Institute). “In the 1980s the event occupied two pavilions in Riocentro, now we occupy all five.”
Running in parallel to the expo, a four-day conference is expected to attract roughly 4,300 people, with keynote speakers including the CEOs of Shell and Repsol, as well as the presidents of the World Petroleum Council and the International Gas Union, among others.
Plenary session topics include the role of the petroleum industry in promoting sustainable economic development, challenges to energy supply in the 21st Century and offshore operational safety. “We have managed to broaden and deepen the discussion of topics … trying to always include foreign speakers,” said the organizers.
A number of new themes will be addressed this year, including the issue of non-conventional gas, especially shale gas, which has revolutionized the U.S. gas market and is now being explored for across Latin America and the rest of the globe.
Writing in the August newsletter of the IBP, the institute’s head of gas, Jorge Delmonte, said that after the tragedy that took place at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, gas power generation assumed “great and instantaneous” importance.
This year the Rio expo and conference are running under the slogan: ‘Innovation and growth with responsibility’. In keeping with this message, an area of the exhibition will be dedicated to improving social and environmental responsibility within the oil and gas sector.
“The industry is aware of its risks, but also the importance of sustainability for the planet and for future generations,” say event organizers. A series of legal cases against U.S. oil major Chevron are ongoing in Brazil after offshore oil seeps were discovered last November.
The expo and conference constitute an important date in Rio’s corporate calendar, helping to fill the city’s top hotels and restaurants as senior oil and gas executives flock to Rio to take advantage of networking opportunities and the chance to catch up on the latest technology.
It also comes at an interesting juncture for the oil and gas industry in Brazil. Delays in developing the much-anticipated pre-salt oil fields off the Brazilian coast have led to considerable debate, while the country’s state-run oil giant, Petrobras, recently reporting its first quarterly loss in over a decade
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