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IKEA in India: A study of the cultural aspects of deploying an IKEA store in India
Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Organisation and Entrepreneurship.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Introduction: This study is about organisational culture and different cultural

influences in a cross-cultural environment at an IKEA office in India.

Statement of Purpose: The purpose of this master thesis is to provide increased

understanding of the cross-cultural setting in regards to conceptualisation of the

concept of culture as well as sense-making and sense-giving processes of employees

in a trans-cultural environment in India. The case study follows a social

constructionist understanding of organisations, and can thus provide valuable insights

into the field without attempting to offer normative solutions (‘the company should do

this or that’) or predictive views (‘the company will suffer or have success because of


Research Questions: In what ways are employees of an IKEA office in India

making sense of their complex cross-cultural environment?

Theoretical Framework: The theoretical framework of this thesis is the

conceptualisation of cross-cultural management in a transcultural setting. The

literature on cross-cultural management is in this thesis seen as divided between

culture as managed and manageable (organisations have cultures and culture is seen

as an essence) and culture as being organic and developing through interaction (i.e.

organisations ‘are’ cultures as culture is a non-essentialist, dynamic and on-going

process of interaction). Woven into these above mentioned conceptualisation of

culture are sense-making and sense-giving processes.

Research Methodology: This qualitative case study of an IKEA office in India is

based on semi-structured in-depth interviews (8) and observations at the research site

in New Delhi, India.

Findings: The findings show how sense-making processes of individuals – that

interact with sense-giving attempts in terms of ‘official’ cultural values and norms –

construct organisational culture in the form of shared meanings, individual

interpretations and on-going negotiation processes. Moreover, the findings also point

to specific cultural influences that are based on the historical situation, i.e. the rule of

the British Empire in India that lasted nearly two centuries and ended in 1947.

Discussion: At the office in India, IKEA tried to influence employees through

sense-giving processes by means of official corporate values, norms, policies and the

actions by managers. These sense-giving processes, nonetheless, interact with

individual and collective sense-making processes of employees and various cultural

influences. For example, linguistic ‘barriers’ (which might influence the sensemaking

processes of employees), different notions of time, or of how formal or

informal the organisational context should be, influenced the employees’

understanding of the official cultural values of the organisation. Furthermore, special

historical influences (in the case due to Britain’s rule over the Indian subcontinent)

can create tensions around dominance and authority within the organisation.

Conclusion: The case study that I present in this master thesis offers the following

theoretical contributions to the literature on cross-cultural management: it takes the

conceptualisations of culture in cross-cultural management and provides empirical

insights based on the view of organisational culture as being constructed and

negotiated in on-going interaction between individuals. Moreover, it adds a specific

aspect to the literature on cross-cultural management, as it highlights the importance

of special historical influences as additional factors that researchers need to consider.

The practical recommendations that this study provides are – due to the nature of the

constructionist approach – neither predictive nor normative. Nonetheless, the

constructionist view of organisational culture in cross-cultural management can help

people in various positions in organisations (e.g., shop floor employees,

administrators, managers) in their attempts to analyse and understand the complexities

of cross-cultural settings. Instead of finding a kind of ‘recipe’ or ‘best practice

guidelines’, this view can make people aware of individual sense-making process and

the negotiation of shared meanings, of experts of cultural knowledge within their

firm, and of historical influences that can become important in the negotiation of

shared meanings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 100 p.
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-54042OAI: diva2:940305
Subject / course
Business Administration - Organization Leadership
Educational program
Business Administration and Economics Programme, 240 credits
Available from: 2016-06-21 Created: 2016-06-20 Last updated: 2016-06-21Bibliographically approved

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