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Cultural, Administrative, Geographic, and Economic Distance

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Cultural, Administrative, Geographic, and Economic Distance

Explicitly considering the four dimensions of distance introduced in Chapter 1 "Competing in a Global World" can dramatically change a company’s assessment of the relative attractiveness of foreign markets. In his book The Mirage of Global Markets, David Arnold describes the experience of Mary Kay Cosmetics (MKC) in entering Asian markets. MKC is a direct marketing company that distributes its products through independent “beauty consultants” who buy and resell cosmetics and toiletries to contacts either individually or at social gatherings. When considering market expansion in Asia, the company had to choose: enter Japan or China first? Country-level data showed Japan to be the most attractive option by far: it had the highest per capita level of spending on cosmetics and toiletries of any country in the world, disposable income was high, it already had a thriving direct marketing industry, and it had a high proportion of women who did not participate in the work force. MKC learned, however, after participating in both markets, that the market opportunity in China was far greater, mainly because of economic and cultural distance: Chinese women were far more motivated than their Japanese counterparts to boost their income by becoming beauty consultants. Thus, the entrepreneurial opportunity represented by what MKC describes as “the career” (i.e., becoming a beauty consultant) was a far better predictor of the true sales potential than high-level data on incomes and expenditures. As a result of this experience, MKC now employs an additional business-specific indicator of market potential within its market assessment framework: the average wage for a female secretary in a country. [4]

MKC’s experience underscores the importance of analyzing distance. It also highlights the fact that different product markets have different success factors: some are brand-sensitive while pricing or intensive distribution are key to success in others. Country-level economic or demographic data do not provide much help in analyzing such issues; only locally gathered marketing intelligence can provide true indications of a market’s potential size and growth rate and its key success factors.

Minicase: Tata Making Inroads Into China [5]

Not content with just India, Mumbai-based Tata Group, the maker of the $2,500 Nano small car, is developing a small car for China. The platform is being designed and developed by a joint Indian and Chinese team based in China. The alliance won a new project for the complete design and development of a vehicle platform for a leading original equipment manufacturer for a small car for the China’s domestic market. The team is integrating components in automotive modules to radically improve manufacturability and bring down total cost.

Meanwhile, in 2009, Nanjing Tata AutoComp Systems began supplying automotive interior products to Shanghai General Motors and Changan Ford Automobile Company Products, including plastic vents, outlet parts, and cabin air-ventilation grilles. In the same year, Nanjing Tata began supplying General Motors Corporation in Europe. Eventually, the plant will supply global automakers in North America and Europe as well as emerging markets such as China.

Nanjing Auto is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata AutoComp Systems, which is the automotive part manufacturing arm of India’s Tata Motors. The company has 30 manufacturing facilities, mainly in India, and production capabilities in automotive plastics and engineering. It also has 15 joint ventures with Tier 1 supplier companies, mainly in India.

The company has almost completed construction of the 280,000-square-foot Nanjing plant at a cost of approximately $15 million. The first phase included capacity to make parts for air vents, handles, cupholders, ashtrays, glove boxes, and floor consoles. When completed, the plant will have double the current capacity and will also produce instrument panels, door panels, and larger parts. The plant is operated by local Chinese employees; only a few managers are Indian.

In its bid to become a $1 billion global automotive supplier by 2008, Tata AutoComp had to expand into China. Total passenger car sales in India in 2007 were slightly more than 1.4 million units; in China, the number was more than 5.2 million units, according to data from Automotive Resources Asia, a division of J.D. Power and Associates. Tata Motors sold 221,256 passenger cars in India in 2007. In the same year, Shanghai General Motors sold 495,405 cars. “We see huge potential in China. To us, China is not just a manufacturing base, but a window to the global market. Our investments are keeping this promising future in mind,’” says the Tata AutoComp’s chief executive officer.
[1] Quelch (2003, August); Holt, Quelch, and Taylor (2004, September).

[2] Khanna, Palepu, and Sinha (2005).

[3] Haddock and Jullens (2009).

[4] Arnold (2004), p. 34.

[5] Chow (2008, April 28).

5.3 Entry Strategies: Modes of Entry

What is the best way to enter a new market? Should a company first establish an export base or license its products to gain experience in a newly targeted country or region? Or does the potential associated with first-mover status justify a bolder move such as entering an alliance, making an acquisition, or even starting a new subsidiary? Many companies move from exporting to licensing to a higher investment strategy, in effect treating these choices as a learning curve. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Exporting is the marketing and direct sale of domestically produced goods in another country. Exporting is a traditional and well-established method of reaching foreign markets. Since it does not require that the goods be produced in the target country, no investment in foreign production facilities is required. Most of the costs associated with exporting take the form of marketing expenses.

