Asia Case Research Center
The HKU MBA programme adopts an experiential-learning approach, with the extensive use of business cases that enable students to become effective problem-solvers and decision-makers in today’s rapidly changing business settings. These cases are written by our own professors and are published by our renowned Asia Case Research Centre (ACRC). The programme’s relatively small class sizes allow for extensive interaction and collaboration.
The Asia Case Research Centre (ACRC) develops content-rich business case studies to meet the growing need for business education in Asia, particularly in China. The ACRC closely monitors emerging business strategies, economic policies, management practices and financial developments across the region. Its case studies on Asian companies and subjects constitute highly relevant teaching materials that are used by teachers and institutions around the world.
Examples of these cases:
This case explores the predicament Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) faced with respect to brand management when expanding its operations in China. In 2004, Asia accounted for about 40% of the sales of LVMH, however, it faced several challenges. One of its primary concerns was protecting its valuable brand against dilution. In China, phoney branding is particularly endemic. In addition, LVMH’s expansion plans in Asia also opened up the issue of private ownership versus franchising with regards to the profitability of companies in the luxury goods industry.
Starbucks has noted rapid growth in China, targeting 70% growth in three years. Although popular among a Chinese clientele, it is facing a number of internal and external challenges related to the Chinese economic slowdown, and issues associated with the paradox of growth. As a leader in innovation, it has developed and implemented top-notch solutions across domains such as HR, R&D, CRM, design, digital, product development, supply chain, electronic payment, etc., and needs to continue the innovation process to stay ahead of the competition. What can it do to expand and innovate continuously? As growth reduces elasticity, what should it do to retain the flexibility to address market demands and interruptions quickly?
This case describes the unique concept of “museum retail” that was introduced and championed by Adrian Cheng, Founder of the K11 Group and K11 Art Foundation. His mission is to help the ecosystem of art and culture among the young generation, and to bring art to his customers through art exhibitions and education in a retail mall setting. The core values of K11 are art, people, and nature all integrated into an art mall environment. The first K11 Art Mall opened in Hong Kong in 2009. It became the forerunner of the K11 Art Malls at several major cities in China (Shanghai, Wuhan, Shenyang, and Guangzhou).
The case demonstrates how Ant Financial, the leading Fintech company in China, carried out an innovative CSR project—Ant Forest and how the project creatively integrates social goals with business practices to create a significant social impact as well as strategic values. Ant Forest is an exemplar showcasing how an environmental initiative can synergize with the core competence of a Fintech company. For undergraduate or master students, the instructor can stimulate discussion on popular CSR practices and on how to improve their effectiveness by introducing creative designs such as gamification. For an in-depth discussion, the instructor can introduce the strategic thinking behind CSR activities and the implicit competition between firms and nonprofit organizations in delivering social goods.
On 18 November 2018, Dolce & Gabbana S.R.L. (D&G) released three short videos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as well as Sina Weibo in China to promote its first-ever fashion show in mainland China. The campaign was specifically designed to drum up excitement about an important catwalk event to be held at the Expo Center of Shanghai on 21 November 2018.
However, the videos did not create the intended positive effect. In fact, the incongruous or extreme presentations in the videos jeopardized the entire promotion campaign. From the Chinese audience’s perspective, the D&G videos were not entertaining but inappropriate, offensive, and racist. The result enraged the Chinese audience and fueled a heated online debate. Within 24 hours, under public pressure, D&G was forced to remove the videos from its Weibo promotion channel. While many Chinese media users were demanding a formal apology from D&G for the videos, the company allowed the debate to simmer and boil for the next few days.
Many companies study the management strategies of others, adapting and learning from the experiences of large multinationals. But global corporations also need strategies that are capable of adapting to changing markets and profitability. Is it possible for these corporations to develop new and powerful insights from smaller firms?
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (Huawei) was the world’s largest telecommunications equipment provider, and was widely acknowledged to be the leader in developing fifth generation (5G) mobile network systems. In 2018-2019, the US government took a series of steps to restrict Huawei’s business with the US government and US companies, citing security concerns. Huawei needed to craft a response that would minimize damage to its financial position, protect its leading position in 5G equipment, and allow it to continue to expand its overall business.
