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Constructing identities in Indian networks: Discourses of marketing management in

inter-organizational relationships
Nick Ellis
, Michel Rod
, Tim Beal
, Val Lindsay
School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1S 5B6
School of Marketing and International Business, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
a b s t r a c t a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 14 February 2010
Received in revised form 13 September 2010
Accepted 24 October 2010
Available online 8 July 2011
Identities in networks
Inter-organizational relationships
Discourse analysis
This paper explores business-to-business (B2B) marketing values and knowledge systems in India and their
impact on identity construction in industrial networks. Our study moves methodological approaches into
more interpretive territory by acknowledging the processes of social construction in networks as articulated
by the IMP Group. We bring an interdisciplinary perspective to B2B marketing studies by recognizing cultural
inuences on managers' constructions of Indian modernity and explore what these linguistic moves may
mean for the management of buyerseller relationships. We highlight the dexterity with which individual
actors discursively position themselves, their (and other) rms and countries by drawing upon a range of
interpretive repertoires in their accounts of relationship management. Our chief contribution is to
conceptually synthesize some of the discursive forces at work in identity processes within Indian business
networks and to empirically illustrate the inherent tensions within managers' talk as they construct
individual, organizational and national identities.
2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
This paper offers a fresh approach to the study of identities in
networks (Huemer, Hkansson, & Prenkert, 2009) and business-to-
business (B2B) marketing values and knowledge systems (Welch &
Wilkinson, 2002) in post-colonial contexts. Specically, we explore
Indian marketing management by taking a discursive view of inter-
organizational relationships (Lowe, Ellis, & Purchase, 2008) and plot
the impact of the meaning systems represented in managerial
discourse on identity construction in industrial networks. Our paper
moves methodological approaches in industrial network studies into
more interpretive territory (Hausman & Haytko, 2003; Wilson &
Woodside, 1999). We bring an interdisciplinary perspective to B2B
marketing by focusing on identity processes in networks, in particular
social constructions of Indian modernity, and explore what these
constructions may mean for the management of buyerseller re-
lationships (Bagozzi, 1995).
In addressing the notion of identity, we agree with the views
expressed in a recent special issue of this journal by Brown, Dacin, and
Pitt (2010, p. 709) who argue that it is time for B2B marketing
scholars to address the broader issues related to corporate associa-
tions, image, reputation, identity and brand. While this special issue
makes a valuable contribution, in this paper we wish to explore
identity (or more accurately, identities) in industrial networks from a
perspective that is less focused on corporate branding and image.
Moreover, our methodological approach embraces calls for B2B
scholars not to view science as merely synonymous with quanti-
cation (Malhotra & Uslay, 2009, p. 29) and to bring to the B2B context
studies that draw on a broader organizational and social science
spectrum (Spekman, 2004).
Our study also reects calls for more empirical research to be
undertaken to improve our understanding of contemporary market-
ing practices, especially in large emerging market economies such as
India and Brazil (Dadzie, Johnston, & Pels, 2008; DeBerry-Spence,
2008). While business relationships in certain cultures like China and
Russia (Jansson, Johanson, & Ramstrm, 2007) and Japan (Lohtia,
Bello, & Porter, 2009) have been studied quite extensively in recent
years, marketing management in India remains relatively under-
explored in the B2B literature, with only Iyer (1999) and Sarin (1982)
focusing on inter-rm trading and purchasing in India. It is frustrating
to nd that much of the existing management literature on Indian
business tends to be based on replication studies, which typically
attempt to apply existing theories to the Indian context (Monga,
2005; Singh, 2008). While these studies provide useful overviews, we
believe that their predominantly deductive, survey-based methodol-
ogies are in need of augmentation with inductive, interpretive
Conceptually and methodologically, we locate our approach
within the ideographic studies of certain industrial network scholars.
The signicance of processes of social construction in relationship
Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
Corresponding author.
E-mail address: n.ellis@le.ac.uk (N. Ellis).
0019-8501/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Industrial Marketing Management
management is widely acknowledged within the Industrial Marketing
and Purchasing (IMP) Group. IMP scholars such as Axelsson and
Easton (1992) and Johanson and Mattsson (1994) are recognized as
making major contributions to our understanding of industrial
networks and have played a key role in the development of the
relationship marketing paradigm in business markets (Ford &
Hkansson, 2006). For example, the concept of network identity
tries to capture the perceived attractiveness of a rm as an exchange
partner (Hald, Cordn, & Vollmann, 2009). But why is this concept so
signicant to our study?
2. Identity in networks
Identity is important to interaction in industrial networks.
According to Gadde and Hkansson (2001, p. 103), It sets the
conditions for which actors are perceived valuable counterparts. It
also impacts both on the interpretation of the behavior of others and
the principles for the company's own behavior.
For Gadde and Hkansson (2001, p. 101), the identity of a
company is partly determined by its belonging to a larger entity(or)
how an individual actor connects to other actors. They go on to add,
however, identity also reveals the specialities of an actor through
the communication of internal attributes. So, while we recognize that
a key part of a strategic network identity or position is determined
from an outside perspective (Gadde, Huemer, & Hkansson, 2003,
p. 362), in this study we are working from the concurrent premise
that managers (and, arguably, rms) are continually attempting to
socially construct their own position or identity (Ellis & Ybema, 2010).
The process of inside (self) identity construction is an element of
industrial network structuring that merits greater investigation,
especially at the level of individual managers' attempts to inuence
the construction process.
The combination of inside and outside inuences on identities of
network actors is also highlighted by Huemer et al. (2009, p.70) who
suggest that identities are constructed through an interplay of
internal features and successful control, and the internal features of
others and their successful inuence; and new demands created
either by new positions in old networks or entering in to entirely
new networks. These authors coin the term identities in networks'
to capture the combination of external and internal factors at play in
the development of a particular rm's position and identity (p. 56).
We adopt Huemer et al.'s helpful notion of identities in networks
in this paper. However, our study differs from theirs in two main
ways: (i) our focus on the nature of the identity work being carried
out by a variety of actors representing different organizations, as
opposed to a single focal rm, and (ii) our exploration of the meanings
drawn upon by these actors in their discursive positioning of both
their selves and of network others. Thus, in addition to attempting
to control their own identity development, our participants are also
expressing an outside viewin their discursive construction of a host of
other network actors. As Ellis and Ybema (2010, p. 279) point out,
managers in inter-organizational relationships discursively mark
self/other boundaries that varyingly position themselves, and their
colleagues, competitors, customers and suppliers.
