Category winner: Amazon in Emerging Markets

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This case won the Economics, Politics and Business Environment category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2018.
 
The case

Bezos & PiacentiniWho – the protagonists

Diego Piacentini, senior vice president of International Consumer Business, Amit Agarwal, VP for International Expansion and Country Manager for India, and Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon.

What?amazon

Amazon is the hugely popular electronic commerce and cloud computing service.

Why?

India became only the third emerging market Amazon had entered, after China and Brazil, and Piacentini and Bezos decided on a different business model and strategy this time around, but what led to this change in approach?

When?

kindle

After entering China in 2004 by acquiring Joyo.com, and Brazil in December 2012 with the launch of its Kindle (e-book) Store, Amazon unveiled Amazon.in in June 2013 which functioned solely as a marketplace to connect domestic sellers to buyers in the market.

Where?

In addition to the emerging markets of Brazil, China and India, Amazon operates in approximately two dozen other countries at the time of the case.

Germany, the UK and Japan account for 85% of Amazon’s total international revenues.

Key quote

"Piacentini and Agarwal were determined to formulate a strategy that would best leverage their learnings from nearly a decade of operations in China. Rather than making piecemeal investments over their first few years of operation, Piacentini and Agarwal decided to invest big from the start." – the case illustrating the lessons learned from China.

ecommerce

What next?

Should Amazon further expand into Latin America, capitalise on Russia’s e-commerce growth, export or adapt their business model to the lucrative Middle East, or stay focused on their current markets? How much should the company focus on geographic expansion rather than on further horizontal or vertical growth?

 
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Amazon in Emerging Markets
Ref W94C01
Teaching note
 Ref W94T01

The authors

Amy Nguyen-Chyung and Elliot Faulk

authorAmy discusses the case's adaptability when it comes to global strategy courses, and mixing field research and published sources.

Setting a trend

“There are several professors at Michigan who have written terrific cases, and we saw some examples before preparing ours, so I’m actually surprised to hear that we are the first at Michigan to win an Award from The Case Centre,” said Amy.

“We’re very honoured, of course, but surprised to be the first.”

Versatile caseversatile case

Amy continued: “This case covers a broad range of topics that are relevant to global strategy courses, from location choice and entry mode, timing and investment scale considerations to adapting business models to the cultural, economic and political environments of emerging markets and learning from prior market entries.

“It would also be relevant for discussions of a competitive strategy lesson using game theory concepts from economics – for example, Amazon is engaging in signalling by announcing its plans for heavy investment in India.

“While I use a variety of lesser known company cases in my classes, I believe that when students already know the company, they can spend a lot more time focusing on understanding the context and problems."

Finding the right balanceFinding the right balance

She added: “In preparing the case, we were fortunate to find excellent interview transcripts and speech recordings as well as more traditional secondary sources, especially some directly from the markets we were studying. It was quite helpful that Indian business articles are generally in English.

“I liked the possibility of engaging with Amazon but had heard that involving the subject company in the case could generally lead to publication blocks or delays. Given the large amounts of available information and the time sensitivity of the topic, I decided we should proceed with what we had.

“Subsequently, I had the chance to speak with executives and staff from Amazon and Flipkart informally about various aspects of the case, and I’m happy to report that there’s not much I would change.”

Outside support

Amy concluded: “We had a few important supporters before and during our preparation. A colleague at another top school believed in the lessons of the case and expressed interest in teaching it before we even finished; thus we had a goal and a deadline to work towards. We also had great guidance and editing from the editors and publisher at the William Davidson Institute.

"Also, I credit my MBA teaching assistant, Nowfal Khadar, for the idea behind the India portion of this case. I typically invite a variety of guest speakers, and Nowfal was a guest in my undergraduate International Management class. Besides speaking of his experiences and interests, he spoke at a high level about Amazon’s very new venture in India at the time (barely launched) and tried to tie it to the course concepts. The more I learned about the venture, the more I felt that there were potential takeaways that could be illustrated, especially from a comparative perspective with other market entries.

“My co-author, Elliot, was one of the undergraduates in the audience. Elliot expressed interest in being my research assistant for the summer after his graduation. I knew he had excellent writing skills, so I invited him to assist in researching and writing this case with me. It was a successful collaboration, and I’m glad to share this Award with Elliot.

"Most of all, I am glad that the lessons and learnings in this case are accessible to so many students."

About the authors

Amy Nguyen-Chyung is Assistant Professor of Strategy at University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
e anguyenc@umich.edu

Elliot Faulk had just graduated with a BA in International Studies from the University of Michigan when the case was written. He is now a Business Controller at H&M in Stockholm.
e elliot.c.faulk@gmail.com

 

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