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Case studies


In 2019, David Behrends, head of Trading and Managing Partner at Sucafina, founded and launched Farmer Connect, a blockchain-based end-to-end transparent solution for the coffee trading industry. Following its successful launch, the tool needs to scale, which means bringing the whole coffee ‘ecosystem’ on board, analyzing the future structure of Farmer Connect in relation to Sucafina, resolving issues of fundraising and partnerships, as well as incorporating key learnings from a 2020 pilot in Brazil. The case follows the intrapreneurial journey of David, Farmer Connect and Sucafina. It puts managers in the driving seat, asking them to reflect on what it means to create value through innovation, and to disrupt an industry using technology to create positive social impact.

This is a follow-up to case A, which describes Operation “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) in Brazil, one of biggest anti-corruption investigations in the world. It laid bare the shady relationships between government contractors, political campaign agencies and high-profile politicians in what were known as ‘pay-for-play’ schemes – bribes and campaign contributions paid by major corporations to officials and political parties in exchange for lucrative government contracts that were over-invoiced to ‘cover the costs’. Case B describes the latest developments until the end of 2020, including how former Judge Sergio Moro joined, then resigned from President Bolsonaro’s government, corruption scandals related to Covid-19, and discusses the changes that Operation Car Wash brought to companies in Brazil, namely Petrobras and Odebrecht.

The case describes the creation and evolution of Brazil’s first low-cost airline – GOL. From the outset GOL was driven by innovation and within a few years of operating had become the country’s leading airline. Although initially a low-cost carrier, over the years it became increasingly customer-centric, striving to improve the customer experience by removing the pain points of air travel. As competition from new low-cost entrants intensified, could GOL maintain its lead in the domestic market? Was it destined to become the Uber of the airways, in a segment between low-cost and full-service offerings, relying on innovation to keep costs down? The case discusses GOL’s options for growth, specifically its potential for international expansion.

The case study traces the development of FC Barcelona’s Innovation Hub (BIH) and its plans to go global. It describes how factors on and off the pitch led to the launch and how the BIH is preparing the club for the future at the centre of an ecosystem that includes prestigious brands, universities, start-ups, and athletes worldwide, all linked by a culture of excellence. The case considers FC Barcelona’s competitive environment and its approach to digital disruption (of broadcasting, player performance, fan engagement), the professionalization of football, and the “ambidexterity” of club strategy.

With the globalization of wine, the wine industry in Portugal has experienced a major shift from a local to a global focus over the last 30 years. Quinta do Vallado, one of the major players in that process, has seen exports double (to account for 40% of revenues) and a 10-fold increase in foreign markets (from 5 in 2000 to 48 in 2020). The case sets out the different choices facing the estate in 2020 as it looks to achieve further growth while staying loyal to the vineyard’s heritage in a volatile world

The case describes how the Italian multinational Enel Group, one of the largest power utilities companies in the world, embraced the transformation of the energy sector, combining open innovation with sustainability – or what the company calls “Innovability”). CEO Francesco Starace believes that technology and business model innovation are the key to reducing CO2 emissions and creating a more sustainable future by boosting renewable energy production. From 2014, he makes innovation and sustainability his strategic pillars, embracing the notion of ‘open innovation’ – harvesting ideas externally (rather than just in-house) from an ecosystem of start-ups, SMEs, universities, researchers, suppliers, other corporations, and employees

Case A focuses on the history of Embraer, which has grown to become one of Brazil’s most successful enterprises and the world’s number four global aviation company. After tripling in size from 2000 to 2007, its business succumbed to the global financial crisis. Embraer launched an internal programme for business excellence, resulting in the development of executive jets. Following the success of the ER jet, it continues to diversify its offerings and expand globally. In October 2017, rivals Airbus and Bombardier Inc. announced a partnership for the C Series programme – single-aisle aircraft ranging from 100 to 150 seats. This hailed a new chapter in the industry, which will be marked by competition from other emerging markets, notably China.

The case describes Operation “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) in Brazil, one of largest anti-corruption investigations in the world. Operation Car Wash brought to light the shady relationships between government contractors, political campaign agencies and high-profile politicians in what were known as ‘pay-for-play’ schemes – bribes and campaign contributions paid by major corporations to government officials and political parties in exchange for lucrative government contracts which were over-invoiced to ‘cover the costs’. By March 2018, 123 defendants had been convicted (their cumulative prison sentences amounting to 1,861 years), many from the highest echelons of government and business.