By looking closely at managers' language use in legitimizing their
positions, our paper adds to the understanding of such processes of
identity construction in industrial networks. Moreover, by undertak-
ing our study in a context that is underexplored in B2B research, i.e.
India, we add a further layer of complexity to the notion of identities
in networks since we must engage with the tensions between the
discourses that characterize Western and traditional cultures,
discourses that are likely to have an important inuence on the
identity process (Huemer et al., 2009, p.68). The relationship
between identity and culture is important to our approach. Since
identity reects how a social entity make sense of itself in relation to
the cultures it is a part of, it represents the essential linkage between
observable manifestations of culture and the underlying meanings
(Fiol, Hatch, & Golden-Biddle, 1998, p. 58). This link may enable
researchers to gain better access to the meaning systems within a
particular context by focusing on language and the behaviors that
indicate how people dene themselves in relation to cultures. In line
with a crucial IMP raison d'tre, we wish to try and understand the
patterns of meanings and the beliefs which guide managers in their
interactions with others in the increasingly complex network in
which they operate (Turnbull, Ford, & Cunningham, 1996, p. 59).
A discursive approach should enable B2B researchers to consider
such meanings via what Easton and Araujo (1993, p. 6970) describe
as the language which describes the ways in which actors in
networks describe their own views of networks. In other words, one
has to understand pragmatics; to experience the speech community
in action. In this way, it is possible to develop an understanding of
how identities are constructed by examining interaction processes,
including management talk. The speech community we wish to
explore is that of Indian managers with responsibility for B2B
relationships. In doing so, we share Guillet de Monthoux's (1975,
p. 35) desire to illustrate, in their own words, how industrial
marketing managers perceive the job of marketing.
To achieve this aim, having introduced the concept of identities in
networks, the rst half of the paper goes on to reviewthe literature on
the inuence of culture and expert systems on the discourses of
management knowledge circulating within India. In the second half
we outline our empirical study of Indian marketing values and
knowledge systems, presenting an extensive set of managerial
accounts. Our analysis will show how managerial talk draws upon a
series of different interpretive repertoires to construct Indian
marketing managers as accomplished practitioners skilled in juggling
a number of complementary, and sometimes competing, discourses,
discourses that also help to construct organizational and national
identities. We then discuss our contribution to the theory of identities
in networks in terms of the managerial implications of our ndings,
before concluding with some reections on the limitations of our
3. Theorizing management values in India: Discourse, culture and
expert systems
The Indian business context has developed signicantly in the two
decades since economic liberalization in 1991. A signicant factor in
this development is India's much-respected educational system,
graduating a large number of professional scientists and engineers
annually, thus contributing to the computer industry's success. The
high tech sector has allowed the integration of the Indian economy
with contemporary value chains that have grown into global
production networks (Murphy, 2008). Aggarwal (2009, p. 19) argues,
however, that Indian commercial development has been much less
than perfect. There has tended to be a dominance of group-afliated
companies as rms have found it difcult to externalize efcient
markets for various key corporate inputs, choosing instead to become
widely diversied and vertically-integrated. More recently, with
increasing deregulation of the economy, major restructuring is
occurring among the large conglomerates in India, which requires
them to forge business relations with other organizations in the
domestic and global market. This can be seen in press reports of the
opening up of the retail sector for foreign direct investment, resulting
in shifts in relationships between Indian producers and the retail
sector (Times of India, 2010a); and the disentangling of cross-
holdings in group companies (Times of India, 2010b).
Such market-driven changes in Indian business practices are not
entirely welcome. Kanagasabapathi (2007, p. 584) compares most
local Indian businesses with what he calls the corporate sector (i.e.
the listed companies that constitute less than 1% of the total number
of Indian companies) which is subject to the inuence of Western
403 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
theories, practice and even value systems. This sector is highly
competitive and to an extent impersonal. He believes that it is when
business managers deal with outsiders, especially in cosmopolitan
surroundings, that traditional social mechanisms fail to underpin
relationships. To make sense of these tensions, Iyer (1999, p. 107)
suggests that a focus on identity, kinship and other forms of
relationships can help develop marketing theory. He explains that
wealth obtained via trading is also crucial for gaining religious credit
through donations and participation in rituals. Against this traditional
background, Iyer (1999, p. 113) asserts that the larger merchants in
urban India have become increasingly sophisticated, integrating new
technology and new marketing concepts more readily into their
business compared to smaller urban and almost all rural merchants
who retain what he terms a traditional way of conducting business.
Understanding how relationships in this diverse market work is thus
a priority for scholars and managers alike, a priority we address by
focusing on discourse, or language in use.
3.1. Discourse in global business networks
Theorizing language use is key to exploring inter-organizational
relationships since they involve problems of understanding, ema-
nating from the fact that participants may be accustomed to different
cultures, terminologies and management philosophies (Vlaar, Van
den Bosch, & Volberda, 2006). In an attempt to remain sensitive to
these potential cultural differences, discourse analysis refuses to take
meanings for granted (Musson, Cohen, &Tietze, 2007). Thus, language
is viewed as more than merely representational; it is also seen as
constructive (or performative). Discourse analysis is helpful to
unpack the linguistic constructions of network actors and to
appreciate how this talk may help to perform market relations. It
asks how and why negotiations over meaning are attempted by a
reexively thinking and practicing community (Lowe et al., 2008).
A key characteristic of the cultural and social changes of late
modernity is that they are shaped by discourses which mold and re-
mold organizational reality and are thus socially constitutive. This is
especially pertinent if one accepts the idea that India is a society in
which, post economic liberation, many managers aspire to interna-
tionalize their organizations (Goshal, Piramal, & Bartlett, 2000). The
contributory performative effect of discourse to such management
processes can be signicant in the post-traditional context of modern
society (Giddens, 1990). Here, individuals often have to make choices
about how to live their lives in areas that hitherto may have been
taken for granted, such as how to conduct personal or trading
relationships in what is now an apparently global economy. As
resources to guide these reexive processes, people are dependent on
expert systems upon which they draw to socially construct
themselves and others, taking account of pre-existing local discourses.
