Playing to Win in Emerging Markets

Multinational Executive Survey Reveals Gap Between Ambition and Execution

By Amitabh MallDavid MichaelLori SpiveyAndrew TratzBernd Waltermann, and Jeff Walters

Emerging markets are more important than ever, and they make up a large share of many multinational companies’ revenues and growth. Yet even so, multinationals have not mastered these markets. That’s because they are not playing to win.

The BCG Globalization Readiness Survey, a recent poll of more than 150 top executives in multinational companies, revealed a large gap between the aspirations of these companies in emerging markets and their performance on key capabilities—especially when it comes to attracting and retaining local talent.

Among the key findings:

  • Multinationals have large ambitions in emerging markets: more than three-quarters of the companies, or 78 percent, expect to gain share in these markets. Nevertheless, only 13 percent are confident that they can take on local competitors. (See Exhibit 1.)

  • Nearly three-quarters, or 73 percent, of respondents said that local companies are a major competitive threat. (See Exhibit 2.)

  • On average, multinationals told us that only 9 percent of their top 20 executives are based in emerging markets; the vast majority of them are still located in mature markets far away.
  • Despite reports of slowing growth in China, 57 percent of respondents named the nation as the most important emerging market.

The survey suggests that multinational companies have the right priorities—emerging markets are the growth spots of the future—but have not fully put in place winning practices. (See “Who We Surveyed and What We Asked.”)

Who We Surveyed and What We Asked