With the Olympic Games heading for Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and FIFA World Cup matches to be held in no fewer than 12 Brazilian cities in 2014, the eyes of the world are now firmly fixed on the Latin American giant. Aside from its sporting credentials, Brazil has seen significant growth in personal wealth over the past three decades: the middle classes have grown from 15% of the population in the early 1980s, to nearly a third of the country’s 190 million today, according to the World Bank. Such encouraging prospects may be tempered by the country’s complex tax regime, but this only served to make Santander’s second Breakthrough trade mission to Brazil even more exciting and challenging. The initiative’s core aim is to help delegates negotiate both the opportunities and the difficulties.

Melanie Powell, responsible for Breakthrough International and Masterclasses for Santander, says the first issue to understand is the size and complexity of this market. “I think people can perhaps underestimate Brazil and don’t necessarily understand how to approach its political and financial geography,” she says. “It is so powerful in terms of natural resources and its biggest minus – its sheer size – is also its biggest plus. The country is vast and there is scope for a wide range of sectors. However, within such a huge country, operations can be quite difficult to manage logistically. We aim to educate businesses on all aspects of doing business in Brazil: including legal, tax and logistics.”

Trade mission delegates spent the first half of their week in Brazil based in Sao Paulo, where they attended a presentation given by UK Trade and Industry and a reception at the deputy consulate’s residence. They also met with representatives of Santander.

Gaining a foothold

For the second half of their visit, attendees were based in Rio de Janeiro, where they met representatives from the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee to learn about the kind of opportunities that might arise for UK businesses during, and in the run up to, the Games. They also met accountants from KPMG, local lawyers, and professionals from a logistics company. This broad range of contacts is important given Brazil’s ever-changing business landscape.

Gaining a foothold in this potentially lucrative market also requires time, care and planning. “The Brazilian market is all about building relationships, so businesses really need to focus on that,” says Melanie. “One of the most important things to keep front of mind is that you need to get the best advice you can from lawyers, accountants and finance professionals as you will need to go armed with as much knowledge as possible. This is a long-haul, but the rewards are likely to be significant.”

Delegates came away from Brazil having gained insights into the practicalities of doing business there, as well as useful contacts. “Meetings have led to new relationships and hopefully delegates have been successful in starting to develop these,” Melanie says. “This is a great market with a lot of opportunity.”