First Look

November 3, 2009

What will open the door to across-the-board economic growth in India? A range of state reforms from 1986 to 2005 increased competition and lowered barriers to trade, yet certain sectors and industries have remained stubbornly resistant to change. New research by HBS professor Laura Alfaro and coauthor Anusha Chari probes the effectiveness of these reforms at the firm level. "Despite the substantial increase in the number of private and foreign firms, the overall pattern that emerges after close to two decades of reforms is one of continued incumbent dominance in terms of assets, sales, and profits [in] state-owned firms and traditional private firms," they write in "India Transformed? Insights from the Firm Level 1988-2005." Their article (also available as a working paper) increases our understanding of the promise—and the limitations—of economic liberalization.
— Martha Lagace

Working Papers

Contracting in the Self-reporting Economy (revised)


This paper examines the effect of accounting on the use of intellectual property. We analyze the licensing of intellectual property in exchange for royalties that depend on the self-report of the licensee. The self-reporting aspect of the environment gives rise to demand for auditing by the licensor or third-party attestation by the licensee. We characterize the optimal royalty contract, accounting system choice by the licensee, and audit strategy choice by the licensor. We show when the owner prefers to license the property in exchange for a royalty and when it prefers to use the property directly. We find that variable royalty arrangements that depend on either audited self-reports or third-party attestation become more attractive as accounting information system costs decrease and as the benefits from outsourcing the use of intellectual property increases. We also examine how different licensing arrangements affect the relation between the variance of the returns to the intellectual property and the payoff to the owner.

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Nameless + Harmless = Blameless: When Seemingly Irrelevant Factors Influence Judgment of (Un)ethical Behavior (revised)


People often make judgments about the ethicality of others' behaviors and then decide how harshly to punish such behaviors. When they make these judgments and decisions, sometimes the victims of the unethical behavior are identifiable, and sometimes they are not. In addition, in our uncertain world, sometimes an unethical action causes harm, and sometimes it does not. We argue that a rational assessment of ethicality should not depend on the identifiability of the victim of wrongdoing or the actual harm caused if the judge and the decision maker have the same information. Yet in five laboratory studies, we show that these factors have a systematic effect on how people judge the ethicality of the perpetrator of an unethical action. Our studies show that people judge behavior as more unethical when (1) identifiable versus unidentifiable victims are involved and (2) the behavior leads to a negative rather than a positive outcome. We also find that people's willingness to punish wrongdoers is consistent with their judgments, and we offer preliminary evidence on how to reduce these biases.

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Stock Price Fragility


We investigate the relationship between ownership structure of financial assets and non-fundamental risk. An asset is fragile if its owners collectively have to buy or sell. Such assets are susceptible to non-fundamental price movements. An asset can be fragile because of concentrated ownership, or because its owners face correlated liquidity shocks, i.e., they must buy or sell at the same time. Two assets are "co-fragile" if their owners have correlated trading needs, even if the holdings of these owners do not directly overlap. We formalize this idea and apply it to the ownership of U.S. stocks between 1990 and 2007. Consistent with our predictions, fragility strongly predicts future price volatility, and co-fragility predicts cross-stock return comovement.

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India Transformed? Insights from the Firm Level 1988-2005


Using firm-level data, this paper analyzes the transformation of India's economic structure following the implementation of economic reforms. The focus of the study is on publicly listed and unlisted firms from across a wide spectrum of manufacturing and services industries and ownership structures such as state-owned firms, business groups, and private and foreign firms. Detailed balance sheet and ownership information permit an investigation of a range of variables such as sales, profitability, and assets. Here we analyze firm characteristics shown by industry before and after liberalization and investigate how industrial concentration, the number, and size of firms of the ownership type evolved between 1988 and 2005. We find great dynamism displayed by foreign and private firms as reflected in the growth of their numbers, assets, sales, and profits. Yet, closer scrutiny reveals no dramatic transformation in the wake of liberalization. The story, rather, is one of an economy still dominated by the incumbents (state-owned firms) and, to a lesser extent, traditional private firms (firms incorporated before 1985). Sectors dominated by state-owned and traditional private firms before 1988-1990, with assets, sales, and profits representing shares higher than 50%, generally remained so in 2005. The exception to this broad pattern is the growing importance of new and large private firms in the services sector. Rates of return also have remained stable over time and show low dispersion across sectors and across ownership groups within sectors.

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Can Higher Prices Stimulate Product Use? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zambia


The controversy over whether and how much to charge for health products in the developing world rests, in part, on whether higher prices can increase use, either by targeting distribution to high-use households (a screening effect), or by stimulating use psychologically through a sunk-cost effect. We develop a methodology for separating these two effects. We implement the methodology in a field experiment in Zambia using door-to-door marketing of a home water purification solution. We find that higher prices screen out those who use the product less. By contrast, we find no consistent evidence of sunk-cost effects.

