Technological Disruptions in Emerging Markets: Mexico

As my time in Tecnológico de Monterrey comes to a near close, the learning experience, the physical observations and company visits made me understand how disruptive technology will shock economies around the world… including emerging countries such as Mexico.

Current Senior Minister of Singapore Tharman Shanmugaratnum, who stated that “there is a war against intelligent machines and AI… There is another 5 to 10 years for countries to respond by getting into the game of global value chains.” The Minister was referring to the opportunity window for countries to up-skill their labour force and provide international social mobility for their citizens via initial labour-intensive market activities.

We visited multiple firms including Bimbo (largest multinational bakery manufacturing company), Pirelli (Italian premium tire and automobile company), Flexi (Mexican shoe company), and Neoris (a modern digital technological consulting firm.

All of these firms have some form of artificial intelligence and automation within their manufacturing facilities. For example, in Grupo Bimbo, all of the bakery made in the Monterrey factory were mostly made by machines. Even the packaging system from the package bag to the boxes were all organised by AI machines. The only role for some of the workers were to manage the functioning of the machines, correct errors from the manufacturing process of the machines and some manual labour for moving boxes and finalising the production process.

Flexi facility.

“Automation provides us with wondrous increases of production and information, but does it tell us what to do with the men the machines displace? Modern industry gives us the capacity for unparalleled wealth – but where is our capacity to make that wealth meaningful to the poor of every nation?” — Robert Kennedy

Pirelli office

This was staggering to me. I only thought this problem existed in advanced countries, but I was wrong…. the claims made by Andrew Yang in his book ‘The War on Normal People’ is happening across emerging markets as well.

Technological disruption and job insecurity for low-skilled work is going to get worse as a process. At our company visits, during the question and answer questions, most of the managers expressed their desire for more automation and greater efficiency through machines. This is great news for international businesses regarding efficiency and productivity, but this is terrible for manufacturing workers in blue collar jobs in both emerging markets and advanced countries.

Coming to Mexico was a life-changing experience and helped me understand that there are global challenges. Automation and technological innovation is great for the world, but it has a cost. We must continue to research for public policy solutions to the emerging problem of technological disruption.

As a final word, I would like to thank the faculty of Tecnológico de Monterrey for this wonderful opportunity. Special mentions to Professor Anil Yasin for the workshops, intellectual conversations, mentorship and guidance throughout my time in Mexico.

Award Ceremony for iWinterMX

Leonard Hong

Babitha Gnanakumar: Mexico City to Querétaro

From late night study sessions to exploring the Frida Kahlo museum the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico, and experience all this vibrant country has to offer is a blessing I will never take for granted. Prior to starting my study abroad, I decided to make the most of being in this part of the world and travelled to certain areas of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and a tropical island named Caye Caulker. During these travels to Central and Latin America, I soon realised that what is portrayed in news outlets is skewed to a narrative that was not my lived out reality. These travels taught me the paramount importance of looking past the fabrication of exaggerated stereotypes of what the diverse community of Central and Latin America would look like. Even though it is a necessity to take the standard precautions you would normally take when travelling to a foreign country, I have never felt that my safety was in major jeopardy. Thus, Mexico is a quintessential example of a country who is unfairly portrayed by the news media and needs fellow tourists like myself to spread the word and challenge the media’s perceptions.

            Sante Fe Campus in Mexico City

To commence our study abroad we started off this journey in beautiful Mexico City at Tecnológico de Monterrey in the affluent business district of Sante Fe. Here, we soon realised that one week would never be enough to explore all that this city had to offer. Even though being a student and a tourist is a balancing act, I was able to visit several attractions such as the Castillo de Chapultepac, Blue Tile House, Mirador Torre Latino, National Palace and several world-class museums. For me, a major highlight was the day after our first exam where in the midst of our busy weekly schedule we got the day off to explore Mexico City. Out of all the tourist attractions the visit to the Mirador Torre Latino was the highpoint as the view at sunset was spectacular and was the perfect way to end a long day of sightseeing.  During our stay in Mexico City we also had several company visits including PepsiCo, Kidzana, and in our free time explored the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan. During our company visit to PepsiCo we learned about the multinational’s efforts to achieve gender equality initiatives, and were given a goodie-bag filled with their wide-range of products which were utilised to fuel upcoming study sessions.