These expert systems, which can be global in reach, are propagated by
texts like magazine articles, management guru books and other
Worldwide, it thus appears that people as well as economic
institutions are compelled down a path of managerial uniformity.
Managers internationally are increasingly socialized as a (high status)
group called managers, thanks to the popularity of expert systems
such as US-derived MBA programs. As Westwood (2001, p. 249)
asserts: All conceptualizations of management are perforce refracted
through the intellectual lens of Western discourse Accounts,
interpretations, and theories from non-Western contexts failing to
participate in the dominant game are condemned to silence or
marginality. This marginalization matters because how the other
(e.g. another network actor) is discursively positioned can have
material consequences.
As Phillips, Lawrence, and Hardy (2004, p. 640) explain, the
discursive realmacts as the background against which current actions
occurenabling some actions and constraining others. This means
that in a context such as India, it is important to acknowledge that
residual discourses of colonialism may continue to exert profound
cultural and material inuences (Westwood & Jack, 2007). For
instance, the language used to describe Indian management systems
historically has been highly negative, with references made to
abuses, illegal activities and unscrupulous management, as noted
by Westwood (2001). Such comparative discourses have the potential
to affect how Western managers make sense of, and engage with,
their international others; and indeed, on how non-Western
managers make sense of themselves. It is the latter set of social
constructions of identity that chiey interest us.
3.2. Discourses of Indian management knowledge systems
Here we focus on the knowledge systems or ideas that encompass
Indian actors perceptions about themselves and others, and their
beliefs about how the world functions (Welch & Wilkinson, 2002,
p. 29).
Varman and Saha (2009) show how the marketing discourse in
post-colonial contexts such as India displays a great deal of Western
inuence, while effectively silencing local subaltern stakeholders
(Spivak, 1988). In particular, the Indian education system is thought
to have been disciplined by Eurocentric prescriptions that followed
colonizers attempts to govern effectively via Western knowledge
systems. The copying of Western business thought was accelerated by
the decision of the post-independence Indian government to work
with the US in developing management education in a bid to drive
modernization (Baber, 2001). As Varman and Saha (2009, p. 813)
assert, the formation of business schools in India was akin to the
creation of a thin post-colonial overlay that derived its legitimization
from the links with the West. This move was accompanied by a
separation of management education from the rest of the local
education system, thereby minimizing traces of indigenous learning.
Thus the scope of much management education in India remains
basically mimetic of the Western model. Iyer (1999, p. 114) believes,
however, that most Indian managers nd it hard to translate Western
principles [in]to sound Indian practices. The struggle to internalize
both Indian and Western values has produced an interesting dualism
in Indian management values (Virmani, 1997), one that may have
resulted from managers having a childhood spent in a Indian cultural
context and subsequent training in Western management techniques,
as well as exposure to the regulatory reformations that have occurred
since 1991.
Given this background, it is not surprising to observe that both
modern and traditional cultural values manifest themselves in Indian
managers' talk. Fusilier and Durlabhji (2001, p. 223) illustrate how,
while Indian managers still adhere to values such as interconnected-
ness and a sense of duty, they also espouse values in direct
opposition to the traditional culture. A complex picture of managerial
beliefs emerges. These authors explain that interconnectedness can be
equated with a traditional collectivist orientation, shown by managers
claiming to value working together. This espousal also entails a non-
attachment to power. Such values are not consistently expressed in
interviews conducted by Fusilier and Durlabhji (2001), who note that
managers often adopt a Western culture in their individualistic
search for ever-increasing prosperity and status.
Indian interviewees studied by Zhu, Bhat, and Nel (2005) also
exhibit a mixture of modern and traditional management beliefs.
Many mention the ideas of familiarity and the right connections as
ways of furthering one's business interests as part of relationship
building. They also, however, stress the importance of professional-
ism, thereby suggesting a balancing act for Indian managers between
working with aspects of the old, closed economy and a more
contemporary open and competitive business environment. Many
executives taking a traditional view state that levels of social
hierarchy have to be respected when building relationships and that
404 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
long-term relationships are seen as part of social obligations. In
contrast, senior executives working for MNCs in India argue that a
direct communication style is an important element of relationship
dynamics, rather than the traditional, indirect style associated with
many Indian family-run businesses (Zhu et al., 2005).
Pearson and Chatterjee (2001, p. 368) also claim that traditional
convictions vie with Western cultural values in guiding Indian
business sensibilities. They conclude that in a relatively short time,
the fundamental attributes of a competitive market economy have
subjugated societal qualities reinforced over hundreds of years in
India. In order to examine whether such subjugation is indeed the
case in the context of managing B2B marketing relationships, and to
gage how these ideas impact upon identities in networks, we have
undertaken an empirical study underpinned by a discursive
4. Methodology
Adopting the methodological approach to business networks out-
lined by Ellis and Hopkinson (2010), we use the concept of the
interpretive repertoire to facilitate the study of discursive agency and
constraint on the part of network participants. Repertoires are
recurrently used systems of terms viewed as building blocks that
speakers use strategically in explaining, justifying, excusing, etc. (Potter
& Wetherell, 1987). They effectively function as scripts (Welch &
Wilkinson, 2002) that can facilitate and/or restrict actors' sense-making
and identity construction. Repertoires can be identied through the
examination of certain words, metaphors, gures of speech and
grammar. They enable evaluative micro discursive constructions about
the behaviors of the self and others. These constructions are facilitated
by drawing upon a variety of normative macro discourses, such as
relationship marketing, that demark what an actor should do within
the context of an inter-organizational relationship.
Discursive data was collected as part of an on-going study
investigating cross-cultural relationships in Asia undertaken by re-
searchers in New Zealand, with the Indian component taking place in
2006. This took the formof transcripts fromsemi-structured interviews
with a variety of managerial participants involved in trade between the
two countries. All the participants were Indian, with interviews taking
place inDelhi, Mumbai, Bangalore andChennai. We spoke toindividuals
representing organizations working in the lumber, wool, horticulture,
dairy, engineering, IT, tourismand education industries. The interviews,
which were conducted in English, lasted between 45 and 90 min,
and were recorded on audio and video media. Managers were asked
open questions concerning their roles and the organizations they
represented. These included the initial scene-setting: Tell us about the
sector(s) in which your organization operates, and went on to address
more specic issues like, What products or services does your
organization provide and What role(s) do you perform; as well as,
How would you describe the relationships between your organization
and its customers/suppliers?.
