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Article

Business Groups as an Organizational Model  

Asli M. Colpan and Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra

Business groups are an organizational model in which collections of legally independent firms bounded together with formal and informal ties use collaborative arrangements to enhance their collective welfare. Among the different varieties of business groups, diversified business groups that exhibit unrelated product diversification under central control, and often containing chains of publicly listed firms, are the most-studied type in the management literature. The reason is that they challenge two traditionally held assumptions. First, broad and especially unrelated diversification have a negative impact on performance, and thus business groups should focus on a narrow scope of related businesses. Second, such diversification is only sustainable in emerging economies in which market and institutional underdevelopment are more common and where business groups can provide a solution to such imperfections. However, a historical perspective indicates that diversified business groups are a long-lived organizational model and are present in emerging and advanced economies, illustrating how business groups adapt to different market and institutional settings. This evolutionary approach also highlights the importance of going beyond diversification when studying business groups and redirecting studies toward the evolution of the group structure, their internal administrative mechanisms, and other strategic actions beyond diversification such as internationalization.

Article

Frugal Innovation: Context, Theory, and Practice  

Lukas Neumann and Oliver Gassmann

Frugal innovation as a concept was initially sparked by a groundbreaking article published in The Economist in 2010. In it, the conception and application of a handheld electrocardiogram (ECG), the Mac 400, specifically designed to serve the rural population in India, was introduced. Every aspect of this product and its ecosystem was designed to serve the customer at less than 25% of the original cost. Since this publication, a lively discussion around this concept has developed in academia as well as in the industry. As a term, “frugal innovation” refers to solutions (products or services), methods, or designs that focus on serving new customers in resource-constrained contexts at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) and/or emerging and developing markets. This understanding has broadened somewhat as such innovations gain increasing attention and relevance throughout all customer segments across the globe. What remains consistent is that frugal innovation is based on a new type of value architecture that is specifically developed to serve customers’ needs in the respective context by utilizing as few resources as possible. This approach leads to many cases where frugal innovations are novel and disruptive to their market environment. Research shows that for firms, especially traditional “Western” ones, these innovations require significant changes in firms’ activities along the entire value chain.

Article

Reinsurance Function and Market  

Niels Viggo Haueter

The function of reinsurance is to absorb the risks of the direct insurance industry. This has two main purposes: (i) reinsurance capital allows direct insurers to write more business, and (ii) it protects them against balance sheet fluctuations caused by large and unexpected losses. The reinsurance market is served by a relatively small group of some 200 professional reinsurers. However, throughout history a variety of alternative forms appeared that could be used to distribute risks beyond one insurer. Co-insurance, for example, was one of the main forms of secondary risk spread in the marine community for centuries. It dominated the London market and was, to a large degree, responsible for the late and restricted development of reinsurance companies in Anglo-Saxon markets. The emergence of ever-larger risks in the 20th century forced the industry to focus increasingly on dealing with large losses and capping the maximum exposures of insurers. This made the business more financial, a trend which received a new boost with the advent of insurance-linked securities (ILSs) in the 1990s. Since then, the market for alternative risk transfer (ART) has grown, not least with the advent of new investors such as different investment funds that provide alternative risk capital. However, towards the 2020s, professional reinsurers started gaining ground again after a series of large natural catastrophes and with the continuous rise of Asian economies. Since the 2010s, growth opportunities for reinsurance are sought mostly in emerging markets and by making more risks insurable. Emerging market growth, however, is challenging and the gap between insured and insurable economic losses is still widening. Since the turn of the millennium, the industry has invested in finding solutions to close this so-called protection gap. Professional reinsurers are also seeking to develop new markets by making emerging risks such as cybercrime insurable. Yet such dynamic risks are fundamentally different from older static risks. Solutions are sought in applying methods that already made natural catastrophes insurable, modelling techniques, and ART products.