Berkeley-Haas Full-Time MBA students Pati Silva, Cori Byrum, Carlos Olson, and Rob Kenny participated in a summer IBD project in Chile with the LATAM retailer Falabella.
As we boarded the plane in SFO having just finished a memorable first year in the Full-Time MBA program, we were excited to learn more about Chile, and specifically the retail sector there and more broadly in Latin America.
Our team was comprised of four people with varying knowledge of the region and sector (as well as Spanish language skills!). This meant that we were all very excited to experience something new.
Final preparations coincided with deadlines for group projects and final exams, which meant for a frenzied couple of weeks before we headed for Santiago. Thankfully, we had a couple of days to gather ourselves after we arrived before starting the project in earnest.
We were tasked with helping Falabella better understand the rapidly evolving digital payments space and how this will impact Latin American consumers in the coming years.
Retail is a great way to gain insight into all aspects of society, and Falabella is a strong player in the Peruvian, Argentinian, Colombian, and especially Chilean, markets with strong department stores, home improvement and food retail businesses. Experiencing these first-hand in Santiago gave us a great understanding of the similarities and differences between US/European and Chilean consumers.
Falabella also has a strong presence in the financial sector with a bank, credit card and insurance business, which capitalizes on their strong relationship with their large customer base.
Finally, and perhaps most surprising to us, Falabella successfully runs large and modern malls. The ones we visited wouldn’t have looked out of place in San Francisco or London. They were also almost universally full to bursting with consumers. It seems like visiting malls is a favorite hobby for Latin American consumers!
Overall, we all really enjoyed getting a great insight into a strong, interesting and diverse company, as well as gaining a better understanding of the Chilean consumer.
Chilean people were so welcoming and friendly (except perhaps when they were behind the wheel of a car…), and we really enjoyed their hospitality. We even managed to stumble across President Bachelet welcoming the Honduran President to Santiago.
While our project didn’t call for any travel outside of the capital, we still managed to enjoy exploring some of the surrounding areas like the wine regions around the Colchagua and Casablanca valleys and the beautiful coastal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.