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Who is Who in Internationalization: Interview with Prof. Lourdes Casanova

lourdes casanova

Lourdes Casanova, a Senior Lecturer of Management at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, specializes in international business with a focus on Latin America and multinationals from emerging markets. A Fulbright Scholar with a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California and a PhD from the University of Barcelona. She taught at INSEAD from 1989 until 2013, was a visiting professor at Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge and at the Latin American Centre at the University of Oxford in 2010. She is a visiting Faculty at the University of Zurich, Deusto Business School and Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona and a consultant of the Inter-American Development Bank. She taught and directed executive programs at INSEAD for senior managers from global multinationals including Telefónica, BBVA and Cemex and the Brazilian Confederation of Industries (CNI). She is also a consultant of multinationals operating in Latin America.

She is the author of the book: ‘Global Latinas: Latin America’s emerging multinationals’ published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2009, coauthor of Innovalatino, Fostering Innovation in Latin America, published by Ariel in 2011 and has published numerous case studies, chapters in books and articles in journals including Beijing Business Review, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Business and Politics and Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica.

Dear Prof Lourdes, many thanks for your time with us. We all know you have a busy agenda and working on a new book. Why did you become interested in Latin America in general and Latin multinationals in particular?

As many things in life, it was purely by chance. It was 1996, and it was my sabbatical year at Haas at UC Berkeley. I sent the outline of the course on cross cultural issues I was teaching at INSEAD and they asked me to change the outline and focus more on Latin America. When I started redesigning the course, I checked the case studies on Latin American companies and found that Harvard had only two. I could not think of teaching a course about Latin America based only on western Multinationals, I wanted to discover also what Latin American companies were doing. I had to write my own case studies. That was the beginning of a very interesting discovery trip.

In which sense the “Multilatinas” differ from the multinational companies from industrialized countries?

Multilatinas or Global Latinas as I called them in my book are

a. resilient companies, which were able to survive a number of crises;
b. thinking on the long term as well as the short term;
c. strong leadership at the top;
d. very agile and compromise with their societies.

Regarding the internationalization process of “Multilatinas”, how it is different from the internationalization process of other BRIC countries such as Russia, India and China? 

If we look at the internationalization process, Chinese companies are the most aggressive ones. The biggest bank in the world by Market capitalization is ICBC, the biggest mobile company, China Mobile, the biggest telecom provider, Huawei. Russian companies have internationalized in the former Soviet Union area as well as in Europe. Indian companies, mainly IT ones are all over the US. Brazilian companies, by comparison are smaller in size and more domestic.

Is there something different in Brazilian multinationals compared to multinationals from other Latin countries such as México and Argentina, for example?

Brazilian multinationals are less international than the other Latin American companies. Brazilian multinationals have been focused on their domestic market and have not seen the need to go abroad. While Brazil is double the size of the Mexican economy, its investments in Mexico are only 15% of those of Mexico in Brazil. For example, only a handful of Brazilian multinationals (e.g. Gerdau, Odebrecht, Samot) have established a major presence in Mexico, the second biggest economy of the continent. In the meantime, several Mexican companies (e.g. Grupo Carso, Telmex, América Móvil, Bimbo, Homex, Cinépolis) have made significant investments in Brazil. It is interesting to note that between 2005 and 2010 Mexico’s Foreign Direct Investment in Brazil represented US$4.7 billion, while over the same period Brazil invested only US$684 million in Mexico (ECLAC 2012).

In your opinion, what is the future of the internationalization process of Multilatinas? Will the process accelerate or decelerate?

We are in a moment of ‘regionalization’. Risk is everywhere and companies, all over the world, are reorganizing their international assets and focusing in their ‘natural markets’, i.e., those markets that are ‘better known’ because of geographical proximity, language or historical ties. Chinese companies are looking at Asia, Latin American companies in Latin America, European in Europe, and so forth. Internationalization is a source of knowledge and the best companies are those which can use best these resources.

What is your current research?

I am now working on a book about Brazil. The Political Economy of Brazil: An Emerging Global Power to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014 and co-authored with Julian Kassum. The private sector is a very important stakeholder in the development of any country but the government plays an equally important role. The aim of the book is to discuss whether Brazil’s rise on the global stage is barely beginning, or whether it has already hit a plateau, held back by numerous domestic challenges and the external constraints of the global governance system.

The work shows that Brazil’s hard power capability is greater than it is often believed, that this power largely rests on its energy, food and financial reserves. But Brazil’s biggest strength lies in soft power as Brazil is able to “seduce” other states due to its culture, values and policies. Also, Brazil is seen as an attractive country that is friends with everyone.

The book continues showing how Brazil is developing its own model of growth and development with some features of state capitalism and innovative forms of welfare. The authors examine the role played by the state in the Brazilian business and industry sector and ask whether the “Brazilian model” can be an alternative to the old “Washington Consensus”.

The book assesses the country’s numerous domestic challenges and how these may prevent it from becoming an effective global power. These challenges are found in the economic and social areas as well as in the educational area.

Dear Prof Lourdes, thanks for your time. We all hope to meet with you soon. 

Link to post about internationaization of brazilian banks here


  1. Post comment

    It is amazing to see Brazil from a different point of view. I always thought we could improve much more our economy if the private sector was better encouraged. The main issue in our country is that government believes it can fix and do everything. It feels like the private sector is the enemy of the nation. I hope we can heal from this evil we have here where people think government is the key and the answer for all of our prayers.

  2. Post comment

    Hola Lourdes, great job! I am amazed on how you started researching about this… as I have almost the same sensation regarding Sovereign Wealth Funds. Will you explicitly define and clarify what you mean by “state capitalism” in your book? I look forward to reading it, too.
    Thanks! Javier

  3. Post comment

    Thank you for your comments! In Brazil different models of capitalism co-exist peacefully: a very strong and thriving (local and foreign) private sector and, at the same time, the state is playing a very important role through the public (or semi public) companies such as Banco do Brasil and Petrobras and also the investments of public pension funds and BNDES. Sometimes the balance moves towards the private sector and at other times, like right now, towards the public sector. It is a hybrid system, between China, the most extreme case of state capitalism and the US, the most market oriented.

  4. Book review: The Political Economy of an Emerging Global Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream, by Lourdes Casanova and Julian Kassum. | Southerncrossstrategist

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