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The Success of Challengers

2011 BCG Global Challengers
In This Article
  • Bharti Airtel has become the world’s fifth-largest mobile operator. The secrets to its success are innovative business models relating to operations and distribution.

  • Thailand’s Indorama Ventures has grown from the tenth-largest to the top global producer by having the courage to challenge conventional wisdom.

  • Rather than simply taking advantage of location and labor costs, Nemak is a world-class auto supplier known for technological innovation, customer focus, and quality products.


The global challengers are certainly not the first firms to emerge from developing economies to achieve global leadership, but they are taking a different path than their predecessors from Japan and South Korea did. The Japanese and Korean globalization campaigns were built around organic growth—but the global challengers are growing both organically and through M&A.

The Japanese and South Korean pioneers also developed a different set of strengths than the global challengers have. Over time, Japanese companies became known for technological innovation, lean manufacturing, and brands that stood for quality, while South Korean companies developed a reputation for making quality products at affordable prices. The global challengers are more varied in their approach. Notably, they are creating disruptive business models and coming up with new and better ways to get the job done in many industries. Three challengers exemplify this approach: Bharti Airtel, Indorama Ventures, and Grupo Alfa’s Nemak subsidiary. (For more about all 100 global challengers, see the full report The 2011 BCG Global Challengers: Companies on the Move.)