International Business Strategies13/03/2020
Due to increasing globalization the past decades, even smaller companies have been able to cross national borders and do business abroad. Consequently, many terms have been given to companies operating in multiple countries: multinationals, global businesses, transnational companies, international firms et cetera. The aim of this article is to clearly define these different terms and see how they differ from each other, because they do differ! An often used framework to distinguish multiple forms of internationally operating businesses is the Bartlett & Ghoshal Matrix (1989). Bartlett and Ghoshal clustered these businesses based on two criteria: global integration and local responsiveness. Businesses that are highly globally integrated have the objective to reduce costs as much as possible by creating economies of scale through a more standarized product offering worldwide. Business that are highly locally responsive have as extra objective to adapt products and services to specific local needs. It seems that these strategic options are mutually exclusive, but there are companies trying to be both globally integrated and locally responsive as can be seen in some examples below. Together these two factors generate four types of strategies that internationally operating businesses can pursue: Multidomestic, Global, Transnational and International strategies.
Multidomestic: Low Integration and High Responsiveness
Companies with a multidomestic strategy have as aim to meet the needs and requirements of the local markets worldwide by customizing and tailoring their products and services extensively. In addition, they have little pressure for global integration. Consequently, multidomestic firms often have a very decentralized and loosely coupled structure where subsidiaries worldwide are operating relatively autonomously and independent from the headquarter. A great example of a multidomestic company is Nestlé. Nestlé uses a unique marketing and sales approach for each of the markets in which it operates. Furthermore, it adapts its products to local tastes by offering different products in different markets.
Global: High Integration and Low Responsiveness
Global companies are the opposite of multidomestic companies. They offer a standarized product worldwide and have the goal to maximize efficiencies in order to recude costs as much as possible. Global companies are highly centralized and subsidiaries are often very dependent on the HQ. Their main role is to implement the parent company’s decisions and to act as pipelines of products and strategies. This model is also known as the hub-and-spoke model. Pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer can be considered global companies.
Transnational: High Integration and High Responsiveness
The transnational company has characteristics of both the global and multidomestic firm. Its aim is to maximize local responsiveness but also to gain benefits from global integration. Even though this seems impossible, it is actually perfectly doable when taking the whole value chain into considerations. Transnational companies often try to create economies of scale more upstream in the value chain and be more flexible and locally adaptive in downstream activities such as marketing and sales. In terms of organizational design, a transnational company is characterised by an integrated and interdependent network of subsidiaries all over the world. These subsidiaries have strategic roles and act as centres of excellence. Due to efficient knowledge and expertise exchange between subsidiaries, the company in general is able to meet both strategic objectives. A great example of a transnational company is Unilever.
International: Low Integration and Low Responsiveness
Bartlett and Ghoshal originally didn’t include this type in their typologies. Other authors on the other hand have attributed the name to the lower left corner of the matrix. An international company therefore has little need for local adaption and global integration. The majority of the value chain activities will be maintained at the headquarter. This strategy is also often referred to as an exporting strategy. Products are produced in the company’s home country and send to customers all over the world. Subsidiaries, if any, are functioning in this case more like local channels through which the products are being sold to the end-consumer. Large wine producers from countries such as France and Italy are great examples of international companies.