Multinational Business in the Era of Global Digital Revolution

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2018-62-9-5-17

A. Bereznoy, (, 
National Research University Higher School of Economics, 11, Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation 

Acknowledgements. The article was prepared within the framework of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) and supported within the framework of a subsidy by the Russian Academic Excellence Project “5-100”.

Abstract. The article analyzes the manifold effects of digital revolution on the economic positions and strategies of multinational corporations. The author focuses first of all on the recent trends in international economic flows (trade in goods and services, capital flows) and shows that, despite their certain deceleration, the overall globalization trend has not stopped but just turned into digital format, with soaring cross-border data flows becoming the main driving force. Multinationals play a key role in leading the world economy into the new digital phase of globalization. This role is particularly evident when looking into the new fast-growing universe of the so-called digital MNCs, whose core activities are connected with internet-business in some way or another. The author argues that these digital natives represent a non-traditional approach to corporate internationalization, allowing them to grow foreign sales without corresponding expansion of foreign assets (and thus breaking well-observed correlation between the two parameters in classic multinationals). The success of extremely dynamic global expansion of digital MNCs is mainly due to the widespread use of platform-based business models. The author explores the main features of global digital platforms as specific forms of business networks. Though global ecosystems emerging within digital platforms look rather amorphous, in reality most of them have clear internal organization with transparent allocation of roles and strict rules, regulating access and behavior. The author suggests that under the growing platform economy it would be natural to reconsider the notion of international production that (in addition to covering production of foreign MNCs’ subsidiaries) should include the production at enterprises working within global platform ecosystems. In contrast to digital-born MNCs the “old” multinationals have to take serious efforts in order to succeed in digital transformation under the growing pressure of competition. The situation is complicated by simultaneous dramatic shifts in global competitive landscape, including digitally-enabled changes in customer behavior patterns and expectations, blurring borders between traditional industries and large-scale revenue redistribution in favor of digital leaders and consumers. In this environment the dynamic multinational incumbents are already on the way of digital transformation. Some of them have introduced significant digital innovations in their core business models, others decided to change their business completely, but most are pursuing some combination of both approaches. 

Keywords: multinational corporations, digital revolution, digital phase of globalization, digital MNCs, platform-based business models, digital business transformation 


1. Multinationals. The Retreat of the Global Company. The Economist, January 28, 2017.

2. Eden L. Multinationals and Foreign Investment Policies in a Digital World. Geneva, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and World Economic Forum, 2016. 23 p.

3. O’Sullivan, M., Subramanian K. The End of Globalization or a More Multipolar World? Zurich, Credit Suisse AG Research Institute, 2015. 48 p.

4. Lund S., Windhagen E., Manyika J., Harle P., Woetzel J., Goldshtein D. The New Dynamics of Financial Globalization. New York, McKinsey Global Institute, 2017. 97 p.

5. Manyika J., Lund S., Bughin J., Woetzel J., Stamenov K., Dhingra D. Digital Globalization: the New Era of Global Flows. New York, McKinsey Global Institute, 2016. 145 p.

6. The Zettabyte Era: Trends and Analysis. Cisco Public White Paper. New York, Cisco, June 2017. 32 p.

7. Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2016-2021. New York, Cisco, June 6, 2017. 17 p.

8. Lund S., Manyika J. How Digital Trade Is Transforming Globalization. Geneva, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and World Economic Forum, 2016. 11 p.

9. Bughin J. Go with the Flows: Digital Flows Now Outweigh Goods Flows, February 3, 2017. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

10. Purdy M., An S. Digital Trade Could Help Reverse Slump. China Daily Asia, 03.04.2017.

11. Bughin J., Lund S. The Ascendancy of International Data Flows. Vox EU, 09.01.2017.

12. Bhattacharya A., Bürkner H.-P., Bijapurkar A. What You Need to Know about Globalization’s Radical New Phase. Boston, BCG Henderson Institute, July 20, 2016. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

13. Baldwin R. The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization. Boston, Harvard University Press, 2016. 344 p.

14. Lund S., Manyika J., Bughin J. Globalization Is Becoming More about Data and Less about Stuff. Harvard Business Review, March 14, 2016. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

15. Foreign Direct Investment: Inward and Outward Flows and Stock, Annual, 1970-2016. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

16. World Investment Report 2017: Investment and the Digital Economy. Geneva, UNCTAD, 2017. 238 p.

17. World Investment Report 2017 Technical Annex: The Top 100 Digital MNEs, Chapter IV. Geneva, UNCTAD, 2017. 11 p.

18. The Challenge of Regulating the Platform Economy. Geneva, World Economic Forum, 2016. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

19. Bhattacharya A., Khanna D., Schweizer C., Bijapurkar A. The New Globalization: Going beyond the Rhetoric. New York, BCG Henderson Institute, 2017. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

20. Airbnb International Growth Strategy. July 23, 2016. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

21. Evans P.C., Gawer A. The Rise of the Platform Enterprise: A Global Survey. New York, The Center for Global Enterprise, 2016. 25 p.

