Trade fairs to advance SME internationalisation: case China
Kreivi, Miika; Muhos, Matti; Wang, Lingyun; Kess, Pekka (2011-03-04)
This study is part of CHISU-project organised by the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management in the University of Oulu. The purpose of the project is to increase knowledge of Chinese business environment and facilitate Finnish SMEs to establish business in China. The relatively small size of Finnish domestic market restricts SME growth and makes internationalisation a considerable tool to discover new business opportunities. A route to internationalisation is determined by factors that are emphasized differently depending on the approach. The purpose of the study is to find out how trade fairs affect the factors in theory and practice, and how scarce resources should be allocated to gain an efficient trade fair outcome.
Research is conducted as a case study with four Finnish SMEs. The companies joined a delegation that participated in a trade fair held in Chengdu, China. The practical arrangements concerning the fair were on the project’s responsibility. The first research question is based on literature review, and aims to discover how trade fairs advance SME internationalisation in theory. The second research question analyses the results that the case companies gained from the fair activities. The empirical data is collected mainly by in-depth interviews in the case companies, and by direct observation and participant-observation. Finally, the third research question is a comparison between the theoretical and empirical parts and seeks solutions to improve the whole participation process, including preparation, trade fair and followup phases.
Several results were achieved from the study. The major factors advancing internationalisation are listed and further examined in Chinese context. Correspondence between the factors and opportunities provided by trade fairs is compared. The most common theme among trade fairs, SME internationalisation and China is associated with networking. The empirical data indicates that the fair yielded plenty of significant information needed in internationalisation. However, the analysis of different participation phases revealed that trade fair outcome could have been remarkably improved with certain target actions such as creating clear guidelines for follow-up and increasing commitment of the participating companies in the preparation phase. The results need further studies to be verified, though, because of the used case study method.
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