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    The internationalisation of Thai family-owned SMEs: the role of networks

    Saengsri, Sataporn (2022) The internationalisation of Thai family-owned SMEs: the role of networks. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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    Abstract

    Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the foundation of economic development worldwide, and Thailand is no exception. In Thailand, SMEs are accounted for more than ninety per cent of the total enterprises. Furthermore, family-owned businesses in Thailand are the backbone of the country, accounting for seventy-two per cent of companies. Family-owned businesses have different characteristics from non-family firms, including family ownership and involvement, which might influence their internationalisation differently. Family-owned SMEs usually have scarce resources. Network relationships have been seen as an important tool for firms’ internationalisation to overcome barriers in foreign markets. Different network ties offer different sets of resources that come from interconnected relationships, including business, social, and intermediary networks. However, network relationships also have drawbacks that might deter family-owned SMEs’ internationalisation. Each network tie plays a significant role in family-owned SMEs that might need different types of resources in each internationalisation phase. Different network ties might be suitable for different internationalisation phases. However, networks in family businesses might differ from others due to their distinctive aspects, such as generational change. As time passes, family-owned SMEs’ ownership and/or management might transfer to incoming generations, and the firms’ strategic plans might change in the later stages of the internationalisation process. Therefore, this study aims to explore both positive and negative influences of three network ties used by family-owned SMEs during their internationalisation process. This study also aims to investigate the roles of networks in family-owned SMEs at different internationalisation phases. This study adopts qualitative methods by interviewing twenty family-owned SMEs from the Thai food industry. The cases analyse the benefits and drawbacks of network ties and the roles of networks at the beginning and subsequent phases of the family-owned SMEs’ internationalisation. Results show that all network ties have benefits and pitfalls, requiring SMEs to balance the use of network ties and complement them to maximise the benefits. The findings also reveal that the role of social networks decreases as firms grow, while business and intermediary networks might be maintained and strengthened throughout the internationalisation process.

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