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Sony’s International Expansion: Strategies, Challenges, and SME Insights


Sony Corporation is a diversified global enterprise established in 1946 in Tokyo, Japan. The corporation originated as a diminutive establishment specializing in electronics merchandise and has since evolved into one of the most expansive global entities in the electronics and entertainment industry. Sony has experienced international expansion and proficiently penetrated numerous foreign markets. The present study endeavors to critically assess Sony’s entrepreneurial and internationalization approach, particularly regarding its successful navigation of the challenges encountered while penetrating a new overseas market. The examination of the internationalization pathway of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) bears significant relevance as it markedly contributes to the expansion and advancement of the worldwide economy. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are crucial drivers of economic expansion and employment generation in numerous nations. Comprehending how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can efficaciously penetrate and thrive in international markets can furnish significant discernments for comparable SMEs that aspire to extend their business operations worldwide. This research aims to examine the internationalization strategy pursued by Sony, with particular emphasis on its penetration into a distinct foreign market. This paper intends to explore significant inquiries about Sony’s selection of the new foreign market, its preferred modes of expansion, adopted internationalization strategies, encountered problems, challenges, and the resolutions implemented to overcome them. The present study will additionally derive ramifications for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking to extend their business ventures at an international level.

Selection of Geographical Markets for Expansion

Factors Considered by Sony When Selecting New Foreign Markets

Sony is a multinational corporation with a diversified portfolio across various sectors, encompassing electronics, gaming, and entertainment (Mourdoukoutas & Stefanidis, 2023). When pursuing expansion into new international markets, Sony meticulously evaluates a multitude of factors, such as the dimensions of the market, its potential for economic growth, the levels of political stability, the degree of cultural similarity, and the various laws and regulations governing the industry. The market size is a crucial element Sony considers while identifying prospective foreign markets. Sony strategically selects nations with expansive and burgeoning consumer markets as their target demographic. For instance, in the 1980s, when Sony undertook expansion into China, it was largely motivated by the vast market potential of the country (Tang, 2023). In response to India’s burgeoning and rapidly expanding middle class, Sony made a foray into the Indian market in the early 1990s.

Sony seeks out markets with considerable prospects for economic growth. Tang (2023) shares that the organization directs its focus toward nations that exhibit a robust economic growth trajectory, as this denotes an expanding populace of consumers with enhanced affluence for purchasing. An instance of a corporation driven by a country’s economic growth potential in their expansion efforts can be observed in Sony’s entrance into Brazil during the early 2000s, as illustrated by Dau et al. (2021). Sony’s selection of new foreign markets considers the crucial aspect of political stability within a country. Political instability can give rise to various risks for companies’ operations, such as the possibility of asset expropriation, regulatory framework alterations, and social unrest. Wan (2022) shares that the decision made by Sony to penetrate the Chinese market was received with a degree of skepticism, primarily due to the prevailing political instability within the country. Nonetheless, the company opted to proceed with its foray into the market, driven by its recognition of its massive potential.

Sony Corporation endeavors to identify markets that hold cultural affinities with its domestic market in Japan. Identifying shared cultural attributes can facilitate comprehension regarding consumer inclinations, thereby facilitating crafting of bespoke products and services that cater to indigenous markets (Hu, 2021). An illustration of successful market expansion can be observed in Sony’s entry into the United States during the 1960s. By capitalizing on their proficiency in developing electronics and audio equipment, the company could craft merchandise that resonated with the needs and preferences of American consumers.

Sony’s legal and regulatory environment is a significant consideration in selecting potential foreign markets. The enterprise endeavors to identify markets that exhibit unwavering adherence and adherence to legal and regulatory frameworks, which aid in bolstering business activities. For instance, Cox (2019) offers that Sony proliferated its European operations in the 1970s as a reaction to the region’s reliable legal and regulatory milieu. In selecting new foreign markets for expansion, Cox (2019) establishes that Sony considers a multitude of factors, such as market size, economic growth potential, political stability, cultural affinities, and the legal and regulatory landscape. Through meticulously evaluating these determining elements, Sony can boldly venture into unexplored territories and establish thriving commercial activities.