Participants included local CEOs, directors, general and marketing
managers, as well as Indian representatives of stakeholder organiza-
tions such as trade commissions and the NewZealand Consul. This last
group was also business owners in their own right, and proved
especially relevant to our study since they could provide a holistic
view of Indian relationship management practices garnered from the
rms they had assisted over the years, as well as draw upon their
personal experiences. Thus, although our sample was convenience-
based, snowballing out as it did fromtrading partners in NewZealand,
it allowed us to interact with representatives from a wide range of
Indian industries and regions.
In total, accounts from 23 Indian participants are analyzedfor
details of participants, please see Table 1. Where organizations are
numbered in the right-hand column, this indicates a series of different
rms or institutions within the same sector; thus we interviewed
managers from three different education agents, from two different
timber importers and a timber co-operative, and from consulates
based in Mumbai and Chennai.
To manage the interview data, the preliminary phase of our
analysis involved a content analytic approach where B2B-related
topics such as markets or partnerships were identied in accounts,
and their pattern of occurrence throughout the corpus of transcripts
noted. The next task was to identify interpretive repertoires that were
employed within the relevant portions of the interviews. We sought
to develop an understanding of how repertoires were used by
identifying the various discursive forms of any one repertoire and
exploring who used such forms, when and with reference to what.
These steps were facilitated by NVivo software which allowed for a
high degree of transparency and levels of agreement as each
researcher in turn coded the data. Consistent coding of text to
repertoire nodes was guided by a protocol based, in part, on the
management literature, but also on the emic responses of managers
(cf. Ellis & Hopkinson, 2010). In this way, we hope to have captured
some of the subjective network perceptions of our participants (Zhu
et al., 2005).
We have endeavored to ensure that our analytical claims can be
depended upon because they are derived from accountable pro-
cedures that are systematic. They are credible because they are logical
and evidence based. Demonstrating this involves showing how the
interpretations of individual segments of talk, as well as overall
claims, are grounded in the data (Wood & Kroger, 2000).
5. Findings and analysis
Several sets of linguistic resources were of signicance to Indian
managers. We have organized these into six interpretive repertoires
(summarized in Table 2), half of which are self-contained (i.e.
networks, past and present practices, and managerial expertise), and
half (i.e. globalization, Indian management systems, and relationship
management) comprise parents for several closely-related child
repertoires. Although the labels for each repertoire are our own, the
analysis was driven by the discourse of our participants as we moved
from in vivo talk, through rst order themes, onto second order
themes which became increasingly induced by us as researchers in
order to offer suggestions regarding the functioning of each over-
arching repertoire (Nag, Corely, & Gioia, 2007, p. 828). The repertoires
Table 1
Indian participant details.
Participant Role Nature of organization
P1 Director Timber imports (1)
P2 Export Manager Timber imports (co-operative)
P3 Director Timber imports (2)
P4 Chief Executive Wool imports
P5 Head, Dairy Business Food (India/NZ joint venture)
P6 Technical Manager Food (India/NZ joint venture)
P7 Group Chairman Horticulture imports/exports
P8 Chief Executive Horticulture imports/exports
P9 Director Wine imports
P10 Gen. Mgr., Strategic Planning Engineering/IT (India/NZ JV)
P11 Deputy Gen. Mgr., Marketing Engineering/IT (India/NZ JV)
P12 Managing Director IT systems integration
P13 Director Ticket systems/IT (India/NZ JV)
P14 General Manager, India Healthcare imports
P15 Manager, India NZ Tourism
P16 Sales and Marketing Manager NZ Travel/tourism
P17 Director Education (agent) (1)
P18 Director Education (agent) (2)
P19 Director Education (agent) (3)
P20 Honorary Advisor Trade foundation (general)
P21 Trade Development Manager Trade and enterprise (general)
P22 Honorary Consul NZ Consulate (general) (1)
P23 Honorary Consul NZ Consulate (general) (2)
NZ = New Zealand.
405 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
thereby emerged from patterns of talk wherein the same phrases and
terms were drawn upon across the sample.
Indiscourse analysis, it is not just the identicationof linguistic tools
that is important; what speakers do with language is also crucial. Thus,
as we discuss each repertoire in turn, we highlight identity constructing
practices within managers descriptions of B2B relationships. Although
we have sought to identify repeated usages of language, the relative
frequency of occurrence of each repertoire is not necessarily the most
signicant issue in discourse analysis: rather, it is the strategic use of
language by speakers that matters more. So, while our identication of
repertoires was guided by noting re-occurring expressions and terms,
we use the interpretive themes that emerged from our analysis as the
guiding framework for this section (i.e. froma broadly macro to micro
level of constructed entities), instead of letting pure frequency dictate
the order in which we discuss our ndings. In order to convey a holistic
viewof the data we do, nevertheless, indicate whether a repertoire was
more or less frequent in occurrence, via descriptors such as common,
moderately common, etc.
One of the benets of a discursive approach is that multi-level
identity construction can be shown to be an on-going element of
managers' talk, suchas the individual (I), organizational (we), national
(Kiwi companies) and network other (them) positioning that can be
seen in the extracts that follow. For presentational purposes and for
structuring our analysis, however, we have had to bracket off much of
the potential discussion of the other positioning occurring while we
illustrate the main theme under consideration. While we cannot
highlight them every time they occur in the paper, such occurrences
have been taken into account in the overall interpretive analysis.
In the segments of talk presented below, in those verbal exchanges
where a co-construction of meaning appears to be taking place, P
represents the participant and R the researcher.
5.1. Networks
This repertoire was moderately common, occurring in the talk of
almost half our participants. Tellingly, and conrming the global
signicance of the Indian IT sector, all the quotes below come from
managers representing computer-related businesses, but for the
remainder of the repertoires, we nd speakers from a mix of sectors.
The repertoire is sometimes used to construct a national identity
for India. Here, for instance, we see the country positioned as a key
node (stepping stone) in a global network, a position attributed to
the national achievements in IT over the last decade. This segment of
talk evokes a nation to which the world now listens while at the
same time revealing the speaker's personal command of Western
slang via the use of Kiwi for New Zealand:
I think that India can be used as a stepping stone for Kiwi
companies to explore other markets in the world () because
India has far more avenues open to them in the sphere of IT today
by virtue of whatever we have done over the last ten years. Every
country across the world wakes up and listens to India as far as IT
is concerned, okay. (P13).
