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Yew Chian Haw: the internationalization journey of a developing country’s small-medium enterprise

Siew Yean Tham (Department of Regional Economic Studies, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, Singapore)
Soo Khoon Goh (Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, George Town, Malaysia)
Ai Ping Teoh (Graduate School of Business, Universiti Sains Malaysia, George Town, Malaysia)

Publication date: 14 December 2022


Learning outcomes

(i) To determine the push and pull factors for a developing country SME to internationalize via exports. (ii) To evaluate the use of social networks in the internationalization journey of Yew Chian Haw (YCH). (iii) To analyse how a developing country SME adapts to local conditions in order to sustain and grow the business in a foreign country.

Case overview/synopsis

Yew Chian Haw (YCH) was a small and medium enterprise (SME) producing herbal and healthcare products in Penang, Malaysia. This case study traced the company's internationalization journey, focusing on how the owner used his social networks based on common ethnic ties and language to penetrate the external markets by establishing trading companies in each of his export destinations, from Singapore to Hong Kong and later to Taiwan and China. These internationalization activities also helped him cultivate deeper local networks and enhance his business opportunities in each investment destination. The social network approach has important implications for SME firms such as YCH. The network strength helped to overcome entry barriers to foreign markets and enabled YCH to tap into local complementary resources such as local networks to sustain the internationalization process. Yew’s successful internationalization journey prompted him to focus on the external market for his company’s herbal soup products. But now he must decide whether to continue the internationalization journey in the existing external markets he has penetrated or to expand towards other markets such as Northeast Asian markets like Japan and Korea, as these countries have high income and purchasing power. However, Yew has no extensive social network in both countries, especially in terms of ethnic ties and common language. Yew therefore, had a dilemma: should he just continue expanding the existing external markets he has successfully penetrated, or should he move forward and seek to enter new markets where his current social networks may be weak or non-existent?

Complexity academic level

This case study is relevant for DBA, MBA, Master and undergraduate (International Business and Business Economics) students

Supplementary materials

Teaching notes are available for educators only.

Subject code

CSS 5: International Business



Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision-making. The authors may have disguised names; financial and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


Tham, S.Y., Goh, S.K. and Teoh, A.P. (2022), "Yew Chian Haw: the internationalization journey of a developing country’s small-medium enterprise", , Vol. 12 No. 4.



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