Chair for International Management: Research on Emerging Markets, Industrial Services and International Retail Strategies

The Chair for International Management is involved in several related research streams and currently carries out a number of research projects. Some of them are rather short-term, some of them are long-term research streams, funded by third parties.

As a long-term research theme, the Chair investigates Management in Emerging Markets and Management of Emerging Market Firms. One focus of this theme are the M&A activities of Chinese companies in Western countries, in particular in Switzerland. Juan Wu, the lead researcher for this topic, investigates, e.g., which strategic assets Chinese companies look for when identifying takeover targets but also, which strategic assets the Chinese companies already possess prior to the acquisition, so that the bundling of the Chinese assets with the Western assets increase the overall value of the venture. In the same context, the overarching, long-term objectives of the Chinese Multinationals are analysed because single acquisitions of Chinese companies often are just one element in a long-term growth strategy with highly ambitious goals. Whether the acquiried companies (e.g. in Switzerland or Germany) are allowed by the new owner to keep their autonomy (“light touch approach”) or if they are tightly integrated into the Chinese company with a central control in the long run, is a current project.

On the intersection of emerging market companies and corporate social responsibility, Ngoc Bich Le has investigated the influence of CSR activities of a company on its attractiveness as employer for university graduates. In general, emerging market firms are perceived to be less attractive for Western graduates but CSR activities are perceived very positively, thus, they mitigate this negative image. However, the study has also shown that many graduates – even though they state that CSR is very important to them – to not actively search for information on that issue when evaluating a future employer. The Chair is proud, that a first paper in this research theme has not only been accepted for the renown “Academy of Management” conference this summer but also been judged by the reviewers to be one of the best accepted papers in the program.

In a second research theme, the international provision of industrial services, linked to the digitalisation of such services, by Swiss and German companies is investigated by Jelena Jovanovic. The issue at stake here is that industrial manufacturers more and more often differentiate themselves from the competition by providing additional, product-related services. This mega-trend is called “servitization”. At the same time, many Swiss and German manufacturers are very successful exporters. This poses the challenge to provide high-quality services to customers in distant countries. But with digitalisation, new options to provide these services – sometimes even remotely, from Switzerland – emerge. The Chair investigates under which circumstances which form of service provision (e.g., from Switzerland or in the host country) can be recommended. In a large, empirical study in collaboration with Swissmem, the Swiss association for SMEs and large companies in Switzerland’s mechanical and electrical engineering industries (MEM industries) and related technology-oriented sectors, data has been collected to link the service characteristics and the company strategies to their way of providing the international services.

The third research stream is on international retail strategies and retail innovation. David Schmid and Finn de Thomas Wagner work on this research stream. One topic in this stream is the long-term strategic selection of foreign countries and – maybe surprisingly – the market exit of retailers from foreign countries. This is a very relevant phenomenon: Over the past 15 years, the ten largest global retailers cumulatively entered 76 foreign markets, but, in the same period, they also exited 43 foreign markets. Thus, it is worthwhile investigating why retailers leave foreign markets and what role those exists play in their overall path to internationalization. One finding is that it is not only due to failure but often for more strategic reasons; another finding is that specific “patterns” of variables can be identified which jointly lead retailers to divest. Here, the Chair is proud that a first paper on this issue has received the Best Conference Paper award at the CERR colloquium 2020 (Colloquium on European Research in Retailing).

Another research topic within the retail strategy field is retail innovation. Here, the Chair for International Management is scientific partner of the project “Future Retail Switzerland” of GS1 Switzerland the Swiss Retail Federation. Finn de Thomas Wagner coordinates this project from the side of the Chair and is intensively involved in evaluating retail trends, in identifying best practices and in describing these trends for Swiss retailers, so they can adapt to it. Based on this, the Chair also investigates mechanisms for retail innovation. For example, large retailers have often their own venture capital companies, investing in start-ups, or they have at least partnerships with start-ups to speed up their own innovation. Which innovation mechanisms can be recommended for which type of retail innovation, is a long-term research question of the Chair.

Website of the Chair

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