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Main case New 2022/2023

From Products to Experience Ecosystems: Haier’s Internet of Food

By Michael Jacobides, Lisa Duke, Dalbert Ma, Aryan Mittal


Haier had come a long way since Zhang Ruimin took it over as a failing Chinese Collective-Owned Enterprise in 1984. Since then, he’d been able to transform it into one of the world’s leading appliance manufacturers, known for quality and innovation. Haier was also noted for its bold geographical expansion, which had included buying iconic European brands, such as Candy, and, in 2016, the venerable General Electric Appliances (GEA), one of the world’s most established white-goods firms. Along the way, Haier pioneered a new managerial philosophy: RenDanHeYi, a policy of staying close to the user (a term Haier preferred to “customer”) where employees were encouraged to act as entrepreneurs and held accountable for their actions. More recently, it had put the digital agenda at the heart of its approach, leading a revolution in household appliances and aspiring to be the leading ecosystem brand in the Internet of Things (IoT) – a distinction duly conferred on it by BrandZTM in 2019.

Learning objectives

1. Understand the concept of a digitally enabled business ecosystem and why firms are increasingly interested in building or participating in one, drawing on a relatable yet innovative setting with solid video material in the endnotes.

2. Understand why and how ecosystem strategy differs depending on a firm’s starting position, corporate culture and resource endowment, and how ecosystem competition differs based on national and institutional contexts.

3. Explore key multi-product ecosystem choices in terms of “where to play” (what product + service bundle/solution is offered and why) and multi-actor ecosystems in terms of “how to play” (e.g., open vs closed ecosystems, level of orchestrator control, whether to participate as orchestrator or complementor).

4. Provide an opportunity to map ecosystems from the customer’s vantage point, critically examine the different ecosystem strategies of leading firms and explore the opportunities available for smaller firms (as both complementors and partners.)

5. Offer a springboard for the discussion of the role of standards and policy in an ecosystem area that is becoming increasingly attractive to Big Tech. Explore societal questions on how sector-spanning digital ecosystems should be organised and, potentially, regulated.


Publication Date: May 2024
LBS Case Code: CS-22-017
Subjects: , , , ,
Geography: , ,
Pages: 24
Format: pdf