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With the growth of the BRIC economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China – the search is on for Executives who have hands-on experience in these developing markets. Attempts to roll-out UK or US-centric business models into these regions have met with mixed success. Where problems occur, they stem from misunderstandings across four dimensions:

Market Dynamics: the geography and infrastructure of the territory are given insufficient consideration. For example, Russia’s physical scale is often a barrier to market penetration and the logistics of supply.

Business Practice: how and why people buy products and services varies widely – that’s obvious. But the nuances of how business is conducted and transacted within legal frameworks can vary not only from country to country but also within a country – India and China being prime examples.

Business Structure: some markets do lend themselves to a direct presence, and one can import the personnel, systems and branding of the parent business. In many others however, an indirect route is better in order to capitalise upon established distribution channels. Elsewhere, a joint-venture will be the optimum model, enabling you to ally your innovative products with local market knowledge, underpinned by sustainable delivery capability.

Culture: we know from commercial experience, and from the work of Trompenaars et al*, that people in  different countries vary in profound ways, including attitudes towards status, personal relationships, individualism, and the way we relate to nature. Misunderstand these dynamics and your business venture is likely to fail.

For Western companies looking to expand into these regions, the solution has usually been to recruit foreign nationals, supported by expatriates in key positions. However, the sheer volume of professional emigration over the last few decades is often underestimated, and now presents a clear opportunity for recruiters.

Consider the volume. According to the landmark ‘Brits Abroad’ project run by the Institute for Public Policy Research, over the last 40 years some 67,500 more people have left the UK than have returned, including a significant proportion of professional/managerial level (40% in 2004). There are now approximately 84,000 British citizens living in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, with 36,000 thought to be living in China.

If yours is a business that requires scarce international skills, there are now significant pockets of Executive talent that can be targeted, utilising progressive recruiters like Wickland Westcott. Expats interested in working in the UK can be tempted with the proposition of returning to their roots, or if they are to be based locally, the allure of joining a progressive, expanding Western brand. Likewise, foreign nationals with an interest in Western culture can be identified and attracted. Winning in the BRIC countries involves addressing the challenges in a confident, constructive and authentic manner, and this will demand deep marketplace understanding at Executive level.

*Riding the Waves of Culture, F.Trompenaars and C.Hampden-Turner, 1997

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