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A theoretical analysis of the structural strategies of emerging economy multinational enterprises.


Scope and Relevance of Study

From the late 1980s, outward investment from the developing economies of South Asia has become significant. For India, one of the BRIC economies, alongside the liberalization of policy dealing with inward foreign direct investment in India, the policy governing outward foreign direct investment has also been liberalized since 1991. The Multinational Corporations of developing and transition economies are emerging global and regional players.

Emerging Economy Enterprises in the International Markets

Lall (1983) and Wells (1983) were one of the first to propose a theoretical explanation for the emergence of 'third world multinationals' (TMNCs) and foreign direct investment in other developing economies allowed these firms to exploit firm-specific advantages in product and process technologies that were appropriate to the factor costs, input characteristics, and demand conditions in the host countries in which they invested." (Lecraw, 1993). Local firms from emerging economies respond to regulatory reforms and foreign competition through developing strategies that exploit their home-country nurtured, unique resources and capabilities (Dawar and Frost 1999). These new emerging multinationals are much less path dependent and much more risk taking than TMNCs in the 1980s and 'undertake outward internationalization in some unconventional ways' (Luo and Tung, 2007). They seem to have been bred by economic liberalization and a surge of entrepreneurship in the context of open markets and global competition (Ramamurti, 2004). Another key postulate has been that internationalization progresses incrementally through a systematic process of learning-by-doing. According to this view, much of the tacit knowledge required to compete in unfamiliar international environments can only be attained through organizational learning which is largely experiential in nature and occurs in situ (Johanson and Vahlne, 1977). However, an alternative exogenous model of internationalization would suggest that even prior to firms moving into international markets, they would need to upgrade their technological, financial and managerial resources so as to be able to offer products that are able to meet the more advanced needs of the international markets (Thomas, 2001). Due to underdeveloped strategic factor markets for finance, technology and management, emerging market firms often face difficulties in acquiring resources (Hitt, et al 2005). Overcoming this initial resource hurdle to be globally competitive is critical for the outward internationalization process to kick-start. Only after local firms are able to access these resources, can they engage in an endogenous (learning by doing) process of learning new capabilities by entering and operating in foreign product-markets (Luo and Tung, 2007).


I. The internal resources which are critical to outward internationalization can be listed as follows -

a) Financial Resources: Apart from facilitating development of infrastructure necessary for commercialization, raising overseas capital has other indirect benefits such as the reputation effect, signaling of quality to customers and corporate governance benefit, which will have a positive impact on the product market internationalization (Khanna and Palepu 2004).

b) Managerial Resources: According to Hitt et al. (2000),emerging economy firms often need managerial capabilities and know-how in order to effectively compete in their domestic and in particular in international markets, due to a legacy of low competition and protectionist environment. The cognitive state including the experience, education, beliefs and values of each management executive forming part of the TMT influences strategic decision making in organizations (Hambrick and Mason, 1984).

c) Business Group Effects: Business groups are a strategic response to strategic factor market imperfections in emerging economies (Khanna and Palepu 2000, Khanna and Rivkin 2001). Due to information asymmetries, poor contract enforcement, and imperfect regulatory structures, institutional voids tend to develop in product, labor and capital markets. In response, business groups emerge. Performing the role of missing institutional intermediaries, business groups fill these voids by generating their own internal markets for financial capital and managerial talent. However, despite the above raison d'etre, some associated costs of business groups have also been identified (Keister 1998, Khanna and Palepu 2000). While controlling families have been known to interfere in both tactical and strategic decision-making, member firms tend to suffer from conflict of interests between controlling (typically family) and minority shareholders. Further,

