Multinational companies have invested heavily in emerging economies — over $3 trillion since 1998, by one estimate. Many of these companies, however, have not adapted their products and operations sufficiently to succeed in these markets, and returns have often been mediocre. Even when managers think they are performing well in emerging markets, they often are not because they have set low expectations.
Adapting products and operations requires obtaining and using good market intelligence, which is difficult in emerging markets due to the paucity and unreliability of information. Another factor is the wide heterogeneity of emerging markets compared to developed markets. A third common problem is a lack of shared responsibility for market intelligence between headquarters and country managers, so market intelligence that is collected either is dismissed as not credible or is not updated often enough to keep pace with the rate of change in emerging markets.
The authors argue that companies can overcome these difficulties by (1) treating market intelligence as a strategic asset; (2) organizing differently for market intelligence in emerging markets; and (3) using a wide range of sources and methods for market intelligence in emerging markets. They also recommend that market intelligence be organized as a shared responsibility between the corporate office and emerging-market business executives, with shared decision rights and shared resources.
The article includes examples illustrating how companies such as Wrigley, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble obtain market intelligence in emerging markets.