Which companies are winning in China?

In “Winning in China: 8 Stories of Success and Failure in the World’s Largest Economy,” Wharton global fellow Lele Sang and Wharton vice dean of entrepreneurship and innovation& Karl Ulrich explore the successes and failures of several well-known companies, including Amazon, Hyundai, LinkedIn, Sequoia Capital, and InMobi, as more and more businesses look to reap profits from China’s 1.4 billion consumers.

Busy sidewalk in urban China at night with crowds walking past commercial businesses.

“We really didn’t want to write about companies that everyone already knew about,” says Ulrich. “We didn’t want to write about Google and Facebook—and a lot of people know about Starbucks’ success in China—so we really wanted these to be new stories, the first time that someone had written extensively about these companies.”

Sang adds, “I think InMobi’s success mostly surprised me. InMobi is an Indian tech company, but the tech industry in China has been notoriously difficult for foreign players to break into. There are so many star players that have tried and failed, or who have struggled in China. So InMobi made it.”

Amazon, the first case mentioned in the book has surged to become the second-most valuable company in the world, but the authors find it to be a failure in China. “First of all, Amazon didn’t bring any competitive advantages to the Chinese market,” explains Sang. “Secondly, Amazon didn’t commit to the Chinese market, especially compared with its Chinese [competitors], JD and Alibaba. Thirdly, Amazon had a clumsy strategy. Its strategy was using a global template to manage business in China, which didn’t work out because of a different business environment in China.”

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