International Expansion to Bottom of the Pyramid Markets



The purpose of this seminar is to demonstrate that sound, mainstream international business thinking should be applied when assessing the economic opportunities available to multinational enterprises (MNEs) in Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) markets. More specifically, I illustrate the weak conceptual grounding of conventional BOP thinking, which suggests that MNEs from developed economies should be very entrepreneurial and should systematically serve BOP markets with new products and business models. I also discuss the fallacy of the idea that a “success template” in one BOP market would be easily replicable in other BOP markets and would allow the MNE to earn economies of scale and scope. Senior MNE managers should not allow themselves to be blinded by BOP gurus, advocating the alleged great benefits of penetrating BOP markets. BOP markets may be especially challenging international expansion targets for MNEs because of large institutional voids, high uncertainty, high “distance” vis-à-vis the home country market and the difficulties of transferring relevant knowledge from one BOP market to another.

Jenny Hillemann has been working for the past three years at the University of Brussels (VUB), first as a research assistant and since January 2015 as a postdoctoral researcher working on international business subject matter. She is driven by the prospect of developing new conceptual ideas and augmenting knowledge that should contribute to advancing high-level scholarship in the international strategic management sphere, and to help practitioners and students in developing skills that are actionable when operating across borders. Her main goal in research is to deploy and refine further the knowledge she has gained and the tools she has learned during her work for various businesses (e.g., a German manufacturer in Guangzhou, China, a leading investment bank in London, UK, and a German dental company in Shanghai, China) and during her studies at various management schools and universities, namely WHU Vallendar, Beijing University, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, University of Antwerp. Dr. Hillemann`s research includes the managerial analysis of multinational enterprise (MNE) strategy and the broader governance challenges facing international firms. To date, her research contributions have been published as three edited book chapters in well-known book series, with a fourth contribution conditionally accepted by the journal International Business Review. Further evidence of her research potential includes the 2014 Academy of International Business/Sheth Dissertation Proposal Award and her conference presentations at meetings of the Academy of International Business (AIB), the European International Business Academy (EIBA), and the Reading-UNCTAD International Business conference series.