More frequently, managers use the repertoire to construct
organizational identity, in this case by positioning the speaker's rm
as a value adding node in a global network. This participant explicitly
draws on a network-related vocabulary (structural holes) to make
his claims, while also positioning himself as a key actor in the
I got in touch with XX (organization) and we're in business with
them. So it's about lling the structural holes, you know. If there's
an opportunity and you know that there is something that can ll
that hole, you are the facilitator or the catalyst to get that and put
those value added services. (P11).
The next account evokes a wide range of network relationships for
the focal rm, as well as conrming the organization's role in that
As a systems integrator, we work with XX which is another
company in the same space. We also have a range which is from
Table 2
Summary of interpretive repertoires.
Exemplar segment of talk (in vivo) First order theme
(child repertoire)
Second order theme
(parent repertoire)
Discursive construction
it's about lling the structural holes (P11) Networks 1. Networks Constructs a national identity for India, as well as
portraying organizations as network nodes
business principles are pretty much the same
all across the world (P13)
a. Accepting globalization 2. Globalization Evokes a universal sense of business values and
practices, and thus identities
Globalization has tended to nd a lower level
all the time. I don't believe in that (P2)
b. Questioning globalization 2. Globalization Asserts a distinct national identity for India and
for some types of organization
.... now we are interacting with the world things
are changing. (P1)
Past and present management
3. Past and present management
Constructs a changing national identity, but one
that not all organizations share
The Delhi distributor is totally different from a
Chennai distributor. (P14)
a. Local nuances 4. Indian Management systems Suggests that business practices are not consistent
across all Indian rms
each company has a board, supported by a full
team of professional managers. (P20)
b. Professionalism 4. Indian Management systems Associates professional management with
modern business practices
but small rms, small entrepreneurs, their
business affairs could be quite different. (P23)
c. Big versus small 4. Indian Management systems Again, suggests that business practices are not
consistent across all Indian rms
We are not so far behind China. (P12) d. India versus China 4. Indian Management systems Positions China as wanting when compared to
India as a place to do business
If you try and help them in a friendly way, I am
sure you can get better business. (P4)
a. Nature of exchange 5. Relationship management Evokes existence of both economic and social
exchange in inter-organizational relationships
Indian customers basically look for long term
supplies. (P1)
b. Commitment 5. Relationship management Suggests a long-term outlook to relationships is
desired by Indian rms
You can also come across some kind of y-by-
night kind of people. (P23)
c. Trust 5. Relationship management Attributes the quality of trustworthiness to
nations, organizations and individuals
And it's a marriage between equals. (P13) d. Mutuality 5. Relationship management Reinforces claims of Indian rms to be seeking
mutual benets
We know how the market works more than any
fruit trader (P7)
e. Expert partner 5. Relationship management Positions rms as possessing valuable key
capabilities or knowledge
Well basically, I'm a chartered accountant and
then MBA nance (P23)
Managerial expertise 6. Managerial expertise Constructs the managerial self as an expert
406 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
the YY product line. We also work with another company called
ZZ, a very large manufacturer for cards and readers alone. (P12).
The use of this repertoire also reveals something about how
managers make sense of where a network begins and ends, and how
their (and other) organizations' perceived markets relate to these
notional boundaries. A varying sense of scale seems to exist, perhaps
indicating the extent of the speakers' (and their rms') positional
ambitions. Thus P13 appears to portray the world as some sort of
ultimate network, with India as a route to certain other markets
(presumably nations) for international rms; while P12 evokes the
most pertinent network for him as a space, and claims his rm is
embedded in a series of horizontal partnerships with several other
company or manufacturer actors within this (presumably sector-
based) space.
5.2. Globalization
This parent repertoire was common, being used by more than half
the sample. We have divided accounts into two types (or child
repertoires): those that appear to broadly accept, and those that
question, the notion of globalization.
5.2.1. Accepting globalization
This account proclaims the similarity of business principles across
the world, thereby evoking a uniform sense of what we might expect
in business relations:
XX (organization) will be able to sell their products in China. ()
But the business principles are pretty much the same all across
the world. (P13).
Below, we again nd claims of normal marketing as carried out by
any businessman in response to the researcher's query. This suggests
a uniformity of business practice globally:
R: What message should you give to a New Zealand company who
wants to do business with an Indian company?
P: Well apart fromthe normal kind of inquiry that any businessman
would do, marketing, you know, t and things like that, my
recommendation would be that looking for a joint venture partner
would be a good strategy in India. (P23).
The following segment of talk is striking in its use of such a large
number of Western management and marketing terms to construct
the focal rm's (our) identity. A sense of globalized business
knowledge is evoked by a list of organizational characteristics which
almost reads like an MBA syllabus:
Now this is our vision, this is where we are trying to be, you know,
an Indian multinational committed to total customer satisfaction
() and we want to be innovative and constantly creating value
and global benchmark () and we want to be really the learning
organization. (P10).
5.2.2. Questioning globalization
This repertoire is rarer than the more positive viewof globalization
presented above. It is used to assert a national identity for India, even
by some managers who speak a global marketing language, such as
P10 above, who also offers this account of his attempts to use a local
quality scheme with his clients. It appears that these customers only
accept a British certication systemas international, with the Indian
alternative being less credible:
P: Many of these (customer) countries are already part of the
British kingdom so these people want only ISO certicate. We
have our own certicate in India, but they want the certicate, so I
have to go and get that certicate.
R: This is international?
P: They consider it international. (P10).
The next speaker's negative view of globalization as driven by
cheap levels is contrasted with a more sharing take on trading
relations. The account also serves to construct the speaker's individual
identity. His views may, of course, be affected by the fact that he
represents a timber co-operative:
In a fast globalizing world () some businesses are better suited
to a much more cooperative arrangement between producers and
much more market sharing. () Globalization has tended to nd
a cheap level, a lower level all the time. I don't believe in that kind
of globalization really. (P2).
5.3. Past and present management practices
This repertoire was moderately common, and found in the talk of
about half the speakers. Its use tends to construct a changing, if
sometimes rather confused national identity for India. This participant
uses the contrast between past and present to attribute changes in
corruption levels to the modern private sector. An outside world is
evoked where business is apparently done in a certain way, a way
that has been communicated to modern Indians via the media:
P: Corruption now is going down because more and more
companies are getting into the private sector's hands and the
government participation in business is slowly reducing. () And
the current generation is more exposed to what is happening
outside because of their education overseas and also because of
the development of satellite and cable television here. So they
know what are the concerns of the other side of the world and
how business is done there. (P21).