Theoretical Frameworks for market selection

Sony incorporates theoretical frameworks into its market expansion strategy while considering various influential factors. According to Foscht and Maloles (2022), the organization utilizes two fundamental frameworks: market attractiveness and market potential. The utilization of the market attractiveness framework serves as a means to assess the comprehensive desirability of a prospective market (Foscht and Maloles, 2022). The framework in question considers variables including but not limited to the dimensions of market size, market growth rate, market profitability, and competitive intensity. Through rigorous analysis of various pertinent factors, Zhang and Chiu (2020) offer that Sony can effectively be discerning markets with high potential for offering a considerable return on investment. In assessing the Chinese market, Sony considered the sizeable and burgeoning middle class of the country as an indication of the significant potential for market expansion (Zhang and Chiu, 2020). An analysis of the competitive intensity of the market was performed by Sony, revealing that the company would be confronted with formidable rivalry from domestic actors.

The utilization of the market potential framework entails an assessment of the prospective magnitude of a particular market. Laillou et al. (2021) offer that this framework considers various factors, including demographic trends, economic advancement, and technological progress. Through a comprehensive examination of various determinants, Sony can discern those markets with the highest likelihood of exhibiting growth opportunities (Laillou et al., 2021). For instance, upon scrutinizing the Indian market, Sony factored in the briskly expanding middle class of the country, which inferred significant potential for market growth. Sony analyzed demographic patterns in the country, revealing a youthful population proficient in technology, thereby rendering it an appealing consumer market for the corporation’s electronic and entertainment commodities.

Analysis of Sony’s Chosen Foreign Market

Throughout its history, Sony has ventured into numerous foreign markets, but China is one particular market that holds significant significance. China, the most populous country with the second-largest economy, has become a highly coveted market for various global corporations, including Sony. During the 1980s, Zhang and Negus (2020) offered that Sony commenced operations in the Chinese market by establishing a joint venture agreement primarily to manufacture and distribute consumer electronics merchandise. During the initial stages of its operations in China, Zhang and Negus (2020) state that the company encountered numerous obstacles, such as inadequate legal and regulatory structures, linguistic obstacles, and cultural disparities. Nevertheless, Sony tenaciously persisted and ultimately forged a robust foothold within the industry.

The burgeoning middle class of China presented a compelling market opportunity for Sony, rendering it an attractive locale for investment. During the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s in China, there was a significant augmentation in the per capita income, which led to a considerable and expanding consumer base with an amplified purchasing capacity. The incident provided Sony with a propitious occasion to market its premium electronics and entertainment merchandise to the populace of China. According to Zhang and Chiu (2020), China’s potential for growth was a contributing factor that rendered its market alluring for Sony. Sony acknowledged the future growth of China’s economy and the further expansion of the nation’s middle class (Tang, 2023). Consequently, the corporation made substantial investments in its operations within the Chinese market, involving the construction of state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, diversifying its product portfolios, and allocating substantial resources for marketing strategies and distribution networks.

Even with the potential advantages that could accrue to Sony upon entering the Chinese market, the company encountered several obstacles to its market entry efforts. Zhang and Chiu (2020) share that one obstacle was the need for a robust legal and regulatory structure. During that particular period, the legal system in China was considerably underdeveloped, thereby exposing Sony to potential risks in its operations. The prompt outlined a significant hurdle encountered by Sony, namely, the cultural variances between China and Japan, which is Sony’s base market (Zhang and Chiu, 2020). Sony was obligated to modify its products and marketing tactics to entice Chinese customers, necessitating an extensive outlay in research and development.

