Factors associated with successful exporters : empirical evidence from Malaysia
Empirical investigations on firms' export behaviour and performance have tended to focus on the experience of firms from developed nations. Little is known about such issues among firms in developing nations generally, and Malaysia in particular. This study investigates export behaviour and performance of manufacturing firms in Malaysia. The central concerns of this study are i) to establish the characteristics of successful and less successful exporters; and ii) to determine factors that distinguish the two groups of exporters. Fieldwork for this research was carried out in Malaysia between May and July 1992. The study employed two research methods, a mail survey and case study. A total of 190 useful returns were received from firms representing a cross-section of the manufacturing sector. As regards case study, five companies consented to be personally interviewed by the researcher. Through statistical analysis, it was established that there are three characteristics or profiles of successful and less successful exporters. In the first profile, exporters which are classified as adopting a market diversification strategy are more successful than exporters adopting a market concentration strategy. The second profile is made up of exporters characterised as exhibiting a selling orientation policy. In this group of firms, it was determined that the large-sized firms are more successful than the medium-sized firms. The third profile is represented by firms which are classified as foreign-owned. The analysis shows that firms characterised as exhibiting a marketing orientation policy are more successful than firms characterised as exhibiting a selling orientation. Analysis determined that variables measuring firms' marketing strengths (broadly classified into organisational and marketing-mix strengths) separate successful and less successful exporters. The two groups of firms also display different attitude with regards the state of the infrastructure in the domestic economy, intensity of competition in export markets, and export barriers. The findings from case the studies show that both internal and external factors motivate firms to explore export opportunities. The factors peculiar to the export success of case companies, include the manager's international orientation, the company's commitment to producing high and consistent quality products, and the maintenance of close contacts with overseas markets. The findings confirm the findings from the mail survey. Differences and similarities exist between the findings of this study and those generated in other countries. The results add new information on the export behaviour of firms from Malaysia.