Walmart miscalculated when it entered China using its “Every Day Low Prices” strategy. It struggled with value proposition, local regulations, staff incentive schemes, logistics, and significant economic and cultural differences between regions. After two decades it developed successful operations in China. With Chinese led disruption labelled as “New retail,” that meant full integration between online and offline commerce, Walmart had to ensure its continued success in this new environment.
In November 2019, almost a year after it went public, Tencent Music Entertainment Group (“TME”) announced its third quarter financial results. Market investors had had high expectations for TME since it was the strategic music arm spun out by Tencent Holdings Limited (“Tencent”), one of the world’s most valuable technology, gaming and social media companies. When TME made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2018, many individual investors were mystified by its “music-centric social entertainment” business model.
Was it just the Chinese version of Spotify, which operated the world’s most popular music app? Or was it a truly different business model which might generate more lucrative and diversified business revenue than its international counterparts? Some market analysts and investors also wondered if TME presented a more attractive investment opportunity than similar music streaming platforms in the world, including the global leader Spotify. As the global and domestic market became more competitive, how could TME sustain its competitive advantage by leveraging its synergies with Tencent’s dominant position in social networking? Would TME’s atypical music and social entertainment business model be easily replicated by its industry rivals or adopted beyond the music industry? What role would music streaming platforms play in driving the growth of the music industry and how would it affect the ecosystem of the global entertainment industry?
Château Lafite Rothschild produces some of the world’s most expensive wine, making the product an attractive target for counterfeiters. Fighting these counterfeiters has proven difficult for the Château as the traceability in the wine supply chain is insufficient and stakeholders have different interests and capabilities in identifying fake wine. As traceability is the key to preventing counterfeit wines from entering the wine supply chain, how to use advanced technologies to fight counterfeiters has received increasing attention.
Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new economic strategy, known as “Abenomics,” being enacted in 2012, Japan’s deflationary spiral continued.
With hundreds of suppliers providing a medical inventory that delivers medicine to nearly 4 million patients a year, Shanghai General Hospital is looking for new ways to improve its medical supply chain. The current system not only takes up too much of pharmacists’ time for menial stock-taking duties, but is also labor intensive and prone to error. Wang Xingpeng, the hospital’s chief executive, wants to better utilize medical professionals’ time and allow pharmacists to do more clinical work for patients. Further complicating the issue is a new set of government rules that will require hospitals to sell medicine at cost, meaning that what was once an income source will soon become a cost burden.
The hospital is planning to establish a new supply system with one of its suppliers, Shanghai Pharmaceutical. How should the new system address existing issues? And as Wang reviews the strategic partnership, how can he align the new partner’s interests with the hospital’s objectives?
This case demonstrates the components of a medical supply chain in a hospital and the challenges associated with managing such a supply chain. It allows students to discuss ways to streamline the supply chain. The case can also be used to explore topics in strategic partnerships, in particular, vendor-managed inventory systems, and offers background for discussion of the risks and considerations when introducing a third- party strategic partner into the supply chain.
Dinesh Agarwal and Brijesh Agrawal (“DA & BA”) established IndiaMART with around US$1100 savings in 1996. By 2014, IndiaMART.com was “India’s largest online marketplace for Small & Medium Size Businesses”. Its revenue for the year ended March 2014 reached US$32 million. “The company offered a platform and tools to over 1.5 million suppliers to generate business leads from over 10 million buyers… (It had) over 2600 employees located across 40+ offices in the country”.
In keeping with its growth plans, the company evaluated various capital raising activities from time to time, including public or private placement opportunities. Factors that would benefit the company’s valuation included a strong track record of year-on-year growth, a sustainable revenue base from diversified product categories, a strong, large and active user base as well as a solid conversion rate of buyer-leads to revenue dollars for its suppliers. The downside, though, was that the company had not been generating operational profits for five years since 2010.
From scratch to US$32 million revenues, DA & BA led the company’s many evolutions; what were the major considerations in building the present business model? How did they ensure the development of strong networks in every product category of the multiple-sided platform? One criticism of IndiaMART’s weakness was easy replicability – what was the founders’ response to mitigating risks presented by this weakness? What should IndiaMART do to attract a fair valuation?
