As they search for growth, multinational corporations will have no choice but to compete in the big emerging markets of China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil. Although it is still common to question how such corporations will change life in those markets, Western executives would be smart to turn the question around and ask how multinationals themselves will be transformed by these markets. To be successful, MNCs will have to rethink every element of their business models, the authors assert in this seminal HBR article from 1998. During the first wave of market entry in the 1980s, multinationals operated with what might be termed an imperialist mind-set, assuming that the emerging markets would merely be new markets for their old products. But this mind-set limited their success: What is truly big and emerging in countries like China and India is a new consumer base comprising hundreds of millions of people. To tap into this huge opportunity, MNCs need to ask themselves five basic questions: Who is in the emerging middle class in these countries? How do the distribution networks operate? What mix of local and global leadership do you need to foster business opportunities? Should you adopt a consistent strategy for all of your business units within one country?
(This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R0308G originally published in 1998 and republished in August 2003. HBR OnPoint articles include the full-text HBR article plus a summary of key ideas and company examples to help you quickly absorb and apply the concepts.)
This case is available for purchase from Harvard Business Publishing Reference #: R0308G