“Stunning” Brazil: Update from Team Geave in São Paulo
Alexis Kastrenakes, Jake Qian, Marisa Johnson, and Seungjun Lee
Brazil: the land of samba, churrascarias, and as this Haas IBD team was about to become intimately aware of…the booming aquaculture industry. Despite the country’s expansive coastline and river system, Brazil’s aquaculture sector is still relatively nascent, but growth is expected to exceed the global average for the next five years. Much of the country’s production is tilapia and we were about to get front row seats to see how the sausage (tilapia, that is) gets made.
Our client, Geave, is a São Paulo-based manufacturer of technology equipment solutions for the meat processing industry, and Geave’s leading solution is an electronic stunner for poultry processing. (Don’t worry: their equipment doesn’t actually kill the animal. It actually promotes humane practices as it renders the animal unconscious before the moment of slaughter.) Geave identified a unique opportunity to leverage their food processing technology into the fast-growing aquaculture industry in an effort to diversify their product and customer portfolio. Our project centered on helping the management team understand the aquaculture industry in other markets (Chile, Costa Rica, Norway, and USA), conducting customer, competitor, and partner interviews, and ultimately using these insights to form a recommendation for how Geave should enter the aquaculture market in Brazil. The entire time, and particularly once we conducted customer visits, a huge question loomed in the back of our minds: is the electronic fish stunner, the original focus of our project, really the right solution?
We’ve spent the majority of our time working with Geave’s three partners: Luiz “The Comedian”, Giancarlo “The Mad Scientist”, and Jimmy “The Gangster.” They don’t necessarily identify with these characters we’ve bestowed on them, but they are truly, wholly, 100% accurate. Luiz is the quintessential salesperson of the group and leads Geave’s client management initiatives. Giancarlo is the innovator and inventor who has a penchant for engineering and vintage calculators – he even owns a functioning computer from 1968. Jimmy joined the team earlier in 2015 with an engineering background and experience working for SABESP, the water and sewage provider, for nearly two decades. (Check out the picture below and you’ll understand his moniker.) We worked closely with the management team to understand Geave’s strengths, legacy, and vision for future growth.
After a nine hour overnight bus (which was surprisingly quite pleasant), we found ourselves in Santa Fé do Sol, the heart of Brazil’s burgeoning tilapia industry at the westernmost point of São Paulo State. We visited fish farms, fish genetics establishments, feed plants, and facilities that processed over 15 tons of live tilapia per day. During our three-day visit, we had the opportunity to gather vast data about customer pain points, farming and slaughter processes, and vendor relationships. We also went on a lot of boat rides around the fish cages, observing feeding, vaccination, grading, and harvesting processes. Some of us were disappointed that there were no anaconda sightings. Others were okay with it.
After documenting, discussing, and analyzing some of our Week 1 observations, we spent two days in Pirassununga and Franca, where we visited a larger aquaculture company and met with one of Geave’s software partners. During the partner meeting, we conducted a design thinking session to brainstorm the types of hardware/software products to bring to market. Should they target the handful of larger players that are vertically integrated to cover the entire value chain, or focus on the more numerous but lower-budget small-to-medium players? Should they create technology solutions for fish processing, or design for the fragmented and less sophisticated fish farming industry? What customer pain points should the hardware/software solution address? What would customers be willing or able to pay? Our half-day session generated insights that allowed us to draft a target product portfolio addressing the burgeoning fish farming industry.
In our last week, we synthesized all of the data points we had gathered and worked to build a business plan for Geave. We brought together all of our stateside background research, customer interviews and observations, and output from our design thinking sessions. Using our toolkit of strategy frameworks, we developed a concrete recommendation on who (small to medium fish farmers), what (solutions to reduce Feed costs and automate the Feeding process — leaving the stunner for later) and where (start with the Santa Fé do Sul area) Geave should focus their market entry. After a successful presentation to our client, Luiz even countered with a response presentation, animating how we destroyed his dreams of producing fish stunning equipment in the short-term, but that our recommendations would allow Geave to pursue an alternative, more strategic direction.
Our trip wasn’t all fried fish skins, rubber boots, and long hours at the office. We managed to sneak away to Rio de Janeiro for a weekend with Team Sony to get a taste of the Brazilian beach lifestyle. We ate feijoada, visited Christ the Redeemer, pretended to be locals on Ipanema Beach, and sampled all of the caipirinhas and blended juice.
After three weeks in Brazil, we feel we have seen a side of this country we would have never imagined if we simply visited as tourists. Geave and the people of Brazil made us feel so welcome and we feel so lucky to have had this experience. Thankfully our Brazilian visas are valid for the next ten years, so we will definitely be back. Rio Olympics 2016?