On June 4, Northeastern’s new Center for Emerging Mar­kets hosted a sym­po­sium on helping busi­nesses expand their reach into China, India and other devel­oping nations, elic­iting ideas from cor­po­rate leaders and uni­ver­sity experts on finding and building mar­kets abroad.

Titled Cap­i­tal­izing on Emerging Market Oppor­tu­ni­ties, the sym­po­sium was the first one spon­sored by the Center for Emerging Mar­kets. Center director and Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Inter­na­tional Busi­ness Ravi Rama­murti, who orga­nized and hosted the event at the O’Bryant African Amer­ican Institute’s Cabral Center, says North­eastern is the per­fect meeting ground for such dis­cus­sions, given its exper­tise in inter­na­tional business.

The inno­va­tion hap­pening in mar­kets in India and China will trans­form many indus­tries,” Rama­murti says. “These coun­tries offer very large pools of incred­ible talent that U.S. com­pa­nies can tap into to remain glob­ally competitive.

For North­eastern,” says Rama­murti, “growth in inter­na­tional busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties ties in per­fectly with the strong research occur­ring on our campus. The world is going in the direc­tion in which our capa­bil­i­ties lie.”

At the con­fer­ence, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from major com­pa­nies, including Lib­erty Mutual Inter­na­tional, Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific and Sta­ples, dis­cussed the chal­lenges their orga­ni­za­tions faced as they estab­lished a pres­ence in over­seas markets.

Oppor­tu­ni­ties abound in busi­ness sec­tors ranging from insur­ance and bio­science to office-​​product supply, said pan­elists Joe Hamilton, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief strategy and business-​​development officer at Lib­erty Mutual Inter­na­tional; Shiraz Ladi­wala, vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager at Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific, Asia-​​Pacific; and Lukas Ruecker, vice pres­i­dent of emerging mar­kets at Staples.

After 13 years of aggres­sive pur­suit of inter­na­tional mar­kets, Hamilton said he has learned that each market is dif­ferent, and global suc­cess requires an adher­ence to the dic­tates of a par­tic­ular marketplace.

At Lib­erty Mutual, inter­na­tional busi­ness, based largely in Latin America, now accounts for $9 bil­lion in rev­enue, or 24 per­cent of rev­enue totals, Hamilton said.

Ladi­wala said Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific, a $10 bil­lion­op­er­a­tion, has dis­cov­ered sev­eral keys to inter­na­tional suc­cess, including finding and using local talent, and adapting to Asian cul­ture while main­taining Western practices.

Intro­ducing Sta­ples into 27 coun­tries was a feat of near-​​constant adap­ta­tion, Ruecker said. He described set­ting up shop in cities that grew so rapidly over the course of just months that they looked nothing like they had at the outset.

In these cities, mar­kets that take years to change in the U.S. change in months,” he said.

Yet, Ruecker noted, infra­struc­tural capacity in many regions has a long way to go to catch up to America’s. “I did see a Sta­ples delivery made by ox cart,” he said, and also remem­bered a time while giving a talk in India that the elec­tricity went off and on five times.

In addi­tion to under­standing and respecting cul­tural dif­fer­ences, pan­elists reported, busi­nesses must also know their mar­ket­places thor­oughly, including what price struc­tures they will sup­port. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from EMC, Pfizer and the Tata Group also spoke.

As doors open around the globe, Rama­murti says, the Center for Emerging Mar­kets hopes to help fac­ulty under­stand and future busi­ness leaders suc­ceed in the new landscape.

Emerging economies rep­re­sent very impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges for U.S. com­pa­nies,” he says. “This sym­po­sium gave us a won­derful oppor­tu­nity to explore that with senior exec­u­tives who have many years of expe­ri­ence in emerging markets.”