High-value hi-tech product introduction in emerging countries: The role and construction of legitimacy

S.V. Ramani*, A. Thutupalli, E.M.P. Urias

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose - This paper aims to study how multinational enterprises (MNEs) can best integrate legitimacy concerns into their new product-launching strategy to successfully introduce high-value hi-tech innovations in emerging countries.

Design/methodology/approach - Theoretical constructs on the role and process of legitimacy construction for the introduction of a new product are built upon the existing literature. Then they are validated and refined through the formulation and analysis of case studies of the launch of genetically modified cotton seeds by Monsanto in India and a HIV/AIDS drug cocktail by Merck in Brazil.

Findings - Legitimacy construction can serve MNEs to face challenges successfully while launching high-value hi-tech products in emerging countries. Challenges to MNEs are likely to be founded on a combination of four types of uncertainties: technological, commercial, organizational and societal. Expected challengers are public agencies and actors representing civil society. An MNE can prepare itself through legitimacy construction along three dimensions: redesign of technology, revision of marketing strategy and non-market investments. To implement the aforesaid, MNEs can engage in outreach in the form of strategic patience, market transaction, business collaboration, compromise and/or confrontation with diverse carefully chosen stakeholders.

Research limitations/implications - The authors limited ourselves to tracing only the formal interactions of MNEs, while it is well-known that many informal and backdoor activities can also accompany their growth in emerging economies.

Practical implications - Legitimacy construction can help MNEs face challenges successfully while launching high-value hi-tech products in emerging countries. This calls for an evaluation of the systemic uncertainties followed by the formulation of a strategy for legitimacy construction and implementation through outreach to diverse systemic actors. Strategic patience can yield positive returns. Market transactions can serve as economic anchors. Collaboration can be pursued with parties who can share the costs of legitimization construction and/or reduce technological and marketing uncertainties. Confrontation should be the last choice. Compromise is the most probable but not the only outreach strategy possible after a confrontation.

Social implications - Legitimacy implies product acceptance not only from the targeted consumer but also other societal stakeholders concerned with the safety and equity of the consumption in the emerging country, especially when regulations are not well-defined and/or implemented. The two kinds of societal stakeholders which are likely to monitor MNEs are public agencies and civil society groups. Public agencies will be concerned about the quantity, quality, technology or price of the innovation to be introduced. Civil society and NGOs may help the MNE act as citizen watchdogs for the environment and vulnerable communities.

Originality/value - Theoretical constructs have been developed in this paper on the sources of challenges in new product introduction, the types of challengers and the components of the firm's legitimacy construction strategy and its implementation through an outreach strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-225
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Market Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017

JEL classifications

  • o33 - "Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes"


  • ARV drugs
  • Bt cotton
  • Innovation
  • Legitimacy
  • Merck
  • MNE
  • Monsanto

Cite this