Open Access Article

Title: Supplier strategies to compensate for knowledge asymmetries in buyer-supplier relationships: implications for economic upgrading

Authors: Samia Ferdous Hoque; Noemi Sinkovics; Rudolf R. Sinkovics

Addresses: International Business and Management, Centre for Comparative and International Business Research (CIBER), The University of Manchester, Alliance Manchester Business School, Booth Street West, Manchester M15 6PB, UK ' International Business and Management, Centre for Comparative and International Business Research (CIBER), The University of Manchester, Alliance Manchester Business School, Booth Street West, Manchester M15 6PB, UK ' International Business and Management, Centre for Comparative and International Business Research (CIBER), The University of Manchester, Alliance Manchester Business School, Booth Street West, Manchester M15 6PB, UK; Lappeenranta University of Technology, Skinnarilankatu 34, PL 20, 53851 Lappeenranta, Finland

Abstract: This paper explores a special form of international outsourcing relationship in which suppliers make recurrent discrete transactions with the same buyers over a long period of time without the existence of any original legally binding written agreement. The study examines three research questions: (1) Can suppliers in such relationships access any of their buyers' tacit knowledge? (2) What implications does their access or the lack thereof have for their economic upgrading? (3) What strategies do suppliers adopt to compensate for existing knowledge asymmetries? The case analysis of three small Bangladeshi garment manufacturers reveals the following key findings. The studied firms only have access to their buyers' explicit/codified knowledge. Notwithstanding this, they have successfully developed relevant knowledge that has allowed them to engage in process upgrading.

Keywords: knowledge acquisition; knowledge sources; economic upgrading; buyer-supplier relationship; outsourcing; supplier strategies; knowledge asymmetry; tacit knowledge; Bangladesh; garment industry; apparel industry; clothing industry; explicit knowledge; codified knowledge; process upgrading.

DOI: 10.1504/EJIM.2016.076292

European Journal of International Management, 2016 Vol.10 No.3, pp.254 - 283

Available online: 24 Apr 2016 *