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If you like Carlos Slim's story, you might also like:
Steve Case,
Ray Dalio,
Michael Dell,
Michael Eisner,
Lawrence Ellison,
Bill Gates,
Henry Kravis,
Craig McCaw,
Ted Turner,
Stephen Schwarzman and
Dennis Washington


Related Links:
Carlos Slim's Web Site
Fundación Carso
Grupo Carso
Forbes.com

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Carlos Slim
 
Carlos Slim
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Carlos Slim Interview (page: 2 / 9)

Financier and Philanthropist

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  Carlos Slim

Your mobile phone business is a huge customer base. Can you deduce what other products or services these customers might be interested in?


Carlos Slim: You are now going to give more services. You (already) give voice. Now you give data, like we were looking, as a mass effort. Now the digital cameras will get out of the market because the mobile will be the camera and will be everything. No? And you will give data, and you will give some video information and other kinds of services by the phone, also maybe finance and it will be connected to the Internet. Actually, the computers, there is a lot, because which will be the laptop? I think the laptop will be the mobile. Instead of bringing a laptop, you have a small one, and you connect it to -- when you arrive to your home or to your office -- to your PC. But what we are proposing -- I was proposing to the people of Nokia and we met with Steve Jobs (from Apple) and Jim (Balsillie) from BlackBerry -- is for education, to give to all the children with low income, without income, the -- what we're working on, digital alphabetization -- a mobile instead of a laptop, and that he connect it, not to the computer, but to the screen of the TV, because people don't have a PC, but have a screen in his TV.


When you can connect your mobile to the screen in your TV, people with very low income or without income can have access (to the Internet). The other point is that the server can be the school's, or be given by the company. There are going to be many things. In one year or two years, coming very fast. It's interesting because everything I'm telling you, I don't understand very well. I understand that the Internet is very important, that you can be connected, that you can have a chip in your phone and you can connect that to your screen. All the students -- six, eight, ten-year-olds -- with any handset connected to a screen can have a connection to the Internet.

With 150 million customers, you can deduce a little about their income, their financial habits.

Carlos Slim Interview Photo
Carlos Slim: It's more important to increase their income, to increase the capacity of acquisition. We have 150 million, but we're just growing. We could grow 25 million this year. I don't know. Twenty-five or 30 million. The real challenge is to change our underdevelopment. We have 150 million people, but we have maybe 200 million in poverty that don't have access to all these things. In the U.S., the average revenue per customer is $50. We have $12 or $10. We need to increase the revenue. It's a big gap.

How do you deal with disappointment in business? When things don't go well, how do you channel that disappointment?

Carlos Slim: I think in business, you need to have flexibility. If you're not doing well, correct it. Try to have small mistakes, not big mistakes. Sometimes you have big mistakes. Everyone has big mistakes, but try to make mostly small mistakes in life. I think, in business and in personal life, try not to make big mistakes.

There are so many circumstances outside of your control that can create big mistakes, not because you didn't do your work well, not because it wasn't a good idea, but outside forces, whether it's government regulations or new laws. How do you look at the world today, knowing those outside circumstances exist?

Carlos Slim: I think the future will be great. Maybe in the next year we'll have a big crisis in the world, but for me, it's very clear that a new civilization is developing and sustaining the welfare of others. As much as the others are better, everyone is better.


Fighting poverty is now an economic need. It is not only a social issue or a social justice or ethical problem. It's an economic need, because in the future, I think that everyone will want to have the others educated, the others with income, because they will be the market. They will sustain the growing of the economy, the welfare of the others. That means that I don't know when, but things will be very good.


I'm clear also that there will be problems before we arrive at that stage, like it's happening now.

You have a real sense of purpose, figuring out how to manage your wealth, how to deal with this new civilization, and to eliminate poverty.


Carlos Slim: First of all, I think that telecommunications is like a nervous system of the civilization, in the new civilization, like I was telling, a civilization of services. Technology has gone so far that productivity is very high, and when you have productivity very high, you can create goods and services at a very low cost and a very important scale. That means that people don't need to work so much, so much time, and the productivity so high, it creates wealth more easily, and the issue is how to make the conduct of the society and the economy by the government to make these things work. I think China is doing a great job in that direction. I think they are very clear about the long-term mission, and they understand what globalization is, and they are looking to globalization and making it work for them, develop for them.


Do you think Latin America can learn from China?

Carlos Slim: I think each country has its own conditions. A country with one billion people is different than a country with one million. A country with so much population has a big domestic economy and will be the main issue to manage. India and maybe Brazil and Mexico. But I think each country has its own situation and its own step (pace) of development that is different, but what is clear is that everyone will -- should learn from China, from Korea, but mostly learn from them to have clear education. Go from the alphabetization (literacy) to the "intel alphabetization" (computer literacy). Not to teach "A, B, C, D," but the convergence, connectivity, and modern education. Middle and superior education levels and strong, strong work, strong in education, very strong in education and science, technology, engineering, all this. Richelieu, at the first part of 17th century, said you need to support the mechanical arts. No? Mechanical education. I think now it is very important to teach about all these issues -- without taking out humanism (the humanities) -- and this education, and create jobs and create activity, economic activity, investment, reinvestment.

