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Emerging Giants: Building World-Class Companies in Developing Countries

Published Date: October 6, 2006

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Over the past 20 years, waves of liberalization have all but washed away protectionist barriers in developing countries. As multinational corporations from North America, Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea stormed into the emerging markets, many local companies lost market share or sold off businesses–but some fought back. India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, China’s Haier Group, and many other corporations in developing countries have held their own against the onslaught, restructured their businesses, exploited new opportunities, and built world-class companies that are today giving their global rivals a run for their money. In this article, the authors, citing the results of their six-year study of “emerging giants,” describe the three strategies these businesses used to become effective global competitors–despite facing financial and bureaucratic disadvantages in their home markets. Some capitalized on their knowledge of local product markets. The Philippines’ Jollibee Foods, for instance, has profitably battled McDonald’s because it realizes that Filipinos like their burgers to have a particular soy and garlic taste. Some have exploited their knowledge of local talent and capital markets, thereby serving customers both at home and abroad in a cost-effective manner. India’s software companies, for instance, recognized the possibility of providing services to overseas customers at least a decade before Western companies even considered hiring Indian software professionals. And some emerging giants have exploited institutional voids to create profitable businesses. China’s Emerge Logistics, for instance, helps foreign companies navigate the country’s disjointed transportation system and baffling bureaucracy, guiding them all the way from ports to retail outlets. The authors’ research indicates there’s more than one way to skin the proverbial cat: Some emerging-market companies compete in several countries, but others sell only at home.

This article includes a one-page preview that quickly summarizes the key ideas and provides an overview of how the concepts work in practice along with suggestions for further reading.

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