due to inequity and nepotism, inefficient compensation systems tend to develop across group companies, with detrimental effects on market for talent. Coupled with the security that group affiliation offers, managers of group-affiliated firms typically have weaker incentives to run their firms efficiently (Khanna and Rivkin 2001). As variety of the businesses within a group increases, the dominant logic of the traditional businesses may prove to be increasingly inadequate when applied to emerging initiatives, thus leading to sub-optimal decisions and organizational inertia. In terms of the ability of firms to pursue new strategic choices such as internationalization, the last two negative effects arising from the inherent structural characteristics of business groups described above become particularly relevant - the relative inefficiency levels of managers and organizational inertia. Strategic renewal mechanisms such as new product development and internationalization are intensely social processes with crucial involvement of managers (Floyd and Lane, 2000). The relative inefficiency levels of managers of group firms translates into a lower ability of the group firms to renew themselves through internationalization vis-a-vis non-affiliated firms. Similarly, the interference of the group in decision making and higher inertia of group firms act as strong impediments to developing the capabilities required for internationalization. Group affiliates tend to pursue more conservative strategies marked by lower variance in profitability (Nakatani, 1984) and hence high risk-reward strategies such as internationalization are less likely to be actively pursued by them. On the other hand, once the member firms of a group cross the initial inertial barrier of embarking on internationalization, they are able to leverage their group's scale, scope, track record and reputation in moving up to higher modes of internationalization. Higher modes such as foreign direct investment require high resource commitments, financial as well as managerial. As affiliated firms can leverage on group's resources, they are in a better endowed compared to unaffiliated firms to pursue committed internationalization. Group affiliation could confer a number of benefits onto affiliated firms including pooling of resources, sharing information among members, sharing managerial resources, brand names and so on (Lamin, 2006), which could be valuable as they embark on more involved modes of internationalization. Favorable group reputations help firms secure resources and customers by signaling superior quality and increasing confidence in a firm's products and services (Fombrun, 2005). Business groups have their own internal markets for financial capital and managerial talent (Lincoln, Gerlach and Ahmadjian, 1996). In addition to these internal markets, affiliated firms can leverage on relationships which their sister affiliate members have with firms overseas. These can be existing relationships with foreign customers, partners, suppliers, government officials and intermediaries (Welch and Welch, 1996). Business groups may also have affiliates in foreign countries. Thus, business groups serve the role of strategic networks providing member firms with access to information, knowledge, resources, markets and technologies (Elango and Pattnaik, 2007).


II. Location of International Operations

Robert B. Stobaugh. Jr. had mentioned in 1969 in his research paper titled, Where in the world should we put that plant "that four country related variables and three product related variables accounted for the expected, imitation lag" for each country, imitation lag being the lapse between commencement of commercial production in the world and commencement of production in the specified country. The country variables listed were market size, investment climate, availability of local technology or know-how and distance from major producing countries. Freight costs, economies of scales and consumers' need of the product were taken as the product related variables. According to Stopford and Wells Model, an MNC organization structure needs to fit two important aspects of international strategy: the relative size of foreign sales and the degree of foreign product diversity. The interaction of these two contingency variables specifies four different strategic domains, each of which is associated with a different type of structure. Low foreign sales and low foreign product diversity are associated with an international division structure, low foreign sales and high product diversity with a worldwide product division structure, high foreign sale and low foreign product diversity with a geographical region structure and more tentatively, high foreign sales and high foreign product diversity with matrix or mixed structures. Egelhoff [1982] extended the model by 1) identifying the strategic fit for worldwide functional division structure 2) establishing the importance of foreign manufacturing as the new element of strategy. He also used information processing perspective to conceptualize the relationship between strategy and structure wherein each type of structure facilitates certain type of information processing between subunits while it also restricts some type of information.

II a. Emerging Trend s of Investment for Emerging Economy Enterprises

According to the UNCTAD' s Transnationality Index1 of host economies 2004, South Africa ranks above the group average of developing countries and Sudan, an African nation ranks 19th in terms of Inward FDI Performance Index2, 2006. Despite these encouraging statistics, the African region accounted for only 2.2per cent of the total 28per cent of the total FDI inflows to the developing countries in the period from 2000-2005.

Another discreet trend is that from the late 1980s, outward investment from the developing economies of South Asia has become significant. For India, one of the BRIC economies, alongside the liberalization of policy dealing with inward foreign direct investment in India, the policy governing outward foreign direct investment [OFDI] has also been liberalized since 1991. The Guidelines for Indian Joint Ventures and Wholly Owned Subsidiaries Abroad, as amended in October 1992, May 1999 and July 2002, provided for automatic approval of OFDI proposals up to a certain limit that was expanded progressively from $2 million in 1992 to $100 million in July 2002. In January 2004, the limit was removed altogether and Indian enterprises are now permitted to invest abroad up to 100per cent of their net worth on an automatic basis.

