Walmart abroad: Cultural Lessons by Prof. Goodwin Jones
On 16th October 2014,the students of the Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur, learnt about the impact of cultural differences from the Professor of School of World Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Robert Goodwin Jones.
Prof Goodwin-Jones earned his B.A. from the Franklin and Marshall College in the year 1971 while majoring in French and German and Ph.D in the year 1977 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the field of comparative literature. Prof Jones has over 35 years of teaching experience at the Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently a professor of the school of world studies at the Virgina Commonwealth University.
Initiating his lecture, Prof Goodwin Jones gave us a brief description about Walmart and the way it goes about doing business in the US. Walmart despite being one of the world’s biggest retail brands, has never been shy of controversies and has repeatedly found itself making news for incidents like NIMBY(Not in my backyard),putting small businesses out of business, hiring part-time employees, unequal treatment of employees and selling of Chinese-made goods. Despite these controversies, Walmart as a company continued to prosper and began to expand beyond the shores of the America.
Prof Goodwin then went on and spoke about Walmart expansion into different countries and the challenges that it faced in each of the countries. He stressed on the challenges that Walmart faced particularly in Germany. While, in Germany, Walmart ran into a number of cross-cultural problems like the consumer habits, the ethics policy, Walmart being anti-union and the cultural practices, these factors eventually led to Walmart’s demise in Germany.
He concluded his lecture by stating the lessons that we could learn from Walmart. The standard business practices that were followed by Walmart proved to be ineffective when they moved outside the US, a company would therefore have to flexible enough to mould its practices according to those followed by the country it plans to enter. Before entering a country the market research that is carried out by companies is very limited and does not extend to cultural issues, thus adopting the target culture would require awareness of both the national culture and local practices so that the product could be aligned in accordance to the needs of the public.
All in all, the session turned out to be a very informative and enriching one for the students of VGSoM, IIT Kharagpur, it helped the students understand the implication that cultural factors have on businesses.