Here, notions of tradition are claimed to co-exist in the country
alongside the modern values whose acceptance has seemingly been
brought about via exposure to different countries' culture. Thus India
(we) is portrayed as partly comprising a business-like group of
people who have changed thanks to dealing with foreigners, but
also many others who have not:
P: Now we are interacting with the world, things are changing.
People are getting, you know, different countries' culture ().
Some people have started accepting, with foreigners coming in,
they have started accepting the business, their dealing with them.
R: But other things remain unchanged?
P: Yes, yes, most of the country. The rural parts stay the same. (P1).
For this group of business people it appears that modern trading
systems equate to members of the marketing channel who are big
and organized (emphasized by repetition), suggesting negative
comparisons with Indian companies who have yet to modernize.
The present is thus celebrated in the use of this repertoire:
P: In the last four to ve years () almost XX% of our company
cheese sales is now suddenly coming out of the modern trade.
R: When you say modern trade you say the
P: The big, big organized retail, organized retail. (P5).
5.4. Indian management systems
This parent repertoire was commonplace, occurring in the
majority of managers' accounts. We have divided it into four separate
child repertoires as follows.
407 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
5.4.1. Local nuances
Many of our Indian managers were keen to assert the presence of
different business styles within the country. Here, the different
organizational identities of channel members are repeatedly empha-
sized. Even though operational details are not provided by the
participant, he appears adamant that these variances will impact on
inter-organizational relationships (managing the whole thing):
The Delhi distributor is totally different from a Chennai dis-
tributor. Although they are Indian, their method of managing the
whole thing, their method of selling the product, is entirely
different. (P14).
This next segment of talk also emphasizes cultural diversity in
India, attributing different attitudes to risk taking to different parts of
the country. For this participant at least, it seems likely that such
attitudes will affect how relationships are approached by trading
organizations in the North compared to the South:
There are a lot of differences in India. Generally you will nd in
the South people are far more conservative in their approach, less
risk taking in whatever, therefore you'll nd more industry and
government service (). Not so much trading and risk taking kind
of prole which is more in the North. (P23).
5.4.2. Professionalism
This repertoire tends to associate professional management with
modern business practices, which are then contrasted with tradi-
tional family management styles. Yet, even though this participant is
quick to afrm the researcher's intervention, he is not so proud of his
systems that his family do not continue to exert what appears to be a
considerable amount of traditional inuence throughout each
company they own and paternally administer (or guide):
P: Family business versus the modern kinds of business manage-
ment has been very well woven in India by many and we certainly
take pride in being one of them.
R: Professions.
P: Professions, yes. Forty years back my father put in place
professional management systems including corporate govern-
ance which has been used in the business world today. () Of
course our family owns the majority of shares and each company
has an independent board, supported by a full team of profes-
sional managers. Right from CEOs down the line, we guide. (P20).
5.4.3. Big versus small
This repertoire is used in a similar way to the professionalism
repertoire above, and indeed sometimes draws upon the same
vocabulary, but this time helps participants to make assertions about
the impact of rm size on management style. This speaker alludes to
globalization (being international) as he describes the respectful
practices of large Indian rms. He casts small rms as very different
others, leaving the telling word but to do the discursive work of
negative characterization without providing any further elucidation:
Pretty much we are becoming international in the way we look at
things. Professional management, respect of law, respect of the
environment. () By and large Indian companies respect contracts
and laws. So in that way there will not be much of a cultural shock
in terms of companies, but small rms, small entrepreneurs, you
know, their business affairs could be quite different. (P23).
5.4.4. India versus China
Here we encounter a powerful instance of discursive othering on
a national level as China is regularly compared to India and found
wanting. The repertoire is all the more resonant since it occurred
unprompted on several occasions in managers' accounts as they
constructed national identities.
The rst participant below casts India as ready to catch up in the
metaphoric race to a prime position in the global economy, while the
second draws on a vivid transportation metaphor to cast China as
culturally inferior in a way that suggests (unspecied) problems
ahead for businesses operating in that country:
We are not far behind China. There is the point in infrastructure
building and so on, but the kind of investment China is seeing in
the last fteen years, this would be the start of that for India ()
and we may take less time to catch up. (P12)
Doing business in India is like driving along an old, dug up,
detoured, speed-bumped road, but one which, if you persevered,
would ultimately get you to your destination. Much patience is
required but it is a country with progressive policies (). This is
unlike China, for example, which is like a super highway that
allows people to get on and go fast, but with no certainty that
there won't be total blocks ahead at some point. (P13).
We see the same construction of uncertainty in the next account
which explicitly, and repeatedly, contrasts the fairness of the
business system in each country. Note how the speaker is careful
to claim that this is not just his perception (this is what we hear):
You need a lot of patience in the start-up phase in India. But once
you start a business the system is very fair. What I mean is, say in
China for example you can start a business in 24 h, I am told later
on you don't know what you're in for. () This is what we hear
about China, but in India, once you are in the system is very fair.
5.5. Relationship management
Not surprisingly, given the main topic of our interviews, this
parent repertoire was very common, and was used by the vast
majority of participants to describe business practices. It comprises a
total of ve child repertoires.
5.5.1. Nature of exchange
Several managers drewon this variant to highlight the existence of
both social and economic exchanges within inter-organizational
relationships. These elements of exchange could arguably be said to
correspond to traditional and modern views of business practice,
respectively. For example, the rst speaker below portrays Indian
markets as working on sentiment, and lists several socially-
orientated behaviors that can lead to better (economic) business:
Relationship plays a very important part because Indian markets
are, you know, they work more on sentiment. If you have closer
relationships with your clients, try and help them in a friendly
way, have a cup of coffee with him, I am sure you can get better
business. (P4).
For the next participant, the idea of economic exchange (large
growth and market) is combined with a sense of mutuality via a
proposed sharing of the classic metaphoric cake based on the two
rms' (we) respective capabilities:
There is a very large domestic growth but we are also focusing on
the Middle East market. So () we can probably get a larger share
of the cake together (Indian and NZ organization) because we
don't have some of the technologies but we have other capabilities,
so we need to really appreciate each other's capabilities. (P10).
