01 Jun 2001
Alejandro Ramirez: A Very Good Time for Mexicoby Julia HannaTopics:
In 1996, Alejandro Ramirez (MBA 2001) was poised to accept one of two coveted spots in
the U.N. Junior Professional Officer Program. For Ramirez, who had spent the
previous fifteen months conducting research on economic and human
development issues at the World Bank and the United Nations, the offer was a
Meanwhile, however, back in his hometown of Morelia, Mexico, the family
business, Organización Ramirez Cinemas, was facing a serious challenge.
My grandfather and my father called and said, We really need
your help here, Ramirez recalls. NAFTA changed our
business environment drastically. Suddenly, we found ourselves facing
Although he felt a little bit torn, Ramirez returned to Mexico.
My family had always been there for me, so I wanted to help in
whatever way I could, he says. In less than a year, at age 25, Ramirez
was promoted to COO and began a major restructuring of the 5,000-employee
company. It was hard, he admits. There were people who had
been working at the company almost as long as Id been alive. But I
think I was able to gain their support because I went in with a learning
When he coauthored the United Nations Human Development Report in
1996, Ramirez may not have imagined himself attending to the details of
running the largest movie theater chain in Latin America. Yet, he relished
the challenge. Learning about the business world helped me to grow and
develop new skills. I love films, too its a cultural industry,
not boring at all, he says, listing Indochine, Cinema Paradiso, and
Dead Poets Society among his favorites.
While he devoted weekdays to the family business, Ramirez spent weekends
continuing his economic research and serving as a part-time consultant to
presidential candidate Vicente Fox, who was then governor of the state of
Guanajuato. I didnt want to abandon the business or my
research, because both were important to me, recalls Ramirez.
After Foxs historic victory last summer, Ramirez joined a team of six
development and poverty experts who helped design the social policy of the
new administration. He was then asked to join the new government. He elected
instead to return to HBS, a decision he does not regret. Ive
been fortunate enough to do research with Professor Michael Porter,
Ramirez says. Our work on the determinants of regional inequality and
microeconomic competitiveness in Mexico will be used there by the
Presidents Office on Strategic Planning and Regional Development.
Now is a very good time for Mexico, adds Ramirez. We have
a fully democratic government for the first time in 71 years. Fox has
brought legitimacy to a new form of government that is inclusive of wider
sectors of Mexican society.
Before he returns to Mexico, Ramirez will continue his doctoral studies at
Cambridge University with economist Amartya Sen. Ramirez, who studied under
Sen previously at Harvard and Oxford Universities, names the Nobel laureate
as one of his greatest influences. Professor Sen has changed the way
governments and international organizations define and measure development.
People who are intellectually courageous really move the frontiers of
knowledge, says Ramirez, who seems well on his way to doing just that.
Class of MBA 2001, Section I