1: Identify Basic Appeal
We have already seen that companies go international either to increase sales (and thus profits) or to access resources. The first step in identifying potential markets is to assess the basic demand for a product. Similarly, the first step in selecting a site for a facility to undertake production, R&D, or some other activity is to explore the availability of the resources required.
FIGURE 12.1 Screening Process for Potential Markets and Sites
Determining Basic Demand
The first step in searching for potential markets means finding out whether there is a basic demand for a company’s product. Important in determining this basic appeal is a country’s climate. For example, no company would try to market snowboards in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, or Central America because they receive no snowfall. The same product, on the other hand, is well suited for markets in the Canadian Rockies, northern Japan, and the Swiss Alps. Although this stage seems simple, it cannot be taken too lightly. A classic example is when, during its initial forays into international business, Wal-Mart (www.walmart.com) found ice-fishing huts in its Puerto Rico inventory and no snowshoes at its stores in Ontario, Canada.
Certain countries also ban specific goods. Islamic countries, for instance, forbid the importation of alcoholic products, and the penalties for smuggling are stiff. Although alcohol is available on the planes of international airlines such as British Airways (www.ba.com) and KLM (www.klm.com), it cannot leave the airplane and consumption cannot take place until the plane has left the airspace of the country operating under Islamic law.
Determining Availability of Resources
Companies that require particular resources to carry out local business activities must be sure they are available. Raw materials needed for manufacturing must either be found in the national market or imported. Yet imports may encounter tariffs, quotas, or other government barriers. Managers must consider the additional costs of importing to ensure that total product cost does not rise to unacceptable levels.
The availability of labor is essential to production in any country. Many companies choose to relocate to countries where workers’ wages are lower than they are in the home country. This practice is most common among makers of labor-intensive products—those for which labor accounts for a large portion of total cost. Companies considering local production must determine whether there is enough labor available locally for production operations.
Companies that hope to secure financing in a market abroad must determine the availability and cost of local capital. If local interest rates are too high, a company might be forced to obtain financing in its home country or in other markets in which it is active. On the other hand, access to low-cost financing may provide a powerful inducement to a company that is seeking to expand internationally. British entrepreneur Richard Branson opened several of his Virgin (www.virgin.com) Megastores in Japan despite its reputation as a tough market to crack. One reason for Branson’s initial attraction to Japan was a local cost of capital that was roughly one-third its cost in Britain.
Markets and sites that fail to meet a company’s requirements for basic demand or resource availability in step 1 are removed from further consideration.
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