Harvard Business Review on Thriving in Emerging Markets: A book review by Bob Morris

HBR on Thriving in Emerging Markets
Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (2011)

“The early bird may get the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.” Steven Wright

This is one of the volumes in a series of anthologies of articles that first appeared in HBR. In this instance, its ten articles focus on one or more components of a process by which to ”beat the local companies at their own game.” Having read all of the articles when they were published individually, I can personally attest to the brilliance of their authors’ (or co-authors’) insights and the eloquence with which they are expressed. Two substantial value-added benefits should also be noted: If all of the articles were purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be at least $60-75; they are now conveniently bound in a single volume for a fraction of that cost.

Here in Dallas, there is a Farmers Market near the down area at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. I now provide what follows in that spirit.

In New Business Models in Emerging Markets, Matthew J. Erying, Mark W. Johnson, and Hari Nair suggest and explain four ways to uncover unmet needs:

1. Study what your customers are doing with your product.
2. Look at the alternatives to your offerings that consumers can buy.
3. Watch for compensating behaviors (e.g. adjustments to unsatisfactory jobs).
4. Search for explanations.

“The ability to conduct rapid experiments inexpensively and use what you learn from them to hone the business model is essential to success.”

In The Battle for Female Talent in Emerging Markets, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid explain how to attract and keep talented women.

1. Fine talent early. The best place to start looking is in universities.
2. Help your women recruits build networks to fight isolation and gain visibility while achieving their business goals.
3. Give them international exposure, but provide plenty of support for families in the host countries.
4. Build ties outside the company – to clients, customers, and communities.

In Strategies That Fit Emerging Markets, Tarun Khanna, Krishna G. Palepu, and Jayant Sinha share their thoughts about how to select the right strategy.

• Adapt your business model: Ensure that changes to your model preserve your competitive advantage.

• Change the institutional context: A powerful company’s products or services can force dramatic improvements in local markets.

• Stay away: If adapting your business model is impractical, avoid investing.

“We have learned that successful companies work around institutional voids. They develop strategies for doing business in emerging markets that are different from those they use at home and often find novel ways to implementing them, too. They also customize their approaches to fit each nation’s institutional context.”

My take on this volume: An emerging market is by nature a market of opportunity. More often than not, much of it remains unexplored and undefined. Although opportunities and competition to exploit them can be assumed, it is difficult (if not impossible) to anticipate fully (a) the perils that await, (b) their nature and extent, and (c) how best to prepare for them.

There is much to be said for Steven Wright’s observation, “The early bird may get the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

 


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