Paulo Cunha 

  • Chair, Grupo Ultra (Petroleum and Natural Gas; Chemicals)
Born Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1940. BSc. Industrial Engineering, Pontifical Catholic University (1962).
“You don’t sell the molecule; you sell the effect. This means you need more technology, you need more people, you need more technical assistance, greater interaction with the client, a deeper relation. That is what we learned.”

Video Clips

Cunha describes the lesson he learned as a young man at Petrobras about having confidence in his ability to handle more responsibility than he thought he could.

Cunha explains how government actions in the 1990s did not help Brazil's international competitiveness.

Cunha relates how he disagreed with the government's handling of the economy in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

 Full-length video (accessible to holders of a valid Harvard ID)


Paulo Cunha, chair of Grupo Ultra, the fourth largest company in Brazil in 2014, discusses the evolution and professionalization of the company, from its early years as a gas distributor in Brazil to its eventual involvement in petrochemicals, widespread fuel distribution, and fertilization projects throughout Latin America and the United States. He recalls the business environment of the 1970s, when the Brazilian economy grew rapidly and the company began its initial forays into international partnerships. Cunha also recounts the reorganization he instituted after taking control of the company in 1982 and the challenges of completing successful acquisitions in the petrochemical industry.

Download Transcript


  • Ultra: The Quest for Leadership (A) [HBS Case]
  • Videotape of  May 20, 2004 HBS interview, Tape number 11824, available at:
  • Video file of this interview available at Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard ID holders can access the full-length video above.

  • Interview citation: "Interview with Paulo Cunha, interviewed by Ricardo Reisen de Pinho, July 3, 2013, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School,"