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Possibly echoing Robert Louis Stevenson’s dictum that to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, Kefalas Soteris’s academic journey in international business for his doctorate awarded by the International School of Management (Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo) is a tour de force that other doctoral aspirants could do well to study. The width and breadth of his investigations are as impressive as they are diverse. They offer salutary advice on a doctoral project or dissertation, from someone who has travelled hopefully, and arrived!

His travels range from the macro-economic study of China’s dramatic economic advance, dubbed “frugal innovation” to opening a restaurant in Japan with Kefalas’s meticulous attention to every minute detail inherited from his family’s 30-year experience in the hospitality industry.

On the journey, he reviews the takeover battle between Mittal Steel and Arcelor, one of the most acrimonious in recent European Union history. Ending five months of manoeuvring, Arcelor agreed in June 2006, to be acquired by larger rival Mittal Steel Co. After decades in which hostile transactions were rare, the battle between the two steel titans illustrates Europe’s move toward less regulated markets. Hostile takeovers are now increasingly common in Europe. The battle was widely acknowledged as a test case as to how far a firm can go in attempting to prevent an unwanted takeover. This topic was extensively explored by fellow ISM graduate, Dr Chloé Kim, whose doctoral project analysed 655 hostile takeovers over a period of ten years.

Hostile takeovers in any number have yet to appear in the BRIC bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China), especially China, where emerging market companies and consumers are both rapidly expanding. Huawei, a Chinese telecoms giant, applied for more international patents than any other firm did in 2008.

Just as Ford and Toyota transformed other industries, entrepreneurs in China and the developing world are applying the classic principles of division of labour and economies of scale to surprising areas such as heart operations and cataract surgery without sacrificing quality. New technologies such as mobile phones deliver sophisticated services to rural areas in everything from health care to banking. China and other BRIC members are combining technology with business model innovation to produce entirely new categories of services.

In his treatise, he discusses the advances of knowledge of the working of the human brain, the role of emotions, and explores the learning process linking it with e-learning. Apart from the Mittal-Arcelor case, he analyses the Netflix, Boeing and Air Canada case studies.

Although Kefalas did not have space to include a survey of African developments, he would have found fascinating strides being made there particularly in the Saharan region, such as the empowerment of women in sub-Saharan countries―the subject of a doctoral project by another fellow graduate of the ISM―Dr Aminata Touré, a senior United Nations diplomat. Africa is possibly the next economic frontier that offers a rich lode for doctoral theses; a little-known fact is that to the south, on the equator, Kenya, leads the world in money-transfer by mobile phone.

Kefalas’ book is not for the faint hearted but those contemplating or working in the heady but challenging atmosphere of a practically oriented doctorate, this book should give them sustenance.

Professor Len Rogers, Ph.D
International School of Management
(Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo)