Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 36 Number 3 2019 pp. 855-892

Benefits of IT-Enabled Flexibilities for Foreign versus Local Firms in Emerging Economies

Khuntia, Jiban, Kathuria, Abhishek, Saldanha, Terence JV, and Konsynski, Benn R


Emerging economies present attractive opportunities to foreign firms. However, internationalization risk faced by foreign firms can have significant implications for their performance relative to local firms. Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled capabilities help firms overcome internationalization risk and compete globally. Marketing Capability and Relational Capability also mitigate this risk through access to information related to markets and the business environment. We examine how foreign firms and local firms compare in leveraging synergies between such IT and firm capabilities. We focus on two kinds of IT-enabled capabilities: IT-enabled Flexibility in Customer Services, and IT-enabled Flexibility in Partner Services, and develop hypotheses for their complementary effects with Marketing Capability and Relational Capability respectively, to positively influence firm performance. We then draw on the firm-specific advantages framework to argue that foreign firms face a comparative disadvantage relative to local firms in leveraging the synergy between IT-enabled Flexibility in Customer Services and Marketing Capability. In contrast, foreign firms enjoy a comparative advantage relative to local firms in leveraging the synergy between IT-enabled Flexibility in Partner Services and Relational Capability. Empirical analysis using matched-pair survey and secondary data of 182 foreign and local firms in India supports our hypotheses. Our findings highlight important differences in how foreign and local firms benefit from IT, thus contributing towards a better understanding of how context and contingencies influence IT implications in emerging economies.

Key words and phrases: emerging economies, foreign firms, internationalization risk, firm-specific advantage, firm performance, firm capabilities, IT-enabled capabilities, IT-enabled flexibility