Soffi Enrico, 45, left Italy and came to Brazil focused on building apartments of up to R$ 270,000, geared towards the middle class. He invested R$1 million in 2010 and is expected to increase by at least 50% of the contributions in 2011. “We want to take advantage of the lack of housing for the class C and B, which are growing and don’t have the ability to buy a home of R$ 600,000,” says Soffi, who sees an “extraordinary” boom in the country.
Enrico’s case is not isolated, according to Central Bank data, more than R$ 15 billion of foreign money came into the economy of the country in December alone, through direct investment in production. Last year, the amount reached R$ 48.4 billion, the highest level since 1947 amid a scenario where the economy in Brazil is warm and rich countries of Europe are struggling to overcome the legacy left by the financial crisis.
To avoid getting lost in a market that differs in language, tax system and cultural preferences, Enrico sought the help of expert advice and did well. A different outcome had Sonia Ferrari, also Italian, which took more than a year to be able to get a permanent visa to work in Brazil as an investor: she faced a lot of bureaucracy to understand what was wrong with the documentation.
“It took me a while to realize that I was in trouble, nothing is done without experience. I saw that i was badly advised and went looking for it later and test more offices,” she says that once she got the correct advice, she got the visa in less two months. Still, she believes that the potential gains outweigh the obstacles in Brazil.
“It’s definitely worth it. For any large company it would be a fatal mistake not to conquer your space here today, and prepare for an even better future from those that we are already living here in Brazil today,” she analyzes. “I know of many American and European firms that were already here before the crisis and that the profits here helped their balance sheets,” she says.
Today, she started a company to target foreigners in the same state of “helplessness” that she once was. More than that, representing European brands that need contacts, distribution, buyers and partners to enter their operations in Brazil. The main focus are the brands of shoes, handbags and accessories, in projects that will total more than R$ 15 million just in the year of implementation.
“We must understand the culture of the country and its peculiarities, and do it with professional advisors with proven experience. A company that wants to enter the country and have no problems can not underestimate this aspect,” explains Sonia.
At KPMG, the demand of foreigners for information about Brazil grew so much that the company created a special unit for this type of care. The KPMG Global Business, established in November, aims to give the foreigner an intensive course about the country.
“We took representatives from various sectors to give a ‘bath’ of Brazil in the investor; strategically organize consultations that have already occurred separately. We think this is what the government should do as well: an information center to welcome the public” says Marienne Coutinho, one of the leaders of the project.
Augusto Salles, another member of the Global Business Leader, says that foreign demand increased from two visits per week to two a day. Varied backgrounds – USA, England, China, India and Japan appear among stakeholders – and doubts of all kinds. From Chinese companies interested in investing billions, up to U.S. companies that covet the market for water tanks in Brazil. “There are different levels of knowledge. Some already know the quirks, the size, the emerging economy. Others have a naive view, like: ‘I have a killer water tank that will make millions in Brazil. Do you use water tanks in Brazil? “says Salles.
Much of the interest of this country by international money comes from the potential growth of the Brazilian consumption. A survey conducted by KPMG with potential investors from several countries indicates that, of 500 interviewed, 66% said they think about investing in Brazil to increase the customer base through local and regional markets.
Jenesi Figueiredo also guides foreigners on FK Consulting and says that one reason for such attractiveness to Brazil is the bad situation in Europe, overwhelmed by the crisis. In his office, which grew by 20% last year, he meets in Italian, English, Swedish and even Arabic.
“Immigration has rules, and some people do not believe that to be deported. We have many Italians, Spaniards and Germans come depending on the Olympics and World Cup,” he says.
The French engineer Vincent Lefeuvre, 40, celebrates the fact that he ss interested in investing in Brazil since before 2002, the year he married a Rio de Janeiro native and moved here permanently.
“I arrived from Europe before the crisis, but it was during the crisis that I realized that I had a good reason to invest in Brazil. Now I have in front of others an advantage of five years. And that is golden in the business world,” says owner of Tecohnopolis Consulting, which specializes in designing and implementing manufacturing and partnerships between foreign and Brazilian companies in the industrial sector. It is expected that in 2011 the company invests between R$ 200,000 and R$ 400,000 in offices and hiring qualified personnel in the area of project management and procurement.
According to the French gentleman, the way to avoid problems due to lack of information is to seek private help. “It’s a permanent obstacle course. Problems do not prevent the company from working, but has a cost of time and energy too high,” he says, already accustomed to the slowness of the process. “The bureaucracy is terrible. But it is not worse than in France.”