Jean-Marc Frangos, Managing Director of Products & Services Research and Open Innovation at BT Group is looking to optimize the London-based telcom company’s external innovation process – scouting for new technologies from Silicon Valley, Israel and Asia. Having taken on responsibility for some of BT’s internal research labs in 2017, he needs to boost synergies between internal research and external innovation, and to evaluate how these will play out in the future for telecom companies and the implications for BT.

The case discusses the globalization of fashion and the trajectory of Fashion Forward Dubai. Since its inception in 2013, FFWD had striven to offer an alternative to traditional fashion weeks by showcasing collections of local designers to fashion buyers, journalists and customers on the catwalk and on internet. Over 15,000 attendees came to the show and more than 100,000 followed it online. In 2018, FFWD’s co-founder, Ramzi Nakad, has to decide whether to continue the B2B+B2C event showcasing emerging brands in Dubai Design District, or create a digital fashion platform to sell direct-to-customers and give brands instant international exposure and access to e-commerce without the high costs of runway shows. The case asks to what extent the global fashion industry is ripe for digital disruption.

The case presents the “leapfrogging” opportunities for Latin America brought by the digital revolution and innovation. It examines the region’s economic and commercial achievements made possible by the huge penetration of mobile vs fixed broadband. In addition, digital transformation is helping to address social issues such as financial exclusion, unemployment and healthcare. Also, by improving transparency in the system, digital has the potential to reduce corruption, one of the biggest obstacles to doing business in Latin America.

Thirty years after being founded by CEO Marco Stefanini, Stefanini is one of the largest providers of ICT services in Latin America. Unlike most Brazilian (and Latin American) companies, Stefanini has focused on international markets for many years. As a truly global company with presence in 41 countries it is one of the most globalized companies in Brazil, with 21, 200 employees and over US$800 million in revenues. In 2017, Stefanini is helping many companies with their digital transformation/journey, while at the same time being transformed itself as traditional sources of revenue diminish/disappear. Hence digital is both a great opportunity (in terms of new business) but also a challenge. How Stefanini will transform itself? What avenues to growth exist, and what alternatives in terms of new business models, new geographies, acquisitions?

This is a condensed version of the cases EBX Group (A): Eike Batista and the X-Factor/EBX Group (B): Autopsy of a failure. It describes the boom and bust of the EBX Group and its founder, Eike Batista. The first part traces the history of the Brazilian conglomerate from its origins as a small gold-mining operation in the early 1980s to 2012 when it has become a diversified national and global player in multiple industries. It examines Batista’s personal drive, motivations and choices, and how these influenced the strategy deployed by the company. Known for his huge ‘risk appetite’, Batista had an extraordinary ability to exploit gaps in the market when starting new businesses. The second part of the case recounts the “historic” downfall of the ‘X Empire’ which was of a magnitude and speed never seen before in the history. Batista’s personal net worth of US$30 billion – making him the seventh wealthiest person in the world and the richest in Brazil – had plummeted to US$200 million as debts piled up and the stock price went into freefall. In January 2014, Bloomberg reported that Batista had “a negative net worth”.

The Swiss company TAG Heuer, maker of luxury watches, is part of the LVMH group (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton). In 2015, CEO Jean-Claude Biver is deciding whether to launch its first-ever fully connected Swiss watch, manufactured in partnership with Google and Intel. Entering this new market presents an unprecedented challenge: making a watch based on a technology (microprocessors) that the Swiss have not mastered. Is TAG Heuer ready to compete in the digital space - and potentially without the traditional 'Swiss Made' label? 

Case B takes up the story following the successful launch of the TAG Heuer connected watch. Sales are beyond all expectations for the luxury Swiss watchmaker and its partners Intel and Google. There are a few surprises too – the consumers are older than they expected and the watches sell out far quicker than anticipated – hence the company runs into some supply chain issues.

Case A explores the career trajectory of Eike Batista, CEO and founder of EBX, a Brazilian conglomerate focused on mining, oil & gas, shipping and other industries, who is already looking to expand into new markets while his existing businesses are only just moving into an operational phase. His success comes from his strength in exploiting the institutional void in Brazil to uncover new market opportunities; operationalizing these new businesses is quite another challenge.

. Case B charts the extraordinary debacle of EBX Group and Eike Batista, who loses US$30 billion in one year.

