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Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars Good as a way to structure analysis but too ambitious in coverage to say anything useful about specifics, 30 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Brics and Beyond - Executive Lessons on Emerging Markets (Hardcover)
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"BRICS and Beyond" contains some useful and practical ways of assessing risk and opportunities in emerging markets for both practitioners and students alike, and it does seem to be mainly targeted at MBA students in style. The structure of the book is logical and you can certainly use the content, which is clearly laid out, to structure your thinking. However, while acknowledging this contribution, in several other ways I found the book to be somewhat disappointing.

In part some of the disappointment was my own fault. The title suggested to me a particular focus on the "BRICS" but in fact, it is balanced by the "and Beyond" to a large extent. Even the BRICS coverage focusses strongly on China and, to a lesser extent India with Russia getting less attention and Brazil and South Africa almost none. Instead there is also a focus on sub Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Vietnam. While this is all well and good, it means the book lacks some focus and ability to say anything interesting about the markets beyond a way of looking at them. China has as much in common with Cameroon as it does with the UK - ie not that much. The implication that there is homogeneity is wrong, and while there is recognition that a "horses for courses" is required, it means the book is less interesting than it could have been. In this context it would have been more interesting to look at Japan and South Korea and how they are different from China, say.

While I liked the layout of looking at Risk (Country, CSR, Culture), Opportunities (Marketing, Entrepreneurship) and Practice (Strategy, Alliances, Lessons for Global Business), the layout of each chapter is strange. Jones starts with a couple of pages telling us what she is going to tell us (a pet hate along with PowerPoint presentations that read what is on the slide) when a simple list would be more efficient if this signposting is really necessary. Then she goes into aspects of each idea often at least initially supported by six months of articles from the "Economist" (she cites 116 articles from a six month period in 2011) although she seems to get bored of this after country risk. Then she presents an Executive Summary of essentially the same list in a couple of, very useful, pages. Then most strange of all she again goes into each element of the list in a "workshop" fashion asking the sorts of questions that the issues raise and then initially giving her own experience and then she seems to run out of those too so just does what the second part does. There's nothing wrong, per se, with any of these approaches but all together we keep getting the same list repeated. She's also fond of an exclamation mark which looks odd in a management book of this sort.

The proofing is pretty shonky too. Several sentences make no sense - they have clearly been changed and not re-read. We are told also that "two people bitterly liked each other" (sic) which is interesting. Lenovo is referred to throughout as Lenova to give just two examples. Doubtless these will be corrected in subsequent prints but business books are expensive and quality control should be better. My guess is that it was rushed for topicality based on the "Economist" content. This too is a problem as some of the information is now plain wrong - particularly concerning China. I sympathize because one of the issues, which to be fair Jones does touch on but I would have like to see more weight to, is that these markets change very rapidly as do the rules. What you think you know one week turns out to be plain wrong the next. However, it doesn't invalidate the way of thinking about the issues.

Ultimately it seems to have fallen into a trap of trying to cover too large an area. BRICS and Beyond is pretty much most countries outside Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and S Korea. This means that once she tries to give examples she runs into trouble and we get statements like "workplace behaviours in the West can be quite different to those in emerging market countries, especially in terms of levels of emotion shown - which can be much more than in the West, or much less and almost imperceptible". True, maybe but not particularly practical in terms of advice. Moreover some of the country risk aspects could justifiably be leveled against the non-BRICS and Beyond PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain). This can come over as a little patronizing as a result - although I'm sure that isn't her intention.

There's good stuff contained here but it could have been said in half the pages (or indeed in a few good diagrams) and it is most useful as a tool for analysis rather than the specifics of the markets.
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