Emerging Markets in International Business
My area of specialization is international business and management. One specific research area in management is strategic human resource management in the international business context, or, as I call it, international strategic human resource management. This was part of my initial study for my doctorate. The basic content of my study was to stress a built-up, proposed dynamic model of the interaction between human resources and strategy in the international business context. After this study, I became interested in looking at management and business in larger, broader contexts, so the emphasis of my research and teaching after obtaining my Ph.D. focused more on strategy and international business than HR, and I have published mainly on these points since then. Because I personally have worked for a multinational corporation, I want to look at how the headquarters and subsidiaries of multinational corporation can improve their performance in international business. I am also engaged in the study of emerging markets in the context of international business. This is because there are business opportunities for international business in those emerging markets. Some years ago, China’s economic growth rate was 10% or 12%. Many other countries, such as India, are also about to reach growth of about 7% to 8%. These kinds of figures are easy to achieve in emerging markets. In terms of business, when there is more growth, there are more opportunities. That is because there are many markets, but many industries are underdeveloped. If you can be the first to enter one of these markets, capture market share and become a leader, you can develop the market and even stimulate consumer behavior. The appeal of emerging markets in international business is very exciting. However, in terms of theory development, over the past ten years, I think we have only achieved a level of about 30% and there is still a major gap. On one side, we have the interaction between strategy and people, with a focus more on knowledge, learning, and innovation, and on the other side, we have emerging markets, and combining the two is extremely interesting.
A father’s influence and the influence of China’s booming economy
I think that my father had a major influence on my choice of management as my field of study. My father was working at a company and was in the top management team. Watching him work is what developed my interest in business management. That is what guided me to choose to study business administration. Another reason has to do with the Chinese context. The beginning of the 1990s was when business started to be encouraged, with the transition to a market economy being promoted under Deng Xiaoping’s policy of economic reform. That context still exists in China today. This heralded in a period of booming business, and everyone was doing business. However, business administration and corporate management were still new concepts in China, so people did not know how to transition this experience of a planned economy to a market economy. The notions of management of the private-sector economy and of business already existed, but they were not very clear, and the old styles of the planned economy days still remained. It was like a kind of very new fashion. Because there was a lot of demand for everything, basically anyone was able to get a job. I was greatly influenced by so many people around me who were full of entrepreneurial spirit and operating their own businesses, and in my first year of university, I was conducting business together with friends and charity organizations. I think that this has been an excellent experience for me. After that, I decided to continue with my studies, so I did my MBA at ESADE. Then, after working for a multinational, I started researching management and business under Dr. Simon Dolan.
Encountering Japan and IUJ
Before I joined IUJ, I worked at a Spanish university for nine years as a full-time professor. I was the director of a research center called the Center of Knowledge and Innovation, which was actually inaugurated by Professor Ikujiro Nonaka. It was by getting to know Professor Nonaka that I become greatly interested in narrowing the research dimension form strategy to knowledge and innovation. Reason being, knowledge management and innovation is currently a major topic in strategy study, and it allows us to study how innovation will improve and how it will contribute to ultimate corporate performance. This has also had a major impact on my field of study. When I was working for a Spanish multinational, I met many Japanese business executives. I have also worked in China and the Asian region and, because there were many Japanese firms operating in those areas, I met many people from Japan. Through my encounters with these people, I was always attracted to this country. We had been to Japan for a holiday in the past and everything we experienced there was interesting and wonderful. Because of all of that, I wanted to learn more about IUJ, with which I had previously conducted joint research and collaboration, so I actually visited the university and gave a seminar there. It was around the end of March and there was about a meter of snow on the ground, as if it has been snowing for about a month. It was so pure and beautiful, and it made a huge impression on me. This beautiful and highly international educational and research environment became the deciding factor and I started working at IUJ.
IUJ’s appeal for researchers
I have fallen in love with the environment of IUJ, with its green surroundings. It is a fitting environment for such stressful work as research. Whenever I feel stressed from my research, it is important for me to take time to be in touch with nature. This richly green environment, where I can be released from stress just by taking a short walk, is the ideal environment for research. Another major point of appeal is its diversity, with people from around 60 countries and regions here. It is not very often one has a chance to meet people from so many different countries and regions at once. For me, especially because I do research on international business, this is very, very attractive. One focus of my research is emerging markets, and many students come from those emerging markets. Some of them are professionals with years of experience in government and in both the public and private sectors. This offers good opportunities for me to learn as well, and I think it is a wonderful environment.
Encountering a topic that will become your life’s work
Students come to me for advice, saying that they want to write a master’s thesis that will help them to obtain a Ph.D. in the future. On these occasions, I often ask one first question about their true intentions, that is, “Why do you want to do a Ph.D.?” For some students, their motive for doing a Ph.D. is not actually to do research. They may still be searching for something, or still be in the process of self-discovery. However, even if you come to realize that it is not because of the research, you can still go ahead and do your Ph.D. Then you can find what it is that you want. If you really are interested in research, then that is even better. The first thing to do is to discover what your motive is, what is interesting for you, and what topic you want to investigate. I try to encourage students to do even more research in what they themselves are interested in. I hope that I can help them to build the kind of lifetime research line that they want. If we have a goal, we can spend our whole lives moving toward that goal.
Yingying Zhang Zhang, Professor (MBA Program)
[Courses]International Management, Competing in Emerging Markets, Corporate Strategy, Chinese Management
[Research Areas]International Strategic People Management
[Research Keywords]International business, Cultural value, Organizational learning, Knowledge and innovation, Chinese management, Gender management, Emerging market, Strategic human resource management