22. Parker G.G., Van Alstyne M.W., Choudary S.P. Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2016. 336 p.

23. Evans D.S., Schmalensee R. Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms. Boston, Harvard Business Review Press, 2016. 272 p.

24. Kenney M., Zysman J. The Rise of the Platform Economy. Issues in Science and Technology, 2016, Spring, pp. 61-69.

25. Tret’yak O.A., Rumyanceva M.N. Setevye formy mezhfirmennoi kooperatsii: podhody k ob’yasneniyu fenomena [Network Forms of Inter-firm Co-operation]. Rossiiskii Zhurnal Menedzhmenta, 2003, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 25-50.

26. Bereznoy A. Innovatsionnye biznes-modeli v konkurentnoi strategii krupnyh korporacii [Innovative Business Models in the Competitive Strategy of Large Corporations]. Voprosy Ekonomiki, 2014, no. 9, pp. 65-81.

27. Wladawsky-Berger I. The Rise of the Platform Economy. Pieria, February 15, 2016. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

28. $1B+ Market Map: The World’s 197 Unicorn Companies in One Infographic. May 19, 2017. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

29. The Rise of Micro-Multinational. London, HSBC Bank plc, 2016. 14 p.

30. Mettler A., Williams A. The Rise of the Micro-Multinational: How Freelancers and Technology-Savvy Start-ups Are Driving Growth, Jobs and Innovation. Lisbon Council Policy Brief, 2011, vol. V, no. 3, pp. 1-28.

31. Ghobrial S. The Rise of the Micro-multinational. November 23, 2015. Available at: (accessed 10.12.2017).

32. Behrman J.N. Multinational Corporations, Transnational Interest and National Sovereignty. The International Executive, 1969, vol. 11, iss. 3, pp. 17-19.

33. Ivanov I.D. Mezhdunarodnye korporatsii v mirovoi ekonomike [Multinational Corporations in World Economy]. Moscow, Mysl’, 1976. 215 p.

34. Hvoinik P.I. Mezhdunarodnaya kapitalisticheskaya torgovlya (problemy i perspektivy razvitiya) [International capitalist trade (development issues and perspectives)]. Moscow, Mysl’, 1977. 310 p.

35. Choudari S.P. The Dangers of Platform Monopolies. May 8, 2017. Available at: (accessed 11.12.2017).

36. Leading from the Front: CEO Perspectives on Business Transformation in the Digital Age. London, Economist Intelligence Unit, 2017. 14 p.

37. Mui C. Five Dangerous Lessons to Learn from Steve Jobs. Forbes, October 17, 2011.

38. Atluri V., Dietz M., Henke N. Competing in a World of Sectors without Borders. McKinsey Quarterly, July 2017. Available at: (accessed 05.02.2018).

39. Bradley J., Loucks J., Macaulay J., Noronha A., Wade M. Digital Vortex: how Digital Disruption Is Redefining Industries. Lausanne, Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, 2015. 22 p.

40. Bughin J., Catlin T., Hirt M., Willmott P. Why Digital Strategies Fail. McKinsey Quarterly, January 2018. Available at: (accessed 05.02.2018).

41. How Digital Reinventors Are Pulling away from the Pack. McKinsey Quarterly Survey, October 2017. Available at: (accessed 5.2.2018).

42. Sebastian I., Ross J.W., Beath C., Mocker M., Moloney K.G., Fonstad N.O. How Big Old Companies Navigate Digital Transformation. MIS Quarterly Executive, 2017, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 197-213.

43. Rogers B. Why 84% of Companies Fail at Digital Transformation. Forbes, January 7, 2016.

44. Perlman C. From Product to Platform: John Deere Revolutionizes Farming. HBS Digital Initiative Digest, May 17, 2017.

45. Technology Vision 2016. People First: The Primacy of People in a Digital Age. Chicago, Accenture, 2016. 71 p.  

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Bereznoi A. Multinational Business in the Era of Global Digital Revolution. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2018, vol. 62, no. 9, pp. 5-17.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 5
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • Are There Any Ways to Break Through the Korean Nuclear Impasse?
  • Contemporary U.S. Taiwan Policy: Balancing on the Edge
  • The Gulf Monarchies’ Vision of the Global Order Transformations and the Russian Place in It
  • At Post-Soviet Space
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.