In less than 20 years, Uniqlo has become the leading fast-fashion retailer in Japan and a strong player in other Asian countries like China, Korea and Taiwan. Since 1998, the company has expanded sales at double-digit rates, thanks to an aggressive pricing policy combined with a high level of quality, a mix that proved hard to resist for Asian customers. Key to Uniqlo’s strategy and success was an agile supply chain inspired by the “fast-fashion” model pioneered by Inditex and also utilized by H&M, the two largest fashion retailers in the world.
While Uniqlo demanded competitive prices from its suppliers, it also offered them continual technical assistance in developing and perfecting their manufacturing techniques, and supported them with a high flow of orders.
Nineteen ninety-eight was an important year for Uniqlo, as the opening of a flagship store in one of the hottest fashion districts of Tokyo projected the brand in Japan at a national level. At product level, a partnership with Toray, one of the world’s leading producers of composite and synthetic fibers, resulted in garments that had performance and properties no natural material could match. Working with Toray forced Uniqlo to refine its supply chain further, that became “just-in-time,” mimicking that of other highly competitive Japanese companies.
With an efficient but regional supply chain, Uniqlo faced rising manufacturing costs in China and was experimenting with new supply chain models in low-cost locations like Bangladesh. Uniqlo’s supply chain had proved effective in the Asia Pacific region, but could the same model be scaled worldwide? Was the low growth rate Uniqlo experienced in the US, and particularly Europe, also due to the limitations of its current supply chain?
Besides computers, tablets and mobile phones, what other items in your home could be connected to the internet? The answer might be far more than you imagine: refrigerators, cupboards, coffee machines, washers and many other household appliances. In March 2015, Amazon, the global e-commerce giant, unveiled to its selected Prime members a wi-fi connected Amazon Dash Button that could be attached to home appliances and allowed consumers to make online orders automatically simply with the push of a button. This innovation eliminated regular e-commerce shopping steps and made speedy and convenient online shopping possible. In July 2015, Amazon brought this Dash Button to all its Prime members for US$4.99 each, accelerating the implementation and adoption of the Internet of Things (“IoT”) in the e-commerce sector.
The IoT was defined as a worldwide information infrastructure in which physical and virtual objects were uniquely identified and connected over the internet. These inter-connected devices generated and communicated big data dynamically, enhanced operational efficiency and created new business opportunities for various industries. The e-commerce sector was no exception to the booming IoT development trend. The IoT would expand the scope and depth of e-commerce by linking people, smart devices and objects that were offline in the current e-commerce business model, generating unprecedented big data on product performance and on customer behavior and experience, involving more communication and action, and ultimately shaping the future of e-commerce.
How would the IoT change current e-commerce models? What business transformations could companies undergo to integrate the IoT with existing e-commerce platforms and create new business models and competitive advantages?
3D printing was a bottom-up process by which materials were laid down in thin successive layers until an object was fully constructed. As an innovation in technique, 3D printing made production conducted at or near the points of purchase or consumption possible. This had a huge impact on traditional manufacturing industries and supply chain management. A variety of key 3D-printing patents expired in 2014, stimulating mass production and adoption of 3D-printing devices. 3D printing was likely to provide a solution to supply chain management challenges by printing low-volume and tailor-made products on-site, a solution that would also reduce materials-supply risks, supply chain network complexity and inventory costs.
Imitative innovation, well-established manufacturing infrastructure and relatively low labor and material costs made rapid growth of 3D-printer manufacturing in China possible. In recent years, China rapidly embraced the 3D-printing trend and explored the new, greatly expanded 3D-printing manufacturing and export market space.
What role could 3D printing play in changing supply-chain management? What could the short-term and long-term impact of 3D printing on the Chinese manufacturing industry be? Could China leverage the coming 3D-printing trend to reinforce the power of its manufacturing industry?
Visa’s China strategy was challenged by the Chinese monopoly, China UnionPay Company (“CUP”), on all fronts after a few short cooperative years. Visa countered CUP’s competitions by scaling the disputes up on the WTO level. What were the implications of Visa’s history of monopoly and where would the disputes between two global monopolies lead?