Cultural Awareness in a Global Market

       One of the most interesting courses I took in the preceding quarter was an economics based class concentrating on the effects, both negative and positive, of globalization. The outlooks on globalization were formed on the premise that, as a system, globalization is powerful and inevitable. As technology, communication and international trade continue to expand so to will global markets and it is becoming less and less of a possibility for nations to remain uninvolved in these global markets. It is with this acknowledgment that a balance must be struck between how systems of international trade and business interact with other nations, and how the system can strive to benefit the most nations and people possible, not just those that are most powerful.

       It is with the background in the course that I found our class discussion on global business strategies so fascinating. In the previous course we concentrated much more heavily on the negative impacts of globalization for less developed nations, and I realized I had studied a lot less the positive impacts it can have on businesses, particularly when they are implemented in a knowledgeable, culturally conscious way. We examined many of the reasons a business would be driven to globalize, including to reduce costs, improve their supply chain, provide higher quality goods and services, understand markets, improve operations, and attract global talent. While these are all excellent reasons for an industry to expand towards a more international outlook, I think there are specific ways that these developments can be done in the most culturally sensitive, beneficial way possible, which were also touched on in our class discussion.

        In a recent New York Times article, there is an interview conducted with the author of “All Business is Local: Why Place Matters More Than Ever in a Global, Virtual World.” He concentrates, specifically, on how global markets have directed business ventures towards trade and expansion within China. In one segment of his interview, he argues that are huge benefits to expanding industries being knowledgeable about how to localize their products depending on where they are being implemented. “What we argue is that all great global brands are also great local brands. McDonald’s, for example, adapts its menus and store designs, appoints local business people as franchisees, relies on local raw ingredients and talent, gives to local community organizations. In a large market like China, the upside profit potential of getting the formula right locally is very attractive relative to the extra costs of adaptation.”

       For a company to be successful and powerful in a global market, they need to be strategic and aware of where exactly they are trying to incorporate their product. Cultural awareness and tact are becoming increasingly more important, whether it be through communication strategies or foreign consumer advertising, it is always beneficial to be knowledgeable of the cultures you wish to open trade with. Do you agree that cultural influences are not only ethically important but also important from a business standpoint? If not, what should take precedence when concentrating on implementing a business into a global market?

Blackberry: A Globally Local Phenomenon?

I use my Blackberry more than I would like to admit (thanks to the curse of BBM); most Blackberry users do! Canadian company Research in Motion (RIM) has been producing the Blackberry since 1999. Today, Blackberry accounts for 3% of the total mobile sales in the world. Though this may seem to account for a small number, the Blackberry has had significant social implications in the region in the past few years. The Blackberry has redefined the way people interact not only with their phones, but also with one another. Thanks to their instant messaging platform Blackberry Messenger (BBM), RIM was able to make messaging, sharing photos and broadcasting information so easy and so accessible. In doing so, RIM was able to penetrate markets, such as ours in the Gulf, to meet market demand for easy exchange of information and media. Keeping in mind objectives and strategy in a global environment, I will explain this blackberry phenomenon in the context of operations management.

Having this in mind, it is important to understand the RIM, while initially aimed for a business customer base in North America and Europe, was able to diversify into Middle East markets, particularly in the Gulf where mobile phone usage is very high. This issue of globalizing the business explains that RIM was not only able to understand the market at hand, but also learned to improve their operations abroad to attract and retain global clients and talent. In seeing this shift in global markets and adapting to this new commercialized leisure customer base, RIM began providing better goods and services that keep in mind the cultural mindset and markets. They introduced the “display pictures”, for example, to their popular BBM application and made photo sharing instantaneous and easy. Both these features show that this interaction between foreign customers and the supplier (RIM) can lead to new opportunities and extension of the life cycle. This clearly coincides with the fact that blackberries have shown an extended growth in life cycle across Middle East markets in particular, and in doing so, they are also able to improve operations by allowing for the free flow of ideas and creation of an improved product fit for both consumer and producer.

With this new market in mind, RIM needs to think of perhaps hiring more local talent based in the Middle East, in a way to further ensure success in the region. In doing so, RIM can make its mission explicit by allowing for an employee base that understands cultural implications and habits. This could help solidify the strategy for the company and make it more concrete and attainable. By doing that, RIM can continue to produce the Blackberry, ensuring a loyal client base in the Middle East and other global markets that are consistent with its reputation, values, and its ability to generate profits by capitalizing on market and cultural trends.

With new market trends on the way, most notably Instagram which only works on the iPhone (and more recently on Android), how do you think RIM needs to respond to ensure growth, profitability and loyalty by its client base in the Gulf?