408 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
5.5.2. Commitment
The use of this repertoire suggests that a long-term outlook to
relationships is desired. For instance, this speaker is quite explicit in
attributing this desire to Indian customers in general:
Indian customers basically look for long-term supplies. They don't
look for the shorter gains () India basically is looking for longer
relationships. (P1).
Indeed, such is the desire for what the next speaker characterizes
as stability, we often nd frustration expressed at the lack of
any commitment within the market. Bad business practice is laid
at the door of agents who are seen as undesirable organizational
others in this situation. Note also how this manager reveals his
English education in the use of a very idiomatic expression for
As of now the business in India for the importers is not at all stable
because of too many players emerging out and buying XX. ()
There is no coordination of the channels, and the agents in India
they simply go out and sell the wood to any Tom, Dick and Harry.
5.5.3. Trust
The effect of this widespread repertoire is to attribute the quality
of trustworthiness (or the opposite) to a variety of social actors:
nations, organizations and individuals. This speaker, for instance,
stresses the importance of keeping promises and being able to trust
an other with serious consequences, it seems, for the trading
prospects of the Chilean nation:
The problem with Chile, I will tell you, they promised some
shipments they were making all false promises and they could not
complete that () so that memory is still there. Nobody is willing
to trust them more now. (P1).
The next account suggests that there are risks in generalizing
levels of trust within Indian business. The participant portrays some
local rms (partners) and individuals (people) as worthy of lifetime
relationships but others of being y-by-night types:
India is a diverse country so you will come across the best
entrepreneurs you can build a lifetime relationship with. You can
also come across some people who are y-by-night kind of
people. So one has to be very careful. (P23).
5.5.4. Mutuality
This child repertoire, instances of which we have already seen
above, is often evoked by the use of the classic marriage metaphor, a
metaphor which appears to have resonance across cultures. This
speaker uses it to construct his own rmas particularly mindful of the
need for mutuality to make relationships work between them and
We want to work with like minded small teams who we need to be
as important for them as they are important to us. And therefore it
has to be the marriage for it to work. And it's a marriage between
equals. (P11).
5.5.5. Expert partner
An important part of organizational identity is the construction of
the focal rm as possessing some key expertise or knowledge of value
to potential partners. In this example, the partner is encouraged to
accept the understanding of the local market held by the speaker's
organization. In this way, the relationship can, to use the speaker's
own construction metaphor, be built:
The key to our relationship being successful is our understanding
of how Indians do business. It's very different. And for YY's (New
Zealand organization) understanding of how India as a market
operates they have to trust us. That's the foundation or the
building blocks of this entire relationship. (P13).
In this second use of the expert partner repertoire, a lot of
discursive work is taking place. First we see the industrial network
being evoked via the extensive set of relationships claimed for the
participant's organization (we represent). Second, contemporary
mechanisms of economic exchange are normalized (distributed and
marketed). Third, the organizational identity of the focal rm is
asserted via talk of knowing how the market works and the status
(best in the world) of their partners. Finally, the negative identity
of traders is constructed by referring to their relative ignorance, a
social construction in which the researcher is complicit:
P: We represent XX brands from South Africa, we represent YY
from worldwide, we represent ZZ from New Zealand, a few of the
best companies in the world, we have distributed and marketed
for them and now all these companies have so much condence in
us () We know how the market works more than any fruit
trader who gets at A price and sells at B price and has no idea of
what is involved in doing that.
R: So they are just traders.
P: Yes they are just traders. (P7).
5.6. Managerial expertise
This nal repertoire is common, with almost all our participants
using it to construct their own identities. They do so in a systematic
manner that indicates educational background is a core element of how
Indian managers see themselves. We thus encounter the individual
expert portrayed as an important actor within industrial networks.
In response to the interview question, Can you tell us something
about yourself? virtually all the managers we spoke to begin their
answer by highlighting their education before mentioning their
business role or their upbringing, even when education was not
prompted as a topic. Many use the well basically formulation to start
their accounts, suggesting that the most fundamental (basic) part of
their identity is how they were trained. Here are some examples:
Basically, I am a commerce graduate and after I nished I had an
interest in international business. (P7)
I nished my Masters and I'm a marketing manager as well. (P13)
Well basically, I'm a chartered accountant and then MBA nance
in terms of academic qualications. I'm vice-Chairman of the XX
Group. (P23).
For this sample of managers, a key part of their individual network
attractiveness is the expertise bestowed on them by their training
which, as we have seen from our review of literature, is likely to have
had a strong Western inuence.
6. Discussion
Our scrutiny of managers' talk has revealed an overlapping range
of relationship-related interpretive repertoires. The use of these
repertoires helps to construct Indian marketing managers as
accomplished practitioners, able to accommodate a number of
complementary, and sometimes competing discourses of manage-
ment in (and about) B2B interactions. One theme that emerges
strongly is that of a constant negotiation of identity.
409 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
If we extend the concept of rm-level identity to the structure of
existing industrial network thinking (Huemer, 2004) we can
determine three notional levels (Wilke & Ritter, 2006) of identity
construction in managers' talk: national, organizational and individual.
These identities effectively range fromthe more macro- to micro-level
of the social actor. The different levels are inter-related, thereby
allowing speakers to construct themselves while using an interpretive
repertoire that at rst glance, may appear to be functioning at a
higher level. Thus organizational (company) identities are nested
within the nationally constructed identity of India as a country, and
individual (managerial) identities are nested within both organiza-
tional and national identities (Fig. 1). As our extracts have shown, by
evoking different levels of identity in the same segment of talk,
managers are able to position themselves and their rms as
practitioners and organizations with particular attributes, even
without explicit reference to their own (nested) roles.
Based on our analysis of participants' discursive accomplishments
(Table 2), these social constructions are facilitated by repertoires that
include for national identity: industrial networks, globalization, past and
present practices, India versus China, and trust. For organizational
identity, they include: networks, globalization and trust again, as well as
professionalism, big versus small, nature of exchange, commitment,
mutuality and expert partner. For constructing individual identity, the
most relevant repertoires are managerial expertise andtrust once again.