Notwithstanding the obstacles, Sony effectively established a thriving business enterprise in the Chinese market. Zhang and Chiu (2020) add that the corporation capitalized on its areas of expertise in electronics and entertainment to design merchandise that resonated with the preferences of the Chinese populace. Additionally, it committed resources to advertise and circulation endeavors in order to extend its reach to a broad spectrum of potential consumers (Zhang and Chiu, 2020). By thoroughly assessing the potentialities and obstacles of the Chinese market and devising a focused approach to market entry, Sony could surmount the difficulties it encountered and establish a prosperous business enterprise in China.

Modes of Expansion and International Strategies

Modes of expansion chosen by Sony

Sony has employed various modes of expansion to venture into foreign markets. The determination of the most appropriate mode of entry is heavily influenced by a variety of factors, including the degree of risk involved, the level of control deemed necessary, the perceived level of investment required, and the extent of knowledge and experience that the affiliated organization possesses concerning the target market (Stallkamp and Schotter, 2021). One viable approach that Sony has employed for growth is the establishment of joint ventures. Establishing a joint venture entails the creation of a collaborative partnership with a domestic enterprise operating within the intended market. The approach enables Sony to take advantage of the expertise and practical insights a domestic collaborator offers to effectively address the different cultural, legal, and regulatory hurdles inherent to the target market (Stallkamp and Schotter, 2021). In the instance that Sony initiated its foray into the Chinese market, it established a collaborative enterprise with an indigenous organization for manufacturing and retailing its electronic merchandise.

Another mode of expansion that Sony has pursued is the implementation of licensing agreements. The licensing process entails the authorization of one establishment to another to utilize Sony’s intellectual property, including patents and trademarks, in exchange for the remittance of royalty payments (Ooi, 2021). The granting of licenses enables Sony to extend its business presence into novel geographical regions without incurring substantial capital expenditures or organizational demands. As an illustration, Sony engages in technology licensing agreements with other entities to facilitate the production of various products, including but not limited to smartphones and gaming consoles (Ooi, 2021). Sony employs franchising as an alternate method of expanding their business operations. The franchising concept entails conferring authorization to a third-party entity to operate under Sony’s trademark and organizational strategy in return for initial remuneration and regular royalties. Franchising has emerged as a widely favored mode of enterprise expansion, particularly for entities operating in the domains of retail and service (Ooi, 2021). Sony has leveraged the franchising strategy to propel its retail operations into new and emerging markets across Europe and Asia. Sony has utilized direct investment as a strategy for growth and expansion. The process of direct investment entails the establishment of wholly-owned subsidiaries within the designated target market. The strategy of expansion that necessitates substantial financial investment enables Sony to exercise full authority over its activities within the focused market (Ooi, 2021). Utilizing the strategy of direct investment, Sony has established manufacturing and research and development facilities in various markets, including the United States and Europe.

Analysis of Sony’s internationalization strategies

Sony’s approach to internationalization encompasses the utilization of its established brand recognition and technical proficiency to penetrate and expand into novel overseas markets. According to Alhashash et al. (2019), the organization possesses a robust brand identity and a renowned standing for crafting electronics of exceptional value. The organization has effectively penetrated novel markets by leveraging its pre-existing competencies. Sony’s approach towards internationalization encompasses a focused approach to research and development. Sony places significant emphasis on research and development to devise novel products that appeal to a diverse range of consumers in various markets (Alhashash et al., 2019). The circumstance has enabled the organization to set itself apart from its contenders and cement its position as a forerunner in numerous product domains, such as gaming consoles and televisions.

Sony employs a strategy of product localization as a means of internationalization. Sony acknowledges that distinct markets possess individual cultural, legal, and regulatory necessities. As a result, Alhashash et al. (2019) share that it customizes its offerings to cater to the unique requirements of individual markets. An instance of a well-received market entry is exemplified by Sony’s approach to the Indian market. To satisfy local consumers’ requirements, Sony initiated the development of a collection of cost-effective and multimedia-equipped smartphones. The branding strategy implemented by Sony constitutes a crucial element of its approach to expanding its global presence (Alhashash et al. 2019). The corporation has a robust brand reputation has established worldwide recognition as a foremost authority in electronic goods manufacturing. Sony has established its reputation by implementing a synergistic strategy encompassing marketing initiatives, product excellence, and customer support (Alhashash et al., 2021). Through strategically utilizing its established brand reputation, Sony has successfully penetrated novel markets and positioned itself as a formidable contender amongst well-established competitors.