Banco do Brasil, a leading Brazilian bank and one of its most established institutions, has a number of growth options. After a long but timid internationalization trajectory, it foresees various foreign expansion opportunities based on Brazil's accelerating economy and international visibility. These economic and social improvements also open up tempting domestic opportunities.


The case presents a situation in which Merck's World Wide Licensing (WWL) division needs to make important organizational decisions to increase the speed, the breadth and the efficiency of its global licensing and partnering activities. Pedagogical Objectives: Understand why and how firms are becoming more open to external knowledge, and the structural and behavioral challenges in organizing a global licensing/partnering function within a large multinational corporation.


London Business School

The case explores the open innovation strategy of the UK-based BT Group, one of the largest telecommunication services providers in the world. A combination of market deregulation and the convergence of formerly distinct industries presented BT with an intensity of competition that many considered unprecedented in the industry. Most BT executives believed that in order to succeed in such a competitive market, BT needed to increasingly introduce new products and services and that those innovations would not come out of BT's own labs alone. Therefore, BT's ability to source and commercialise external innovation was paramount to its survival. In this context, BT decided to establish a number of technology scouting units around the world to spot emerging business models and technologies and flag them to the lines of business in the UK. The case describes the challenges and benefits of this technology scouting process To further accelerate the process of bringing external innovation inside, BT must now decide whether to establish scouting units in other parts of the world, to increase the number of staff in the existing scouting units or to have more people in the UK trying to sell internally the ideas spotted by the scouting units. Thz case can be found on the 

  • Monteiro, L.F. Ghoshal, S.; Gratton, L. 2005. Royal Bank of Scotland. London Business School case CS-06-011.


  • Monteiro, L.F; Sull, D.; Ghoshal, S. 2005. Emirates Airlines, London Business School case CS-0513, ecch case 305149-1.

The case is set in July 2004 as the top executives of Emirates Airline – one of the most profitable and fastest growing airlines in the world – consider the challenges the company will face in achieving its ambitious growth objectives. Less than two decades after its foundation, Emirates had just places the biggest order in civil aviation history. Emirates’ order for 45 of the Airbus 555 passenger A380 aircraft is larger then the combined orders placed by the next three largest buyers. The case explores the reasons for Emirates success to date and describes in detail the actions the airline’s top management team took to emerge as a global leader in the airline industry. It provides an opportunity to discuss the challenges facing the airline in scaling the organisation for future growth and how firms can build and sustain a competitive advantage in a volatile industry.


Harvard Business School

Enables a thorough analysis of, a B2C e-commerce company with a presence in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and Portugal. Examines the company's global operations as well as its organizational design and operating and management capabilities. Considers the company's challenge of determining its strategic and financial priorities as it launches a rapid growth plan with limited resources in 2001.

  • Arnold, D.; Herrero, G.; Monteiro, L.F. . 2001. Elektra. Harvard Business School Publishing, Case 9-502-039 (also published in Spanish, Harvard Business School Publishing Case, 9-503-S39). - Also published by HBSP in Spanish

Grupo Elektra is Latin America's largest consumer finance company based on credit sales in its hard goods retail outlets. It has started to internationalize in Latin America but now must to decide whether to enter the U.S. Hispanic market and which of its two core businesses (retail and finance) to emphasize.

  • Bower, J.L.; Monteiro, L.F.; Hout, S. 2001. Gerdau. Harvard Business School Publishing, Case 9-302-016 - Also published by HBSP in Chinese

Gerdau Group is a family-controlled Brazilian manufacturer and distributor of long steel products. Describes the evolution of the company's strategy, organization, and smart management, making it the No. 2 steel producer in Brazil. The company must decide whether to buy AmeriSteel, the No. 2 long steel producer in the United States. Considers the strategic, organizational, financial, and human issues posed by the potential acquisition.

  • Applegate, L.; Monteiro, L.F.; Collura, M. 2001. Note on E-Commerce in Latin America. Harvard Business School Publishing, Note 9-801-388.

Examines the vast potential offered by e-commerce in Latin America. Addresses both B2B and B2C e-commerce, as well as the specific economic, cultural, and technological barriers for doing business online in the region.

Embraer is the story of a company from a developing country, Brazil, that has become the leader in a high-tech field, regional passenger jets. Embraer's first family of regional jets has been highly successful and, at the time of the case, it is embarking on a major commitment to a second, larger family. At the same time, though, it is embroiled in a bitter dispute at the World Trade Organization about Brazilian export financing. In addition, it faces issues related to its capital structure and corporate strategy.