The Transnational Corporations (TNCs) of developing and transition economies are emerging global and regional players as sources of FDI. Cross-border mergers and acquisitions, especially those involving firms in developing countries, have spurred the recent increases in FDI.

TNCs from economies like China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa have emerged as g lobal leaders in manufacturing and services sectors. While the strategies of the TNCs are essentially assets expanding and assets augmenting, active policy support from home and host countries also acts as drivers of outward FDI by these companies. The magnitudes of Indian investment flows in foreign fixed assets as well as their numbers have risen considerably over the past few years. [Refer table I]

II. b Africa as an Investment Location for Indian Transnational Firms

Total FDI flows to Africa surged to $ 31 billion in 2005, representing a historic growth of 78per cent. This was higher than the global FDI growth rate of 29per cent. FDI inflows as a percentage of Africa's gross fixed capital formation also increased, to 19per cent in 2005. However, the region's share of global FDI remained at around 3per cent. A large proportion of 2005 inflows was concentrated in mining and in particular, oil and gas. [Refer table II]

In fact, the growing attractiveness of the African region for TNC operation is evident from the growth rate of more than 50per cent in FDI from selected Asian economies in Africa [Refer table III]. This also leads us to the conclusion that south--South FDI can be encouraged due to the complimentary nature of growth of the two regions.

In fact, Angola, a single African nation has reportedly shown a rise of 37.8per cent in being a source of trade deficit to its Chinese partner3 in the period 2005-2006 and Africa accounted for 4.9per cent of imports into China in the year 2006 mostly being oil and gas imports. With the rise in world commodity prices, China's investment in Africa is also rising [Refer table V]. India also seems to follow this trend. [Refer table IV]

III. Degree of Control for Foreign Operations

The Global marketing literature regards maintaining an appropriate degree of control over foreign operations as critical in implementing MNC's global marketing strategy [Roth and Schweiger 1991]. The issue of MNC's control over their foreign operations is among the major research issues in the global marketing literature. Control refers to, the ability to influence systems, methods and decisions" [Anderson and Gatignon 1986]. A major reason that MNC's control over foreign operations is central to facilitating their global marketing success is that, without control, MNCs are not able to standardize, configure, coordinate and integrate their marketing activities across the world, leading to competitive disadvantages in the global market [Zou and Cavusgil 2002], protection of MNC's specific advantages and intellectual properties and privacy and improve operations and management [e.g. increasing operating efficiency, strengthening goal congruency] and yield higher profits and returns. [Anderson and Gatignon 1986]


Control though often desirable, does carry a high cost as on one hand the firm has to assume the responsibility of decision making in an uncertain environment and also on the other hand, it must commit resource, which can create switching costs, reduce the firm's ability to change and increase risks. Thus, assuming control can lead to both high returns and high risks. Four main entry alternatives are associated with different degrees of control for a firm [Taylor, Zou and Osland 1998]: exporting, licensing/franchising, joint venture and full ownership. In general, the level of control increases as an organization moves from contractual arrangements to joint venture to full ownership [Tallman and Shenkar 1994; Taylor Zou and Osland 1998].Two approaches are cited to explain firms' degree of control over their foreign operations--

1) Transaction Cost Analysis [TCA] Approach--Minimizing the sum of transaction costs is the key driver for a firm's governance structure decision [Williamson 1981a]. Transactions costs refer to the costs of negotiating a contract, monitoring performance of the venture and monitoring other parties in the contract [Taylor, Zou and Osland 1998]. Market imperfections may make high control more appealing when transaction costs are high. [Anderson and Coughlan 1987].MNCs also gravitates toward a low degree of control in foreign markets because of market competitiveness [Williamson 1981b].