While relatively low risk, exporting entails substantial costs and limited control. Exporters typically have little control over the marketing and distribution of their products, face high transportation charges and possible tariffs, and must pay distributors for a variety of services. What is more, exporting does not give a company firsthand experience in staking out a competitive position abroad, and it makes it difficult to customize products and services to local tastes and preferences.

Licensing essentially permits a company in the target country to use the property of the licensor. Such property is usually intangible, such as trademarks, patents, and production techniques. The licensee pays a fee in exchange for the rights to use the intangible property and possibly for technical assistance as well.

Because little investment on the part of the licensor is required, licensing has the potential to provide a very large return on investment. However, because the licensee produces and markets the product, potential returns from manufacturing and marketing activities may be lost. Thus, licensing reduces cost and involves limited risk. However, it does not mitigate the substantial disadvantages associated with operating from a distance. As a rule, licensing strategies inhibit control and produce only moderate returns.

Strategic alliances and joint ventures have become increasingly popular in recent years. They allow companies to share the risks and resources required to enter international markets. And although returns also may have to be shared, they give a company a degree of flexibility not afforded by going it alone through direct investment.

There are several motivations for companies to consider a partnership as they expand globally, including (a) facilitating market entry, (b) risk and reward sharing, (c) technology sharing, (d) joint product development, and (e) conforming to government regulations. Other benefits include political connections and distribution channel access that may depend on relationships.

Such alliances often are favorable when (a) the partners’ strategic goals converge while their competitive goals diverge; (b) the partners’ size, market power, and resources are small compared to the industry leaders; and (c) partners are able to learn from one another while limiting access to their own proprietary skills.

The key issues to consider in a joint venture are ownership, control, length of agreement, pricing, technology transfer, local firm capabilities and resources, and government intentions. Potential problems include (a) conflict over asymmetric new investments, (b) mistrust over proprietary knowledge, (c) performance ambiguity, that is, how to “split the pie,” (d) lack of parent firm support, (e) cultural clashes, and (f) if, how, and when to terminate the relationship.

Ultimately, most companies will aim at building their own presence through company-owned facilities in important international markets. Acquisitions orgreenfield start-ups represent this ultimate commitment. Acquisition is faster, but starting a new, wholly owned subsidiary might be the preferred option if no suitable acquisition candidates can be found.

Also known as foreign direct investment (FDI), acquisitions and greenfield start-ups involve the direct ownership of facilities in the target country and, therefore, the transfer of resources including capital, technology, and personnel. Direct ownership provides a high degree of control in the operations and the ability to better know the consumers and competitive environment. However, it requires a high level of resources and a high degree of commitment.

Minicase: Coca-Cola and Illycaffé [1]

In March 2008, the Coca-Cola company and Illycaffé Spa finalized a joint venture and launched a premium ready-to-drink espresso-based coffee beverage. The joint venture, Ilko Coffee International, was created to bring three ready-to-drink coffee products—Caffè, an Italian chilled espresso-based coffee; Cappuccino, an intense espresso, blended with milk and dark cacao; and Latte Macchiato, a smooth espresso, swirled with milk—to consumers in 10 European countries. The products will be available in stylish, premium cans (150 ml for Caffè and 200 ml for the milk variants). All three offerings will be available in 10 European Coca-Cola Hellenic markets including Austria, Croatia, Greece, and Ukraine. Additional countries in Europe, Asia, North America, Eurasia, and the Pacific were slated for expansion into 2009.

The Coca-Cola Company is the world’s largest beverage company. Along with Coca-Cola, recognized as the world’s most valuable brand, the company markets four of the world’s top five nonalcoholic sparkling brands, including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, and a wide range of other beverages, including diet and light beverages, waters, juices and juice drinks, teas, coffees, and energy and sports drinks. Through the world’s largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the company’s beverages at a rate of 1.5 billion servings each day.

Based in Trieste, Italy, Illycaffé produces and markets a unique blend of espresso coffee under a single brand leader in quality. Over 6 million cups of Illy espresso coffee are enjoyed every day. Illy is sold in over 140 countries around the world and is available in more than 50,000 of the best restaurants and coffee bars. Illy buys green coffee directly from the growers of the highest quality Arabica through partnerships based on the mutual creation of value. The Trieste-based company fosters long-term collaborations with the world’s best coffee growers—in Brazil, Central America, India, and Africa—providing know-how and technology and offering above-market prices.

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