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Conference: Emerging markets shape international business

International business has grown up in the west and today’s theories about how a multinational company should function are based on examples of American and European enterprises. But companies created in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil don’t tend to follow the same patterns.

“As long as these other countries were not important, that was fine,” said Ravi Ramamurti, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Inter­na­tional Busi­ness and Strategy at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “But they are now the engines of the global economy, so we need to pay attention to them.”

To delve deeper into the topic, Ramamurti and Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra, an associate professor of international business and strategy, organized the third conference on emerging market multinational enterprises, or EMNEs. Northeastern’s Center for Emerging Markets hosted the conference, which took place on Saturday in Dodge Hall and drew approximately 70 academics and 15 leading speakers from around the world.

Ravi Ramartui, Professor of International Business and Strategy and Director, Center for Emerging Markets. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

The group of speakers included Sam Park, president of the Skolkovo Institute for Emerging Market Studies and chair professor of strategy at the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo; Klaus E. Meyer, professor of strategy and international business at China Europe International Business School; and Torben Pedersen, professor of international business at the Copenhagen Business School.

In his opening remarks, Hugh Courtney, dean of the College of Business Administration, lauded the accomplished scholars. “We are excited to have this conference because emerging markets are a core of our strategy at the College of Business Administration,” he said.

While Ramamurti and a handful of others in the field have been focused on EMNEs for more than a decade, the larger international business research community has focused on the issue more recently. But as more and more emerging markets defy proscriptive expectations, establishing successful multinational business in nontraditional ways, a growing group of researchers is starting to recognize the value of the conversation.

The conference consisted of four panel discussions designed to spur debate among the attendees. “You’ll notice we have no paper presentations today, only panels,” said Cuervo-Cazurra. “We don’t want to close the discussion, we want to open discussions.”

The first panel discussion focused on the evolution of EMNE literature and featured two scholars from Tel-Aviv University and MIT, who have been pivotal in establishing traditional theory.

The second and third panel discussions explored the various ways that EMNEs are playing catch up in order to successfully compete in a field of well-established multinational companies and examined the importance of a company’s country of origin.

The fourth panel discussion opened up the debate over whether current theory is already universal and can be readily applied to EMNEs.

In concluding remarks, Ramamurti said, “It’s not just whether existing theory is right or wrong, but which parts of it apply to EMNEs and which parts don’t.”

He noted that researchers should deliberately search for areas in which existing theory does not hold up, try to understand why, and then develop new theories to fill the gaps.

The first EMNE conference, held in conjunction with the Wharton Business School in 2007, spawned the publication of the book,  “Emerging Multinationals in Emerging Markets,” which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. The authors, who include Ramamurti and other leading scholars, have completed a second publication, which summarizes the discussions of the second conference.