         View from Mirador Torre Latino in Mexico City

The journey to our next city Querétaro was one of my highlights of the trip so far, as we were able to visit the Pyramid of the Sun in the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Furthermore, during Querétaro we went wine tasting, took one too many photos at the aqueduct, participated in soap making, and more recently we did a day trip to a town called Bernal where we climbed one of the tallest monoliths in the world. In the city of Querétaro, we also got the opportunity to live in the dorms on campus and experience the life of a local student. In my spare time in Querétaro I went salsa dancing in the city centre, ate delicious Mexican cuisine and explored several local markets. Now I am in the city of Leon which is also known as the World Footwear Capital. The steps that encompass the journey I take in Leon will be ones that will continue to broaden my perspective even further, and for that I’m grateful.

    Peña de Bernal: The Monolith in the town of Bernal

Hasta Luego,

Babitha Gnanakumar (PMSLA Scholar 2020)

Allan: A Truly Global Experience

This is my first blog for my trip to Mexico at Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) studying global business with 26 students from Auckland, Germany, Denmark, Australia and France! We’ve been here for just over 2 weeks now and currently residing at Leon, a city right in the heart of Mexico. In the first week, we were based in Sante Fe, a major business district within Mexico City, where many global companies are headquartered. In week two we were studying at the Queretaro campus, a city with some of the most amazing architecture. 

Many of my other friends on the trip will be talking about the Mexican experience so far and how preconceived notions of the country align to what it’s really like living in Mexico. So far I must say it has been a very positive experience. Make sure to check out the other blogs! 

I’ll be going over briefly on the business visits we’ve had so far. I think they have been some of the most valuable parts of our course so far, especially for an International Business student from Auckland where this trip has been truly unique. Monterrey’s education strategy has shifted quite recently to a competency-based model, with a focus on industry experience embedded into their curriculum. Participating in the iWinterMx Global Business program, there is indeed an emphasis on this model with multiple business visits along with standards classes. It has given us first-hand experience on Mexican Business culture and the inner workings of organisations in different industries. The opportunity to see differences in our home country and engage with industry professionals with their insights is truly something rare for a student from New Zealand. 

One of our first visits was to Pepsi-Co’s headquarters in Mexico City with their snack division. Learning about their human resource management, and Mexico’s employment laws have certainly opened my mind on the working hours, conditions and entitlements a normal Mexican employee has. This translates well to Pepsi’s initiatives in looking after their employees and promoting diversity within the company. For example their ‘Pink Manufacturing’ program, an all-women factory line that is now being spread to other Pepsi-Co headquarters and plants around the world.

As a Marketing student, it was cool to learn about their market segmentation strategies with their product line. It was interesting to learn that they produced marketing content for not just the Mexican market but also the United States and South America. Learning about their international marketing activity has given me a better grasp to understand cultures and how to formulate effective advertising campaigns. Overall, a great visit and stoked with all the snacks we received!

KidZania was another multinational enterprise (MNE) we visited during our week in Mexico City. It was an interesting concept and something many of us have not heard of back home. Essentially it is a mock city with real brand shops, vehicles and streets where kids get to act like adults and develop their skills. This could include writing a newspaper, being a police officer or a DHL delivery person. With over 29 locations around the world, all of us were surprised not to have heard of this family entertainment center before!

A purpose built workshop for kids
Kids playing at the mock Ford dealership

Lastly, I would like to brush on a conference we attended with Thomas Meller and Frederic Bron who are part of the German Chamber of Commerce and French Chamber of Commerce in Queretaro. With experience in engineering and tourism, they brought a wealth of experience into the conversation. I was particularly excited to learn about the automotive industry and why Mexico is an attractive manufacturing location- tax incentives, infrastructure location, shipping routes and workforce. Being able to relate classroom studies with industry visits, especially with MNEs and industries not present in New Zealand is an exciting experience.