Welfare Payments and Crime


Analysis of daily reported incidents of major crimes in twelve U.S. cities reveals an increase in crime over the course of monthly welfare payment cycles. This increase reflects an increase in crimes that are likely to have a direct financial motivation like burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and robbery, as opposed to other kinds of crime like arson, assault, homicide, and rape. Temporal patterns in crime are observed in jurisdictions in which disbursements are focused at the beginning of monthly welfare payment cycles and not in jurisdictions in which disbursements are relatively more staggered. These findings indicate that welfare beneficiaries consume welfare-related income quickly and then attempt to supplement it with criminal income.

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Pioneering Entrepreneur Yoshiko Shinohara on Turning Temporary Work into Big Business in Japan


At age 74, Yoshiko Shinohara is a towering figure in Japanese business. She has created a wealth of job opportunities, including many for women, by founding the temporary-staffing agency Tempstaff and lobbying to strike down laws that stifled the temp industry. Tempstaff now has approximately 3,300 employees and is a public company. For the past nine years, Shinohara has been on Fortune's list of the 50 most powerful women in global business. It all started, she told Harvard Business School's Anthony J. Mayo and Mayuka Yamazaki, with a personal choice she made when she was young.

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Cases & Course Materials

Calera Corporation

Joseph B. Lassiter, Thomas Steenburgh, and Lauren Barley
Harvard Business School Case 810-030

Brent Constantz, founder, CEO, and president of Calera Corporation, felt a surge of optimism as he gazed at the recently commissioned prototype flue gas processing line at Calera's R&D facility in Moss Landing, California. It was late May 2009, and Calera was an early-stage venture-backed company headquartered in Los Gatos, California with a promising vision to reverse global warming and ocean acidification by adapting one of nature's oldest processes: carbonate mineralization.

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Citigroup-Wachovia-Wells Fargo

Guhan Subramanian and Nithyasri Sharma
Harvard Business School Case 910-006

In late September 2008, amidst the spiraling financial crisis, many firms on Wall Street were in a precarious position. One such institution was Wachovia, which entered acquisition talks with Citigroup and Wells Fargo. This case describes the development of these negotiations throughout the week of September 26-October 3, 2008 and explores the role of a company's Board of Directors and the role of government regulators, particularly the FDIC, during times of crisis.

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Collaborating to Improve

Richard Bohmer and Ingrid M. Nembhard
Harvard Business School Case 608-054

Madison Memorial Hospital is deciding between a variety of quality improvement strategies. Highlights quality improvement collaborative—organized programs popularized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in which teams from multiple institutions work together to improve care in a specified topic area (e.g., infection rates)—as a potential strategy. Allows debate around the criteria for selection of quality improvement strategies. Also motivates the discussion of the effectiveness of collaboratives and, more broadly, the effectiveness of intra-organizational versus inter-organizational approaches to improvement.

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Gucci Group: Freedom within the Framework

F. Asís Martinez-Jerez, Elena Corsi, and Vincent Dessain
Harvard Business School Case 109-079

Gucci Group's CEO had to decide if his decentralized management style was the most effective philosophy in an economic downturn. The sharing of customer information across units and its use in the creative process are key initiatives analyzed in the case. CEO Robert Polet joined the high-end fashion Gucci Group in 2004, after 26 years at one of the largest consumer goods companies. Since his arrival, the Group had grown both in revenues and profitability. Part of his secret was his decentralized and empowering management style. In 2008, in the midst of the economic downturn following the credit crunch crisis, Polet learned that after four years of growth the Gucci brand—the Group's largest business—would report a slowdown for the year's first semester. He knew that according to his management philosophy he should leave the primary decisions for the Gucci brand to Gucci's CEO. Yet, given the urgency of the situation, Polet wondered if it would be more effective to become directly involved in the brand's decision-making process. To anchor the discussion on Polet's management style, the case discusses how customer information is used in the creative process and whether it would be beneficial for the group to share customer information across stores, regions, and brands.

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IBM in the 21st Century: The Coming of the Globally Integrated Enterprise

Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Harvard Business School Case 308-105

Members of IBM's fifth Integration and Values Team (IVT5) were close to finishing their deliberations. Convened by Sam Palmisano, Chairman and CEO, and sponsored by Jon Iwata, Senior VP of Corporate Communications and Marketing, and John E. Kelly III, Senior VP and Director of Research, the IVT5's focus was on "the global IBMer"—define and develop global leaders; make the "globally integrated enterprise" relevant to all employees through corporate citizenship initiatives reflective of the company's values; and help IBM compete globally by ensuring market access. The scope was all 170 countries in which IBM operated. As leaders who had risen to their positions as systems thinkers committed to innovation, the team knew it was necessary to stand back and look at the big picture—to see how IBM worked now and operate it at its best in order to understand the gaps, dilemmas, and opportunities.