2) Bargaining Position [BP] Approach--Taylor, Zou and Osland [2000] define BP as, a bargainer's ability to set the parameters of discussion, win accommodations from the other party and skew the outcome of the negotiation to the desired ownership alternative. The sources of BP for the host government includes its ability to control market access, its own scarce resources [Lecraw 1984] and to offer or withdraw incentives for the investment project [Tallman and Shenkar 1994].In contrast the power of the firm stems from its,ownership [firm specific] advantages" or the ability to employ people and contribute to the local economy [Taylor, Zou and Osland 2000]. According to dependentista writer, Theodore H. Moran and Andre Gunder Frank , the cost of foreign investment app ears to be measured against hypothetical state industries of a socialist government that could perform all functions of the foreign investors at the same or lower cost in terms of local resources and with less leakage [via imports or profit remittances] abroad. Public policy analysts must compare the minimum price to which the foreign investors can be pushed with the scarcity value of their services to the country. The calculation of that, minimum price" brings us back to the question of what determines the bargaining power of host country and foreign investors. It is unclear whether the decision regarding type of institutional arrangement made by the MNCs is due to the effect of TCA factors, BP factors or a combination of both.

A joint model to compare the effectiveness of these two theories in explaining MNC's control has been empirically tested by Dong, Zou and Taylor [2008]. Demand uncertainty, International experience and frequency of transactions can make market mediated exchange inefficient [Klein, Frazier and Roth 1990] and therefore they are used as TCA determinants of control. BP factors of control are stake of the host country, need for local contribution, resource commitment and the local firms capability [Yan and Gray 1994, Fagre and Wells 1982].

IV Mechanisms to Manage Foreign Subsidiaries -

Two different theoretical perspectives have been used to explain the mechanisms used to manage foreign subsidiaries within the MNC.

A) Agency Theory, which is based on economic assumptions of self interest and opportunism, is applied to the headquarters--foreign subsidiary relationship to develop and test a model of foreign subsidiary control [Sharon Watson O' Donnell]. As pointed out by Jensen and Meckling, 'the problem of inducing an, agent" to behave as if he were maximizing the 'principal's welfare is quite general. Agency theory suggests that monitoring results in increased information about agent behaviour and thus leads to increased efficiency by reducing the risk that the agent will engage in behaviour that is not in the interest of the principal [Holmstrom, 1979].

However two factors i.e. subsidiary strategic role and subsidiary autonomy may diminish the effect of monitoring. A foreign subsidiary with a strategic role of lateral centralization presents particularly challenging monitoring difficulties. [Sharon Watson O'Donnell]. A foreign subsidiary with a strategic role of lateral centralization has worldwide responsibility for a complete set of value activities associated with a particular product /line. [Rugman and Bennett 1982]. Thus information asymmetry between headquarters and subsidiary can be expected to be relatively high, making it difficult to monitor. The other factor is subsidiary strategic autonomy [greater managerial discretion] affecting monitoring mechanisms. Use of financial incentive in which a portion of subsidiary management's compensation is outcome based may be affected by industry volatility [Miller and Friesen, 1983] and host country volatility [Boddewyn and Brewer, 1994]. The relationship between monitoring and incentives is viewed as being substitutive mechanisms for controlling the agency problem, with the balance between them being determined by a trade-off in their respective costs or difficulties [Eisenhardt, 1989].


B) Interdependence Model Which can be defined as the state in which the outcomes of a foreign subsidiary of a MNC influence or are influenced by the actions of another unit within the firm operating in a different country. Research has demonstrated that a sub-unit's power within an organization is greater when the sub-unit is higher highly inter-dependent with other sub-units [Astley and Zajac, 1990]. Situations characterized by high levels of interdependence necessitate facilitative effort [Nilakant and Rao, 1994] or cooperative behaviour between actors, which requires high levels of information sharing and flexibility and social control methods or what Ouchi [1979] referred to as clan control. Employees' identification with their organization becomes greater as they interact with other members and experience increased contact with the organization [Feldman, 1976; Van Maanen and Schein, 1979] through vertical integrating mechanisms [Bartlett and Ghosal, 1989; Doz and Prahlad, 1981] and lateral integrating mechanisms [ Bartlett and Ghosal, 1993; Ghosal et. al., 1994].


