Day 4 – Corporate: Flower factory- Bogotá, Colombia
While the below pictures capture the beauty of the flowers at the Flores San Juan sa flower factory, here are a few facts presented to us during the welcome speech by the plant manager. The main priority that the company is working on is cutting costs. The plant has fixed contracts with agents which help them sell large volumes of flowers. Majority of the employees at the facility are single mothers, making these flower factories the largest employer of this particular female segment. Second to Holland in flower export, Colombia exports about 77% of its production to USA. Flowers are planted to bloom when the need for them is the most (e.g. need for roses in US rises tremendously during Valentine’s Day). Since it takes 25 days for the product to reach the US stores, there are special conditions that need to be maintained during transportation. The factory we visited grew only carnations and roses. The biggest challenge that the factory faces is maintaining of employee motivation and efficiency. In order to eliminate this issue, the company has been conducting motivational sessions, providing day transport so workers can spend a few hours with family during the day, and providing a competitive pay structure.
Day 5 – Government: 1. Tour of Casa de Nariño 2.The Ministry of Communications
Education: Team Presentation Preview to Professor
The visit to the Casa de Nariño left us speechless. Since we were already registered for the Presidential House tour, we got off our bus and followed our guide Jorge. Jorge was from Medellin and had joined the army 3 years ago. Similar to the White House in USA, Casa de Nariño is the home and workplace of the President of Colombia. The building was designed by Gaston Lelarge and the traditional changing of the Palace Guard happens every day. The house is filled with vases and objects that represent collaboration between Colombia and other countries.
Meeting the Minister of information technology and communications proved to be the perfect setting to learn about how technological advances will help Colombia decrease poverty, increase jobs and thereby improve competitiveness. By expanding internet usage and developing technology, the Interactive Communication Technology (ICT) plan is intended to enhance the economy. Though there are a number of barriers to this strategy, the ministry is ready with its basic 5 principle plan, and they are on their way to attaining their goals.
The evening ended with us having to provide a preview of our final presentation to the Johnson professor, Wesley Sine. It was a long night as there were changes that we all had to make to our decks based on professor’s feedback. Nevertheless, the work was completed and we were looking forward to the beer factory visit.
Day 6 – Beer factory tour and Dinner at Club Colombia
Bavaria is a subsidiary of SABMiller. The company makes beer and non-alcoholic malt beverages. After a quick presentation by the quality manager, we were taken on a plant tour. We were able to taste the different malts that were used to produce the wide range of beers. As we walked around looking funny in our blue shower caps (to ensure hygiene within the plant), we noticed that there were fewer employees and a lot more of sophisticated machines. There was also a lot of shutdown time due to issues in efficient running of the machines. We were told that the company is working on its Just-in-time (JIT) and productivity numbers.
The hour meeting with the chief financial officer at the Bogota enlightened us on its financial results and recent acquisition. The firm’s biggest concern that Bavaria is looking to solve right now is on how to encourage local customers to buy beer to take to their homes. Currently, customers buy beer when they are out socializing, but rarely to take home as part of their grocery trip (like they do in USA) or when there is a national game etc.
Our Thursday ended with a classy dinner at Club Colombia after which we all went dancing. Friday was almost here and we were all going to go our separate ways for the weekend.
Day 7 – Final project presentation at University of Los Andes
Project presentations began at 9am and lasted until 12 with each team getting a 30minute slot. Our audience was a mixed bunch: the company representatives, faculty and students. It was a great experience interacting with the students from Uniandes and also getting the opportunity to work with an organization in Colombia. The hands-on project format resulted in a deeper understanding of Colombian corporate culture and practices.
Our team (see pic below) provided some breakthrough solutions to the client, making the project a success. It was exciting to be able to study the impact of the Latin American market, government and developments on the healthcare industry.
The official last day ended with some of us flying to other Colombian cities and few students staying back in Bogota before heading to Ithaca. The two cities which interested most students for the weekend stay were: Cartagena and Medellin. I loved the city of Cartagena with all its history and nearby islands it had to offer. We booked an apartment via Airbnb, took a boat ride to the nearby island of Playa blanca, shopped for emeralds with the help of the professor, visited San Felipe de Barajas Castle, checked out the sunset from the city wall and once again relished the food (coconut rice, grilled fish, salted potatoes, cheesy arepas, fresh salad and flavorful meat.
While we loved our Cartagena side trip, some of the students made a trip to Medellin. Though not a beach city, Medellin has plenty to offer with regards to nature, coffee, party and beautiful people.
My first time in Latin America (LA) was a success and I realized that the statement, ‘The risk of wanting to stay in Colombia’, made a lot of sense. This trip has deepened my knowledge of business, education, culture and social environment. I thank Professor Sine and his teaching assistant, Arkangel for creating a well-balanced trek. Now that I have had a peek into this beautiful region, I look forward to traveling there soon!!!