I have to say the experiences so far have been exceptional to my personal development and understanding of international markets. I strongly encourage university students of all backgrounds to take advantage of the opportunities available to branch out of New Zealand in becoming global citizens. 

Allan Chan

First 2 weeks at Tec de Monterrey

I have spent the last 2 weeks at Tecnolgico de Monterrey after having travelled through Guatemala and Belize in the 2 weeks prior to my iWinter Global Business course starting. So far I have met people from Denmark, France, Germany and Australia. It has been very easy to communicate with everyone in my course and the professors as everyone speaks fluent English which has been very useful. Having studied Spanish at home I had looked forward to the challenge of talking to the locals in Spanish and I have found that it is at the least at a level where I can survive though my vocabulary has been a major obstacle. It has surprised me though that the local students at the University here all seem to have an impressive comprehension of English which has only spurred me on to hopefully continue improving my Spanish. So far we have visited two of their campuses each remarkable. The Queretaro campus especially has been amazing. We have stayed in the halls of residence here and the University as a whole has a strong sense of identity as it is one big campus. The infrastructure in the cities has been amazing and if had not been for this trip I don’t think I would have visited these amazing cities!
The Course work so far has been thoroughly engaging. We have looked at what makes doing business in Mexico unique due to their cultural , social and economic differences. Learning about Mexico’s young population and why it is an attractive and also unattractive destination for foreign investment has been very interesting. The lecturers have brought the content to life in a way I have not really experienced at UOA with an immersive and engaging learning style due to the small lecture sizes which all carry the feeling of tutorials. Away from University, Mexico City and Queretaro have been beautiful cities that I would certainly recommend anyone to visit due to their remarkably beautiful cities. What has been most notable to me is the comparative cheapness of a night out for dinner with a few drinks; with fancier restaurants costing up to $20 NZD for delicious meals and drinks. Thanks for reading! I hope you visit or go on exchange to Mexico someday! George Tate

Mimi – Exploring Mexico

I started my journey on the iWinterMX exchange in Mexico City in January. Not knowing what to expect from Mexico or the exchange, I have been constantly surprised and thrilled by the university experience I have received from Tec de Monterrey and the food and the rich culture here.

Our first week in Mexico City was packed with full days at the university which included company visits, eating at the university cafeteria, conferences, and then lots of our own adventures. One of my favourite company visits was to PepsiCo, where our group was taken to the Mexican headquarters and introduced to the company. We got to understand some of the different strategies the company uses for different products, a tour around their company and my most favourite- a bag filled with an assortment of their Mexican products. This visit was super beneficial as we are studying business in Mexico, so having an immersive experience with the employees at such a large multinational was an incredible opportunity.

Touring Mexico City has been beyond my expectations and with a population of 22 million the city is massive with lots of historical sights and places to visits! The town we stayed in near the university was very built up, developed and very new. This was a big contrast to when we visited the centre of the city as the buildings were much more historical, colourful and crowded with people! I loved travelling around the centre as we got to try more local street food, visit the Frida Kahlo museum and shop at the local markets.

After spending a week in Mexico City we spent the day travelling towards Queretaro, a 3-hour drive away. On the way we made a stop at the Teotihuacan ruins, which we got to climb to the top of, while a tour guide told us the history of the pyramids and the purpose they once had for Mexico.

Mimi Brannon

Happiness that spreads

As someone who spent more than half of their life in Brazil, I thought I was prepared for what was to come. I was wrong. Even flying over Mexico, you can start to feel how different this country is from anywhere else in the World.

And it’s not just the view. Sure; one minute there is cactuses ‘till the horizon, the next there are colorful villages, and all of a sudden there are office blocs and huge motorways. It is all very impressive. But it’s not just that. It’s the vibe: everyone is happy, everyone is relaxed, everyone is full of spirit, independent of the situation. Even when something bad or stressful is happening, Mexicans find a way to turn it around; they stick together and they never let their spirits down.