Problems and Challenges Encountered by Sony

Challenges faced by Sony in entering a new foreign market

Sony has faced various obstacles while venturing into novel foreign markets. One of the primary hurdles the company has encountered is encroachment from established market participants. As an illustration, when Sony entered the smartphone market in China, it encountered formidable competition from local contenders, namely Huawei and Xiaomi. Sony has encountered a formidable challenge in adjusting to the exclusive cultural and regulatory prerequisites across various markets (Wan, 2022). As illustrated, Sony’s entry into the Indian market necessitated a product adaptation process to cater to the indigenous consumer base’s preferences and align with the market’s regulatory requirements. The utilization of substantial resources in the pursuit of research and development can incur significant expenses and demands considerable time. Sony has encountered significant obstacles in establishing a distribution network in emerging markets (Wan, 2022). Establishing bonds with nearby distributors and retailers could be arduous and time-intensive, especially within markets where Sony needs more recognition.

Analysis of how Sony overcame the challenges

In order to surmount these obstacles, Sony has implemented numerous strategic approaches. Sony has strategically concentrated its efforts on product differentiation to address the challenges established competitors pose. According to Alhashash et al. (2019), the organization has allocated considerable resources toward research and development endeavors to create novel products that provide distinctive attributes and advantages to customers. As an illustration, Sony’s Xperia smartphones present characteristics such as cutting-edge cameras with high resolution and sophisticated audio systems, which set them apart from their counterparts.

To effectively navigate the challenge of conforming to diverse cultural and regulatory specifications, Sony has established local teams within varying international markets. The teams are responsible for comprehending the native inclinations of consumers, prevailing market patterns, and regulatory prerequisites (Alhashash et al., 2019). The phenomenon has allowed Sony to design and manufacture products that cater to the distinctive requirements of individual markets while ensuring conformity to relevant regional policies. In light of its business strategy, Sony has directed its efforts toward forging robust alliances with native distributors and retail establishments. Sony has made significant investments in training and development programs aimed at facilitating its partners’ comprehension of its products and brand (Alhashash et al., 2019). This strategy has played a fundamental role in establishing a robust distribution network in formerly untapped markets.

Theoretical Frameworks for addressing challenges in Internationalization

In order to tackle the obstacles Sony encounters in its internationalization efforts, various theoretical frameworks may be utilized. The Uppsala Model is a notable framework that posits that companies incrementally extend their overseas activities by acquiring experiential insights and amassing market expertise. Munusamy and Hashim (2020) offer that the framework highlights the significance of comprehending a particular geographic location’s prevailing market dynamics and conforming to that locale’s distinctive social and legal norms. The Eclectic Paradigm is a framework that offers a comprehensive approach to penetrating foreign markets effectively. According to this paradigm, Wu and Vahlne (2020) support that firms must possess ownership, location, and internalization advantages to succeed in their foreign operations. This particular framework underscores the significance of capitalizing on a company’s distinct strengths and advantages across varying markets.

The Resource-Based View (RBV) framework has the potential to tackle challenges related to internationalization effectively (Sharma et al., 2022). The present framework posits that to achieve an enduring competitive advantage across varied markets, corporations must strategically cultivate and harness their distinctive organizational assets and competencies (Sharma et al., 2022). Sony has effectively leveraged its unique resources and capabilities to efficiently penetrate novel foreign markets through strategic investments in research and development, fostering robust alliances with regional distributors and retailers, and establishing dedicated local teams across disparate markets.

