Competitive advantages in a hostile, regulated environment: Four multinational banks in India

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International business literature has historically been divided between scholars exploring the local obstacles foreign firms face (thereby overlooking foreign firms’ capacity to deploy advantages locally) and those examining the internationalisation of firm-specific advantages (thereby overlooking the peculiarities of the local context in which foreign firms deploy their advantages). We still do not completely understand the process by which multinational enterprises (MNEs) – especially service MNEs – develop competitive advantages in relation to the host environment. Using a multiple-case study of four multinational banking subsidiaries in India, this research aims to explore the variety of competitive advantages deployed by foreign multinational banks (MNBs) in a hostile, competitive environment: the Indian banking industry. This article’s main contribution is to bridge the gap between the obstacle-oriented internationalisation literature and the advantage-oriented literature through an exploration and comparison of a comprehensive set of locally relevant advantages deployed by the four MNBs studied. We introduce the concepts of global anchoring and local anchoring to make sense of the directionality of subsidiaries’ competitive advantages, and we explore their broad associations with subsidiaries’ commercial and financial performance. We conclude by discussing three theoretical lenses, situated at the intersection of the obstacle-oriented and advantage-oriented literatures, which can potentially account for the origins of competitive advantages in our sample, and we develop a series of propositions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-879
Number of pages49
JournalManagement International Review
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2022


  • Internationalisation theories
  • Competitive advantages
  • Service industry
  • Multinational banking
  • India

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