Repertoires seem to be deployed by participants to maintain,
defend and potentially exploit particular subject positions or identities
in the power imbalances that underpin global supply chain relation-
ships. Rather like a script for relationship management, Indian
marketers' repertoire use reects the agency afforded by drawing
upon different discourses and also, at the same time, the constraints
that some of these discourses can bring. Thus we nd participants on
one handusing their linguistic toolkits to moldidentities ontheir own
terms, while on the other hand appearing to be unable to perceive B2B
marketing in terms other than those suggested by the various
knowledge systems circulating in the Indian business context.
Findings tend to echo the tension between traditional and modern
management values co-existing in India; for instance, when partic-
ipants utilize the past and present practices repertoire. Thus in their
talk, managers have to weave together potentially incommensurate
positions (e.g. between a family and a professional orientation), yet
they do so with consummate sensitivity to the dynamics of inter-
organizational relationships.
Although our study has focused mainly on Indian managers'
discursive constructions of business values, what may be the most
interesting aspect of this paper is what we can conclude about the
potential effects of language in (and on) generic B2B marketing
practices. By this we mean the dexterity with which individual
managers discursively position themselves, their rms and their
country by drawing upon a wide range of interpretive repertoires in
accounts of relationship management. We have revealed some of the
inherent tensions in discursive constructions of managerial selves and
trading partners as well as other network members; constructions
which, as we have argued, have the potential to impact on decision
making and ultimately, marketing actions. Our chief contributions
have thus been to (a) conceptually synthesize some of the discursive
forces at work in the business context of the Indian sub-continent, and
(b) empirically illustrate the subtle sense-making processes in action
within managers' talk as they construct individual, organizational and
national identities in networks.
6.1. Managerial implications
Gadde and Hkansson (2001, p. 103) believe that a solution to the
difculties related to managing networks is to embark upon a
process of continuous experimentation. They explain that such
experiments can be based on actions that are linked to specic
transactions or relationships, the aim being to map and analyze
reactions and reect on and adjust to these ndings. For Gadde and
Hkansson, experimentation appears to be largely materially-based.
Nevertheless, since they also state that the termgives an indication of
the importance of signaling, of telling others about the ambition of the
company (and) is part of forming the identity of the company
(2001, p. 193), we suggest extending the notion of experimenting to
identity construction as part of an actors' discursive practices.
Experimenting with one's identity may prevent rms that operate
across national borders from becoming overwhelmed by the endless
stimulus of the emerging networks they exist in but also (from)
failing to shape organizational identities (Huemer et al., 2009, p. 70).
The understanding generated through an examination of discourse
should help B2B practitioners navigate through the complexity of the
rapidly evolving Indian market. This may allow marketers to
experiment as they attempt to construct exible identities that
need not conform to the rather limiting stereotype of the all-
controlling (Western) manager or organization. In this way,
managers' talk can help to construct the potential development of
inter-organizational relationships in emerging market economies.
This is because the meanings and ideas that individuals and
organizations possess about themselves and others, and their beliefs
about how the social world should function, can be communicated to
other network actors thereby potentially inuencing their actions
(Johanson & Mattsson, 1992; Welch & Wilkinson, 2002).
The challenge of determining the network attractiveness of India
as a nation, and of different Indian organizations and individual
managerial identities, means that B2B marketers should consider
carefully how to construct their own identities. To succeed both
within India and in terms of beneting from the country's status as a
hub for other global networks, it appears to be necessary to maintain
an attractive identity. Building an organization's credibility via
evidence of expertise and trustworthiness is important; for example,
by building on links with international partners with high proles and
possibly by leveraging national identity. It is vital to nd a reliable
partner, such as an agent or distributor with specialist knowledge and
high levels of trustworthiness. Working with similar sized (and
indeed educated) partners can help develop mutuality, as can treating
agents as partners rather than traders. Finally, managers should try
to maintain as much social contact as possible and signal long-term
commitment. In all these activities, paying attention to the linguistic
practices of potential partners and of one's own representatives will
be crucial to the construction of long-term relationships.
6.2. Reections and limitations
We acknowledge that this study does not really go as far as we
would have liked in redressing the dominant Western perspective
National identity
Industrial networks
Past and present
India versus China
Industrial networks
Big versus small
Expert partner
Managerial expertise
Fig. 1. Nested levels of identities in networks: key repertoires.
410 N. Ellis et al. / Industrial Marketing Management 41 (2012) 402412
prevalent in most studies of business relationships. The methodolog-
ical constraints we faced in gaining access to the talk of foreign
managers have meant that compromises have necessarily been made,
such as the predominantly male gender of our participants (all but
one were men), and indeed, their relatively elite status. This is a facet
of many studies of Indian management; studies which typically fail to
accommodate the structure of India's labor market with its massive
informal or unorganized workforce, an exclusion that extends to the
experiences of women workers (Hill, 2009).
We are grateful to one of our reviewers for pointing out that a
possible problem might have been the inability of non-native
speakers to follow all the discourse under scrutiny. However, this
may not apply to this particular data set, since it is generated from
educated individuals actively involved in trading where communica-
tion takes place predominantly in the English language. Although
there were cultural differences, researcher/participant interactions
were not affected by a lack of linguistic comprehension. However, we
acknowledge that the wider international nature of our on-going
cross-cultural research project means that we will have to consider
such issues more carefully in future studies.
A less structured approach to interviewing may have avoided
pressurizing participants into a preconceived response pattern in
which the expression of Indian cultural values was seen as
inadmissible in response to our inquiries (Fusilier & Durlabhji,
2001). This could have given managers greater freedom to explain
in their own words the contextual factors that they consider as
inuencing organizational practices. Moreover, as pointed out by
another reviewer, we acknowledge that much of the IMP literature
emerges from a slightly different perspective to what we have tended
to generalize as Western marketing thought. It would have be
interesting to have explored the parallels that might exist between
Indian and Scandinavian values and knowledge systems, and the
extent to which this could have affected the adoption of a network
view (Mattsson, 1997) by Indian managers.
These limitations also need to be considered alongside the
dilemmas in interpretation encountered in all such interview-based
research endeavors. This may well be the case when Indian marketers
aspire to notions of identity inuenced by the expert system of
Western management values. Ultimately, as Soares (1981) has
pointed out, there appears to be a strong need among Indian
managers to portray an acceptable image of themselves. Their
identities, and those of the organizations they represent, are
particularly elusive, even when approached via a relatively sensitive
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