Implications for other Small-Medium Enterprises

The experience of Sony in the field of internationalization presents numerous implications for other small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Initially, the statement assesses the significance of allocating resources toward research and developmental endeavors to generate inventive commodities which separate the organization from its rivals. The findings by Wang and Wang (2020) offer that Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may derive instructive insights from Sony’s experience and focus on product development endeavors that deliver exceptional traits and advantages tailored to satisfy the particular requirements of diverse market segments.

The significance of comprehending local market circumstances and conforming to regional cultural and regulatory prerequisites is exemplified in Sony’s experience as a company. According to Dai et al. (2021), Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) may benefit from Sony’s approach by engaging in market research to gain an in-depth understanding of regional consumer inclinations and current market tendencies. Dai et al. (2021) support that implementing this strategy can be a facilitative measure for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in augmenting their product and service line to satisfactorily cater to diverse markets with specific regional requirements and adhere to pertinent regulatory frameworks.

The third point from Sony’s experience underscores the significance of fostering robust collaborations with indigenous distributors and retailers within a given market. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have the potential to gain valuable insights from Sony’s approach by implementing training and development initiatives aimed at enhancing the comprehension of their products and brand by local partners (Asada et al., 2020). The implementation of this approach has the potential to facilitate the creation of a robust distribution network in unexplored territories and foster brand recognition amongst indigenous customers.

Sony’s experience highlights the importance of SMEs being willing to allocate substantial resources and time to facilitate the process of internationalization. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are often confronted with considerable hurdles when embarking on market expansion endeavors, particularly in foreign domains (Maroufkhani et al., 2023). These obstacles may include fierce competition from incumbent firms, conforming to specific cultural and regulatory prerequisites, and setting up an efficient distribution system. Even so, SMEs can surmount these hurdles and triumph in novel foreign markets through resource allocation in product development, market research, and robust partnerships with local distributors and retailers (Maroufkhani et al., 2023). The analysis of Sony’s experience in internationalization reveals practical implications for small-medium enterprises. SMEs can effectively penetrate new foreign markets and attain sustainable growth and profitability by investing in research and development, comprehending local market conditions, fostering robust relationships with indigenous partners, and manifesting readiness to expend ample resources and time.


To summarize, this scholarly article undertakes a comprehensive analysis of Sony’s entrepreneurial pursuits and its strategies towards internationalization, shedding light on the various obstacles it encountered while entering a novel foreign market and the corresponding tactics employed to surmount them. This academic paper delved into the essential inquiries regarding Sony’s criteria for selecting novel international markets alongside Sony’s expansion modes and international strategies. The work also sheds light on the various obstacles faced by Sony and their potential impacts on similar small to medium enterprises. Various theoretical frameworks, including the OLI paradigm, institutional theory, and cultural distance theory, informed Sony’s strategy for market selection in its internationalization process. Sony considered numerous factors, including the magnitude of the markets, the rate of economic growth, the prospects for development, and the stability of political conditions, in making decisions concerning identifying new international markets. Sony employed a multifaceted approach to expanding its international presence, employing joint ventures, acquisitions, and greenfield investments as strategic entry modes into novel foreign markets. The company utilized several global tactics, including customization, standardization, and localization, to effectively adapt to regional market conditions and secure a competitive edge. Sony encountered numerous obstacles when venturing into novel foreign markets, encompassing cultural impediments, legal and regulatory impediments, and arduous competition. The repercussions of Sony’s encounter hold pertinent weight for prospective investigations, calling for extended scrutiny into the function of institutional determinants, cultural disparities, and market potential as influential factors directing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) market selection judgments. Potential research endeavors may consider delving into the significance of strategic partnerships and collaborations in surmounting internationalization-related obstacles. In conclusion, this experience of Sony presents significant insights that could be valuable to small and medium-sized enterprises aspiring to extend their operations globally. Through comprehensive comprehension of local market factors, allocative investment in product development and innovative endeavors, and formation of strong affiliations with local distributors and retailers, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can effectively resolve challenges that emerge during the process of internationalization, thereby attaining a consistent, enduring growth and profitability.


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