Translating Potential into Profits

02.–03.11.2012, Workshop, DHI Washington

"Translating Potential into Profits. Foreign Multinationals in Emerging Markets since the 19th Century".

The purpose of this workshop is to provide historical perspectives on the operations of multinationals in emerging markets, which present significant opportunities but also a range of serious challenges for foreign investors. The intention is to provide some general insights about how these multinationals managed to adapt to these conditions and establish a successful and lasting presence in these markets.

Much public and scholarly attention has recently been paid to what Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O’Neill in a 2001 paper referred to as the BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and more generally to a number of emerging economies, which are now also seen to include South Korea and South Africa or even Africa as a whole. These countries are seen as providing enormous potential in terms of growing consumer demand, but also presenting a number of challenges including weakly developed institutional frameworks (notably in terms of property rights or corruption for instance), interventionist, sometimes unstable governments, and local competitors seeking access to foreign technology and capital, enabling them not only to compete in their own markets but also abroad. The question then becomes how multinationals from the more developed countries can benefit from the potential of the emerging markets – rather than simply using them as source of raw material or cheap labour, while managing or at least mitigating the corresponding risks.