You've been quoted as saying that "the key to the future is the Internet."

Carlos Slim: Not exactly. I like to know about history, the history of my country. But I'm also interested in the universe, astrophysics, in the origin of the universe, the origin of man, and the development of man.


If you look at the development of man, from five million years or six million years (ago) to now, the different times, and how it begins only 10,000 years to find the agriculture and the civilization, and how the civilization is so near, so short term, and how the civilization has developed, for me it is very clear, the new civilization that we are living in, after the agricultural civilization, the industrial civilization. In this new civilization -- the good thing of this new civilization -- is that the welfare of people is what gives the success of this society. In the agricultural civilization, the men make the exploitation of the men and the land. That's why they were slaves and they were not nobility. And like you born, you live all your life in the same place and in the same social way. And the power was monolithic, with political power, economic power, military power and religious power all together. The emperor came from the divinity, the pharaoh came from the divinity, the monarchy came from the divinity, all worked together. The same in Mexico as in China, Japan or any place. That was monolithic, the power. With the new civilization, from the industry, from the industrial civilization, it changed completely. The paradigms are very different. And the paradigms are democracy, liberty, plurality, human rights, environment, globalization, competence. The good thing is that before, you exploit the raw materials, the land, and the people. Slavery was not an accident, it was part of the paradigm of the civilization. But in the new civilization, poverty is not business like before. You need to have people with income. You need to have people involved in the new economy, with time to relax and look at entertainment and other areas. Well then, the future of the civilization is there.



I think the government should have a clear vision of this new civilization, because the best investment is to fight poverty. The best investment is to fight poverty. In the past, it was ethical and moral and social justice, but now it is an economic need. A country like U.S., that they say is a consumption economy, consumption population, is not a consumption population. It's a welfare population. That's what should be done all around the world. Maybe a Third World War -- how you say it -- against poverty. It's clear for me that it will come, and people will be out of poverty, and for that you need education. You need education and education. What we need in our countries is development, employment and education. That's clear. It's not Internet. It is this. And as much as you have people with income and with employment and better income and better employment, you will have better markets, bigger markets. That's what's very important for the governments to look at, because there will be many bottlenecks in the future. Energy is one, but we will have many bottlenecks, because the poor people of the world -- like China, India, Latin America -- will get involved in the market, and sooner than what we wait. That means that they should be conducted, these changes. These transformations should be conducted. That is not Internet. It's all this in the future.


Is it important for someone in business to understand history?

Carlos Slim: Very important. I think so, in two ways. First, if you're in business you need to understand the environment. You need to have a vision of the future, and for that you need to know the past. That is very important. But also, on the personal side. A businessman cannot be only business. You need to have more interests. Life offers a lot of interests, many things to know, to learn, to feel, to live.

Could you tell us a little bit about your early life, growing up? Were you a city boy or a country boy?

Carlos Slim: The city. All my life in the city, in Mexico City.

What was your childhood like in Mexico City?

Carlos Slim: I enjoyed it a lot. In the first years I went to a very small school. I had kindergarten two blocks from my home. We were five in my class, and the park was just in front. We'd play in the park and I enjoyed my first years a lot. All my years, but especially when I was a child. I enjoyed it a lot, with many friends. A very good family -- my father and my mother. I have five brothers and sisters. And I studied in small schools all my life until I finished half of the secondary school. That's your high school. Instead of high school, we have three years of secondary school after primary, and then two years of preparatory, and five years of college. Then I went to the National University. That's one of the biggest universities in the world. More than 300,000 students there.

When you were growing up, were you a good student?

Carlos Slim: It's interesting. Some years I was very good and some years no. In some subjects I was very good and in others I was very bad, but in secondary I was very good. In primary and in college I was very good in some subjects. I was very good in my second year and the third year. In the fourth or fifth year I was thinking of a change of career but I began to give classes, like a professor in the university, when I was in third year.

What were you interested in as a child?

Carlos Slim Interview Photo
Carlos Slim: I liked to play. I liked numbers. My father was a businessman, and he'd go off to his business, the commerce, and he tried to teach us how to work when we were very young. Maybe eight years, ten years old. I liked some sports, to look at some of them, or to play with groups like baseball or football, basketball. We had a park in front and we played with our neighbors. Sometimes in those times there were no cars and you could play baseball in the street. We used to play it in the park. American football and baseball. I was the youngest of the group. Nearly the youngest.

What was difficult for you, growing up?

Carlos Slim: It was difficult when my father died. My father died when I was 13 and I had difficult times. Maybe two years. It was adolescence and it was also the death of my father. Very difficult times for me.

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This page last revised on Apr 06, 2012 14:46 EST
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