Trade between Latin American countries and China increased 26-fold between 2000 and 2020, from $12 billion to $315 billion, making it an opportune place for South Americans to study business.
Argentina-born Daniel Gallardo first noticed the opportunities available in China in 2012, when he moved there for a year to study Mandarin on a Chinese government scholarship. Though he had to return to Argentina to finish his bachelor’s studies, the sense that China offered opportunities for South American entrepreneurs never left him.
After graduating and moving into sales, an MBA in China seemed the perfect next-step, and he joined Peking University (PKU) Guanghua School of Management in 2017.
“In 2015, a relative asked me to join a team that would develop a business in the wine industry. One of the main goals was to introduce our products to the Chinese market,” Daniel explains.
“That idea was totally new for me, so I needed to learn business skills with a Chinese mindset.”
An MBA program with a strong China focus
When it came to deciding on a specific business school and MBA program, Daniel’s desire to be immersed in Chinese business practices was paramount.
“I was looking for something made for a Chinese business environment,” he notes. “And I wanted to meet Chinese people, students that were also developing new businesses.”
Guanghua’s Global MBA core curriculum focuses on broad business skills that can be applied internationally, while maintaining a key focus on China in courses such as China in the Global Political Economy.
Students also follow language courses in Business Chinese, while electives in Entrepreneurship in China and Winning in China introduce students to specific aspects of conducting business in the country.
Daniel applied to four business schools, but it was the attention that PKU Guanghua paid to China’s connection with Latin America that made him more curious about the MBA program there.
Admissions officers at Peking Guanghua invited Daniel to an event about how to create a supportive environment for Latin American students at the school.
“They wanted to include the Latin American perspective and make a bridge between the Latin America perspective and the Chinese perspective,” he recalls. “That was the main thing that made me decide on PKU Guanghua.”
Networking with Chinese professionals
For Daniel to make his new role a success, he didn’t just need to learn about the fundamentals of business in China. He also had to learn from Chinese professionals.
At PKU Guanghua, a typical MBA cohort hail from 16 different countries, but about half of the class are Chinese students. For Daniel, this was a ripe opportunity to learn from real professionals about how to best conduct business in China.
“Besides the knowledge that you can obtain from the class, what my Chinese classmate provided to me about the Chinese business culture was very useful for me at that moment,” he says.
In exchange, Daniel provided the Chinese students in his class with knowledge of Latin American business culture. “That was a very rich interchange between our classmates,” he adds.
In speaking to some of his classmates from Thailand, Daniel also spotted a new business opportunity that surprised him.
“I had three Thai classmates, and they helped me a lot—and now we're exporting a lot of wine to Thailand, to two or three companies in Bangkok,” Daniel explains.
“I was looking for Chinese ideas, but then I found ways to keep increasing business in other countries. So, it's worth mentioning that you can work in a smart way to link with people and their businesses to create new opportunities.”
A successful international sales career
After his MBA, Daniel returned to Argentina just as the Covid pandemic put a halt on his plans to open an office for wine company, Berruti & Chini Winery, in China.
Despite this pause in his plans, Daniel still found ways to apply his new MBA skills to his role as international sales director, including his knowledge of Chinese business.
Consequently, the company decided to focus their distribution on Chinese supermarkets in Argentina. With Daniel's cultural knowledge, this ended up being a wise decision.
“I got involved in almost everything from the production, the logistics and the distribution,” explains Daniel. “And for the Chinese business owners to meet an Argentinian guy who could speak the language and studied at Peking Guanghua, it was really impressive to them.”
Over the next two years, Daniel is once again focusing on building the export business in China and other markets in Southeast Asia. His advice for other MBA students who wish to explore the business opportunities in China?
“You need to ask, you need to participate, you need to talk with people at your school, your classmates and professors. They have a lot to offer.”