01 Jun 2001

Alejandro Ramirez: A Very Good Time for Mexico

by Julia Hanna


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 perfect fit.

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 international competition.”

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 I’d been alive. But I think I was able to gain their support because I went in with a learning attitude.”

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 — it’s 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 didn’t want to abandon the business or my research, because both were important to me,” recalls Ramirez.

After Fox’s 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. “I’ve 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 President’s 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.

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2001, Section I

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