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IBM's Dynamic Workplace

Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Harvard Business School Case 308-107

IBM already competed for talent by being a best workplace. It was one of the first companies to provide paid vacations, health insurance, sick leave, job sharing, and domestic partner benefits. Its human resources portfolio included a full array of progressive policies and programs. There was increasing flexibility in how people were employed, including alumni. But in its quest to become a globally integrated enterprise, IBM needed to continue to develop new ways of working. The company's response to the Asian Tsunami showed it at its best—values-driven, self-organizing, able to move at lightning speed connecting global and local resources. This was the kind of global leadership and citizenship the fifth Integration and Values Team (IVT5) was charged with enhancing. But how could IBM provide a tsunami-relief-like experience to everyone, without a disaster?

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IBM's Values and Corporate Citizenship

Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Harvard Business School Case 308-106

IBM's transformation into a globally integrated enterprise (GIE) began with a conviction about what should never change. Since its founding in 1911, the company operated under a set of principles articulated by founder Thomas Watson and became known for a strong culture and a commitment to fairness and social responsibility. As IBM entered its second century, it was appropriate to take a fresh look at its values while remaining unwavering in ethics, integrity, and—to use the twenty-first century word—the highest standards of corporate citizenship. All of this could be done with strategic use of IBM technology and innovation. Yet IBMers in a variety of businesses and geographies also wanted the company to do even more. Members of the fifth Integration and Values Team (IVT5) pondered this and other global citizenship possibilities, reviewing how people were developed and worked as the transition to the GIE was underway.

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Publicis Groupe 2009: Toward a Digital Transformation

Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Matthew Bird
Harvard Business School Case 309-085

After a series of acquisitions, Maurice Levy, the Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, had created the fourth largest marketing and communications company in the world. His next major challenge was managing the firm's digital transformation. In December 2006, the company acquired Boston-based Digitas, a leading digital agency headed by David Kenny. After the initial merger, which included the unbundling of Digitas capabilities and the global expansion of its agency network, Publicis Groupe launched VivaKi, a new company-wide digital platform, to spearhead the firm's total transformation. But since the June 2008 launch, the global economy had taken a turn for the worse. Could Levy, Kenny, and other leaders change the holding company quickly and effectively enough to make the new model work?

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Sara Campbell Ltd. (C)

Romana L. Autrey, V.G. Narayanan, and Julia Rozovsky
Harvard Business School Supplement 110-034

Supplements the Sara Campbell Ltd. (A) and (B) cases by revealing the aftermath of issues presented in the (B) case. The students are given context to discuss how this situation could have been prevented.

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Scooter Lindley: The Formation Call

Lena G. Goldberg
Harvard Business School Case 310-036

Factors affecting decision making about appropriate types of business entities are explored in the context of advising a prospective investor with particular emphasis on why LLCs are increasingly "go-to" entities. The potential effect of choice of organization on litigation outcomes is illustrated using the Delaware Chancery Court's decision in Fisk Ventures, LLC v. Segal, 2008 WL 1961156 (May 7, 2008), and the practical implications of the differences between unincorporated and corporate entities are highlighted.

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Tenova: Mining for Growth in an Economic Crisis

Gary P. Pisano, Elena Corsi, and Elisa Farri
Harvard Business School Case 610-021

In December 2008, Gianluigi Nova, CEO of Tenova SpA, a technology and equipment supplier to the metals and mining industry, had to choose between two options. The first was to continue growing in the company's core business: equipment for the steel production. The second option offered growth in a related, but nearly new business for Tenova: the equipment for mining, mineral processing, and extractive metallurgy. They only had a small presence in this market. Yet, Nova had to cope with the worldwide economic crisis whose destructive power hit every area of the metals and mining industry. Nova had to decide which option offered the best opportunity to grow in the worst economic crisis since 1929.

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Verne Global: Building a Green Data Center in Iceland

Thomas Steenburgh and Nnamdi Okike
Harvard Business School Case 509-063

Verne Global, a pioneering startup created to build the first large-scale data center in Iceland, faces critical challenges regarding its green strategy. Verne Co-Founder Isaac Kato is tasked with evaluating how the company can most successfully market and sell the green components of its service offering. Using only renewable energy in its data center facility, Verne can drastically reduce customers' carbon emissions, enabling customers to meet emerging government regulations and to capture the financial benefit of public goodwill arising from green initiatives. But how valuable are Verne's green benefits, and are they sufficient to compel customers to pay a premium for Verne services? Further, how can Verne best integrate its green strategy into its marketing and sales message? Finally, will Verne's green benefits enable the company to overcome obstacles in the sales process, or will they alternatively overcomplicate an already complex sales message? Kato's decision allows discussion of the emerging role of green marketing and sales and helps to identify how a product or service which is good for the environment can also be good for the bottom line.

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