What I found amazing is that this love and affection spreads to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you go into a shop and don’t buy anything; people will still tell you (and truly hope) that you have a great day. It doesn’t matter if it is exam season- if someone sees you are lost, they will go out of their way to show you where to go. It doesn’t matter if you speak some or no Spanish, they will find a way for the communication to work; because they want you to have a great time in their country.

However, these are all things that can you can see in pictures or be told in stories. There is one thing about Mexico that words cannot explain: how contagious all the energy is.

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Bree, Anneliese, Rebecca and I. Mexico has brought us together in a way that no one would guess we’ve only been friends for about two weeks.

It was easy during my first few days here, as I arrived before my course started and got to enjoy a bit of a holiday. I was a bit concerned it would all die down once classes started. But again, I was wrong. The whole atmosphere in the campus, the in-class discussions, the content and even the study was all more than exciting.

It’s like you get the whole benefits of being on holiday- sight seeing, meeting new people, trying new foods… but you also get to learn valuable things in a country completely different from anywhere else. Even the day of my exam, there was no stress. Why? Because learning here is fun. It is enjoyable. Everyone is helpful, and you immerse yourself in the learning- it’s not just reading and understanding, it’s feeling, it’s being and it’s loving.

I’d like to thank Education New Zealand and the PMSLA, for aiding the opportunity for me to truly get amongst Mexican culture in a way that personal travel would have never allowed me to. It is through their aid that students like me grow into the future New Zealand professionals, assisting with the ever growing interconnectedness of Kiwis and Latin Nations.  

Rebecca: The Heart of Mexico!

Built on top of an ancient lake bed, Mexico City has centuries of history beneath and among it. With precisely four days before our studies started, we set to work on getting to know the heart of Mexico!

Our first look was in the downtown Zocalo district which plays host to numerous historical sites including the magnificent Catedral Metropolitana, the ruins of Templo Mayor and the Palacio des Bellas Artes. Despite being surrounded by so many incredible sights, one of my highlights was when we discovered a clowder of cats in the government house, complete with their own cat-shaped houses and beds! Now that’s a good way to run a country!

Catedral Metropolitana
The National Palace (government house)
Palacio des Bellas Artes
Cute cats!!!
The streets of Mexico City
Cute cat houses!!!

We spent sunset up the Mirador Torre which is the CDMX equivalent of the SkyTower. With amazing 360 degree views, it really sunk in just how vast and expansive this city was. Even at 10pm on a Wednesday night, the streets were packed with people shopping, eating and dancing – it didn’t take long before we decided to join them.

Views from the Mirador Torre

Our studies started in Santa Fe where we were put up in the Novotel Hotel (!!!) which was only a two-minute ride away from the Tec de Mont campus. With plenty of classrooms, conference halls and even a NFL field, there was plenty to explore on campus alone. Our lecture content for the week was focused on globalisation and the part Mexico has played, is playing and can potentially play in it. They were all very interactive and gave us a chance to really discuss our own ideas and form our own opinions.

Technologico de Monterrey Santa Fe Campus

In between classes, we had a company visit to PepsiCo and a conference with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, both of which were full of knowledge of the cultural practices and the unique market position Mexico has from people with first-hand experience.

PepsiCo Headquarters CMDX
PepsiCo Conference

Having left New Zealand with only a (very, very) basic grasp of Spanish, the language barrier has not been as difficult as I expected. Most of this has come down to the helpfulness and loveliness of all the people we’ve come across who seemed pleased that we were making an effort and tried their best to translate for us. I feel it is so important to say that despite all the negative news, I have felt safe in Mexico. I know that we have been lucky enough to stay in wealthier areas but I still feel that the image that has been portrayed of Mexico as an unsafe travel environment is inaccurate – the helpfulness of all those I have encountered so far is a testament to that.

The Tec de Mont NZ Cohort

It’s been a great start to the trip and I’m so looking forward to seeing what the rest of it has to offer! Thank you so much to 360 International and Education NZ for this incredible PMSLA experience!

Rebecca McCulloch