Embracing Diversity: Exploring Business in Buenos Aires – A Sloan Journey

Today’s Global Experience series embraces the vibrant Latin American culture and its world of business. Khai Bin Abdul Hamid’s story is a testament to keeping an open mind, trying new adventures, and reflecting on them. As a recent Sloan 2023 programme graduate, Khai chose Buenos Aires for his international project, and the experience proved invaluable.

Could you please tell us a little bit about your background and why do you think you needed a programme like Sloan in your career at this point.

Khai: Chemical engineer by background, entrepreneur, and investor by heart, fuelled by a passion to tackle the challenges of the global energy and transportation industries with more than 17 years of working experience. Versatile professional with cross-business and cross-functional teams from Operation, Project Management, Engineering, Technology Development and Commercialization, and start-ups.

By nature, I am always hungry to learn, explore, and experience new things in life, and I am committed to undertaking lifelong learning. The real triggering point was when I asked myself a big question: What’s next? The Sloan programme was my golden opportunity to explore a bit more on the entrepreneurial journey and strengthen my business acumen, and later I learned about the concept of WGYHWGYT during the Sloan Leadership subject, which really resonated well with me.

What GE location did you choose and what was the most attractive to the topic?

    Khai: Buenos Aires, Viva Argentina! Culture, food, and people! Argentina is rich in diversity and, if not too much to say, the only country that I visited where one could witness a combination of Italian, French, and Spanish architecture.

    Despite its European influence, the country’s economy has been in turmoil, and I found it super interesting how a country rich and full of resources can be in bad shape. Skyrocketed interest and inflation rates, defaults in payments, a lack of capital markets and debt financing, and two exchange rates.

    What kind of activities did you do throughout the week?

      Khai: Our schedule was packed, but exciting. It was perfectly curated by the faculty and the organizing team. The session was kicked off by Prof. Dominic and Prof. Francesco, who set the scene for the overall economic outlook and political landscape of Argentina. Throughout the day and week, we had a combination of lectures and open mic sessions with distinguished guest speakers, including the former President of Argentina.

      Our ideas and knowledge were further challenged during the two breakout sessions on topics that were very relevant to Argentina and global trends. Oil and gas outlook, IT and digital transformation, lithium resources, and others.

      The whole team had the opportunity to visit manufacturing facilities and engage with the respective management of the leading industries. My visit to Sinteplast, a leading paint and coating company, was an eye-opener where we were able to understand the end-to-end value chain of the process, the focus on automation and sustainability while balancing business optimisation and profitability, and the business challenges, including when to make an investment, stockkeeping, and managing the two parallel exchange rates to limit exposure.

      The next visit was to a local energy company, Vista Oil and Gas. This is where I realised the major gas resource potential, especially in Vaca Muerta, that could propel Argentina to greater heights if it is developed and managed well.

      The whole schedule might not be complete without a cultural visit to the interesting places around Buenos Aires, a scrumptious dinner, and embracing the Tango dance!

      Where there any special events that you attended? What companies/ stakeholders did you interact with?

      Khai: We had the honour to be invited to the British Embassy for the reception cocktail at her H.E. residence. The event started with short speeches in both English and Spanish, and we had the chance to interact with the Ambassador herself and with many alums that are based in Argentina.

      I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a football match between two legendary teams, River Plate and independiente FC, with my Argentinian friends. River Plate won by 3-0, and it was totally worth my efforts to walk 2 miles to the stadium.

      One of the impactful experiences will be the trip to Barrio Mugica. It was suspenseful at first since the area is well known as the largest slum in Argentina with high crime rates. We were proved wrong. We were amazed at the development of the area through a social, urban, and economic integration initiative taken by the government by working closely with the slum’s community to improve their social lives, provide job opportunities, and empower them economically through newly created businesses such as recycling centres.

      What were the main take-aways from this 1-week project? What do you think you learnt, and you can still apply nowadays?

        Khai: Persistent, resilient, and creative! These three things were my key takeaways from the GE Buenos Aires. I have witnessed how the business is still thriving amid the micro- and macro-economic challenges.

        Argentina is also famously known for its tech startups and high number of unicorns. The businesses and companies are still finding ways to overcome the challenges and expand to capture market share in the LATAM region, rather than buckled under the lack of financial institutions, the debt market, and high inflation rates.

        What piece of advice would you have for upcoming Sloan candidates that wishes to choose Buenos Aires as their GE?

          Khai: Prepare yourselves to embrace the full spectrum of the course. This is the opportunity to learn, unlearn, and relearn! Your conventional business textbook and your knowledge might not be applicable here.

          Strategize for securing your seats in the elective bidding; prepare by reading and exploring the latest updates and trends in Argentina.

          And the last piece of advice will be to come with an open mind; you never know where things might go.

          For more experience about the learning experience on the Sloan programme, click here.

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