Inter­na­tional busi­ness has grown up in the west and today’s the­o­ries about how a multi­na­tional com­pany should func­tion are based on exam­ples of Amer­ican and Euro­pean enter­prises. But com­pa­nies cre­ated in emerging mar­kets such as China, India and Brazil don’t tend to follow the same patterns.

As long as these other coun­tries were not impor­tant, that was fine,” said Ravi Rama­murti, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Inter­na­tional Busi­ness and Strategy at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “But they are now the engines of the global economy, so we need to pay atten­tion to them.”

To delve deeper into the topic, Rama­murti and Alvaro Cuervo-​​Cazurra, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of inter­na­tional busi­ness and strategy, orga­nized the third con­fer­ence on emerging market multi­na­tional enter­prises, or EMNEs. Northeastern’s Center for Emerging Mar­kets hosted the con­fer­ence, which took place on Sat­urday in Dodge Hall and drew approx­i­mately 70 aca­d­e­mics and 15 leading speakers from around the world.

Ravi Ramartui, Pro­fessor of Inter­na­tional Busi­ness and Strategy and Director, Center for Emerging Mar­kets. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

The group of speakers included Sam Park, pres­i­dent of the Skolkovo Insti­tute for Emerging Market Studies and chair pro­fessor of strategy at the Moscow School of Man­age­ment Skolkovo; Klaus E. Meyer, pro­fessor of strategy and inter­na­tional busi­ness at China Europe Inter­na­tional Busi­ness School; and Torben Ped­ersen, pro­fessor of inter­na­tional busi­ness at the Copen­hagen Busi­ness School.

In his opening remarks, Hugh Courtney, dean of the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, lauded the accom­plished scholars. “We are excited to have this con­fer­ence because emerging mar­kets are a core of our strategy at the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion,” he said.

While Rama­murti and a handful of others in the field have been focused on EMNEs for more than a decade, the larger inter­na­tional busi­ness research com­mu­nity has focused on the issue more recently. But as more and more emerging mar­kets defy pro­scrip­tive expec­ta­tions, estab­lishing suc­cessful multi­na­tional busi­ness in non­tra­di­tional ways, a growing group of researchers is starting to rec­og­nize the value of the conversation.

The con­fer­ence con­sisted of four panel dis­cus­sions designed to spur debate among the atten­dees. “You’ll notice we have no paper pre­sen­ta­tions today, only panels,” said Cuervo-​​Cazurra. “We don’t want to close the dis­cus­sion, we want to open discussions.”

The first panel dis­cus­sion focused on the evo­lu­tion of EMNE lit­er­a­ture and fea­tured two scholars from Tel-​​Aviv Uni­ver­sity and MIT, who have been piv­otal in estab­lishing tra­di­tional theory.

The second and third panel dis­cus­sions explored the var­ious ways that EMNEs are playing catch up in order to suc­cess­fully com­pete in a field of well-​​established multi­na­tional com­pa­nies and exam­ined the impor­tance of a company’s country of origin.

The fourth panel dis­cus­sion opened up the debate over whether cur­rent theory is already uni­versal and can be readily applied to EMNEs.

In con­cluding remarks, Rama­murti said, “It’s not just whether existing theory is right or wrong, but which parts of it apply to EMNEs and which parts don’t.”

He noted that researchers should delib­er­ately search for areas in which existing theory does not hold up, try to under­stand why, and then develop new the­o­ries to fill the gaps.

The first EMNE con­fer­ence, held in con­junc­tion with the Wharton Busi­ness School in 2007, spawned the pub­li­ca­tion of the book,  “Emerging Multi­na­tionals in Emerging Mar­kets,” which was pub­lished by Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press in 2009. The authors, who include Rama­murti and other leading scholars, have com­pleted a second pub­li­ca­tion, which sum­ma­rizes the dis­cus­sions of the second conference.