High growth and rapid internationalisation of firms from emerging markets: the case of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region
The aim of this thesis is to understand the phenomena of the high growth and rapid internationalisation of firms from emerging markets. It explores the applicability of international entrepreneurship theory to the context of the emerging market enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It integrates the literature of strategic entrepreneurship and that of portfolio entrepreneurship with the literature of international entrepreneurship to provide a closer fit of applicability in that context. The main research questions of this thesis focus on: why, where, and how do some emerging market enterprises grow fast and internationalise early and rapidly? Particular attention is paid to entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial teams and the entrepreneurial process in the discovery, evaluation, and exploitation of new business opportunities. Despite the strength of the international entrepreneurship theory in identifying the sources of rapid internationalisation for small and medium enterprises from developed markets, it has been criticized for failing to address the same phenomena for firms from emerging markets. This thesis explores why, where, and how the MENA region emerging market firms have attained their spectacular performance over the last few years up to 2008, and contributes to filling the theoretical gap in the literature. This exploratory study suggests that the entrepreneurial and management processes of international business opportunities play an important role in achieving the high growth and rapid internationalisation of firms from emerging markets. A multiple case study strategy was adopted, and qualitative data was collected through interviews with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial team members in the research site of the emerging markets of the MENA region. Other interviews with financial experts, staff of international financial institutions, and international analysts in specialized publications were conducted in order to achieve triangulation and bias minimization. Guided by a newly formulated conceptual theoretical framework, data was explored and thematically analysed by coding into different categories to enhance the understanding of the processes that underlined the entrepreneurial strategies associated with the rapid internationalisation and high growth of the theoretically sampled case companies. Resource orchestration, innovativeness, entrepreneurial leadership and international diversification were found to be crucial elements employed by lead entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial team members through utilising human and social capital of networks and knowledge throughout the internationalisation process. The findings revealed that integrating the concepts of strategic entrepreneurship and portfolio entrepreneurship with international entrepreneurship produced a coherent approach to the application of those theories to understanding the behaviour of multinational enterprises from the MENA region. However, other valuable themes emerged from the findings. Chief among those are: strategically targeting hostile markets with inefficient institutional competencies and insufficient infrastructure, thus benefiting from a no competition status. Networking internally with entrepreneurial team members and international churning were other key elements revealed by the findings that explained the interactions and processes which enhanced the companies’ rapid internal growth, A recommendation for management practice is made for firms to encourage internal networking with entrepreneurial teams’ members thus enhancing trust and supporting intrapreneurs’ initiatives in identifying and exploiting new international opportunities. A mainstream policy recommendation for emerging markets is to strengthen the private sector performance with government incentives of a financial (tax reductions, banking facilities) and non-financial (political reform, education and health services) nature to encourage such entrepreneurial activities. In addition to its contribution to the theoretical understanding of high growth and rapid internationalisation from emerging markets, the findings of this thesis accentuate the impact of the pattern of internationalisation into antagonistic environments with scarce infrastructure as a strategic entrepreneurship process of deployment of dynamic capabilities to craft unique competitive advantages thus achieving and sustaining high growth and performance in new international markets. This thesis is also unique in compiling the first dataset for MENA region enterprises with similar attributes of high growth and rapid internationalisation.