The extant research focuses on the theories that form the root of strategizing for emerging multinationals of developing nations and also recommends increased leveraging of their competencies in Africa. Further areas of study may include impact of leadership on exploratory / exploitative behaviour of internationalizing firms, effect of diversification of business groups on internationalization and development of a network model for global operations.


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Ritu Srivastava Lecturer, NIILM Centre for Management Studies, Delhi.
Table I
Outward Foreign Direct Investment:
World and Developing Countries

 2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006

World Outward FDI $877 billion $837 billion $1216 billion
Developing economies $117 billion $116 billion $174 billion
outward FDI
India outward FDI $2.2 billion $2.5 billion $9.7 billion
India-no. of approved 1214 1281 1395

[Source: RBI]

Table II
Oil and Gas Production, Total and by Foreign Companies, by
Region and Selected Economy, 1995 - 2005 [million barrels of
oil equivalent] 1995 2005

Region/Economy Total Production Share of
 Production by foreign foreign
 companies companies

Developing economies 19160 3406 17.8
Africa 3483 770 22.1
-North Africa 1974 236 12.0
-Algeria 925 3 0.3
-Egypt 420 127 30.2
-Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 591 86 14.5
-Sub Saharan Africa 1509 534 35.4
-Angola 254 159 62.4
-Equatorial New Guinea
-Nigeria 943 182 19.3
-Sudan 1

Region/Economy Total Production Share of
 Production by foreign foreign
 companies companies

Developing economies 25851 4877 18.9
Africa 5049 2054 40.7
-North Africa 2706 713 26.4
-Algeria 1313 162 12.4
-Egypt 497 194 39.1
-Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 735 255 34.7
-Sub Saharan Africa 2344 1340 57.2
-Angola 507 370 73.0
-Equatorial New Guinea 160 140 91.5
-Nigeria 1301 536 41.2
-Sudan 120 77 64.2

[Source: World Investment Report, 2007]

Table III
Approved FDI Flows from Developing Economies to Africa Country
[Million of Dollars]

 China India Malaysia Pakistan

Amount [Period 1 ] 1.5 243.3 1.1 5.0
 [1991] [2000] [1991] [1990]
Amount [ Period 2] 60.8 338.4 175.6 0.1
 [2003] [2003] [2004] [2003]

 Republic of Taiwan
 Korea province
 of China

Amount [Period 1 ] 24.1 13.0
 [1990] [1990]
Amount [ Period 2] 14.3 17.4
 [2001] [2002]

[Data Source: UNCTAD]

Table IV
Geographical Distribution of Approvals of Outward FDI from
India in Selected African Countries, 1996-2003 [Millions of
dollars, per cent]


Economy 1996-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 FY 1996-03
All countries 3138.9 1382.2 3027.0 1472.2 9020.3
Mauritius1 221.6 242.3 154.5 133.4 751.8
Sudan2 750.0 750.0
Morocco3 32.5
Libya4 30.0
[1 + 2 + 3 + 4] 254.1 242.3 184.5 883.4 1564.3


Economy Share
All countries 100
Mauritius1 8.3
Sudan2 8.3
Morocco3 0.4
Libya4 0.3
[1 + 2 + 3 + 4] 17.3

[Source: UNCTAD based on Ministry of Finance, India]

Table V China's approved Direct Investment Flows in Africa, 1991-2003
[Million of Dollars]

Year No. of Total Average Investment Moving
 enterprises Investment per enterprise Average *
1991 7 1.5 0.2
1992 23 7.7 0.3
1993 28 14.4 0.5 7.87
1994 12 28.0 0.2 16.7
1995 26 17.7 0.7 20.03
1996 23 56.2 0.2 33.97
1997 41 81.8 2.0 51.9
1998 40 88.3 2.2 75.43
1999 54 95.2 1.8 88.43
2000 52 214.3 4.1 132.60
2001 45 72.3 1.6 127.27
2002 36 62.4 1.7 116.33
2003 53 107.4 2.0 80.7

* Calculated for an interim period of 3 years and rounded of to 2
decimal points

Data Source: Andrea Goldstein, Nicolas Pinaud, Helmut Reisen and
Xiaobao Chen, China and India: What's In for Africa, OECD Development
Centre, February, 2006
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