Case Study Analysis Report: Indigenous Culture Groups and Entrepreneurs

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Executive Summary

The purpose of this case study analysis is to compare and contrast the effects of differing cultures of host countries and non-indigenous peoples, their histories, values, and support systems in relation to their entrepreneurial efforts.The research conducted via a review of relevant literature proves that there is not enough data to qualitatively or quantitatively evaluate the entrepreneurial development of entrepreneurs in outback Australia or the Indian migrant entrepreneurs now living and operating business in New Zealand.Because of the paradigmatic differences between western culture and that of these unique cultural groups, we are not able to qualify by our own standards the success levels of indigenous groups or immigrant entrepreneurs who may or may not consider themselves to be economically struggling.


The study of nontraditional entrepreneurial development such as immigrant and indigenous or native cultural groups has emerged as a popular topic within the field of business and in scholarly literature regarding entrepreneurism. These populations are here called nontraditional since they do not fit the mainstream western notions of entrepreneurship in which typical ideas of class and social standing can be expected or exponential capitalist growth is a main goal. While there is a growing interest in these unique entrepreneurial subcultures, little research has adequately explored their business practices and influences. The Australian Aborigine indigenous population and the immigrant Indian population in New Zealand are just two of the many examples of emerging entrepreneurial groups that call for a paradigmatical shift in entrepreneurial theory and a refocusing of the lens through which we evaluate these respective markets.

The entrepreneurial habits of native-based aboriginal populations in Australia versus the migrant Indian entrepreneurs in New Zealand are markedly different, not just from each other but also from western ideas of entrepreneurism in both theory and practice. These differences suggest the need for a much more focused approach to studying how their unique circumstances, including culture, history, values, and relationships, affect entrepreneurship for these respective cultures. The cause of these differences comes as a result of a long history of social forces, both native and colonial, and the current cultural climates of these two markets. Important considerations include points along the spectrum of driving entrepreneurial forces of these populations, which span from a needs-based approach of starting and conducting a business versus an innovative, idea-based approach with exponential profit in mind. While the reasons for these respective minority groups to become business owners varies strongly between the aboriginal population in Australia and the immigrant Indian entrepreneurs in New Zealand, the comparative analysis of these two case studies suggests that entrepreneurism, often thought of in America as an outpouring of the spirit of individuality, is more about social relations, cultural integration, and sustainability; therefore, the means by which we evaluate habits of entrepreneurship of these two populations must remain distinct from our American and European notions of what it means to pursue an entrepreneurial approach to product development.

Review of the Literature

Comparative Cultures

Comparative case studies have already been undertaken in regards to Australian Aboriginals along with other native populations including Hawaiians, and Māori entrepreneurs; however, not to much avail (Foley, 2013). A recent study by Foley (2013) “investigates the networking activities by these groups of indigenous entrepreneurs situated within a mixed minority (indigenous) and dominant (settler majority) urban cultural setting.” Other research has shown how difficult it is to assess “indigenous level experience” in regards to entrepreneurship because the models have typically been on a much larger and perhaps even global scale (Uygun, R., & Kasimoglu, M., 2013). The importance of studying local scale entrepreneurial habits and behaviors, such as the indigenous Aboriginal population in Australia and the migrant Indian population in New Zealand, is proven by the lack of a valid and comprehensive comparative study of these unique entrepreneurial models.

The emerging field of International entrepreneurship (IE) offers both threat and promise in regards to understanding remote or local entrepreneurial models. While the field expands the focus to a global level of many differing markets, it also has the potential for generalizing smaller groups such as the particular Australian and New Zealand populations that are the focus of this analysis. Research is being done to examine “gaps, issues and trends of the IE in the last two decades” (Peiris, I., Akoorie, M., & Sinha, P. 2012). Peiris, I., Akoorie, M., & Sinha, P. (2012) suggest “an integrative framework based on international business, entrepreneurship, strategic management, social network and marketing theories” that may or may not apply to the populations considered in analysis such as this one involving peoples in Australia and New Zealand.

Another study defines indigenous entrepreneurship as a distinct disciplinary field of study with its own paradigmatic framework (Hindle, K., & Moroz, P., 2010). In this case, a strategy of literature review was applied towards the argument that indigenous entrepreneurship is “sufficiently distinguished from both mainstream entrepreneurship and other social and management sciences to constitute a legitimate, well-defined sub-field of research in its own right” (Hindle, K., & Moroz, P., 2010). The importance of this study to the analysis presented here is that indigenous entrepreneurship such as the Aboriginal population in Australia cannot be evaluated by traditional standards and a new model, as suggested by the authors above, must be developed before a proper study can be undertaken.

In a comparative study of newcomer versus local rural entrepreneurship, which may fall under the aforementioned heading of indigenous entrepreneurship, statistical results show some unique demographic factors that differ among the macro and micro cultures that have emerged (Akgun A. A., Baycan-Levent T., Nijkamp P. and Poot J.). The term macro cultures is meant to signify the host country and its dominant culture while micro cultures are migrant cultures--the newcomers-- that have been displaced. So called newcomer entrepreneurs are “relatively older, better educated, and develop more non-agricultural business. They appear to be predominantly attracted by a rural lifestyle. In many cases, newcomer entrepreneurs are not directly the instigators of economic development, but their contribution to physical capital formation is greater than that of the locals.” (Akgun A. A., Baycan-Levent T., Nijkamp P. and Poot J.) While this study is not specific to Australia or New Zealand, other comparative findings suggest that this would hold true in these cases, specifically in regards to the newcomer entrepreneur population of Indian immigrants in New Zealand.

Ethnic History and Values

Generally speaking, entrepreneurship is typically viewed as an important driving force behind of the development of any economy. Scholars have identified two dimensions of entrepreneurship development: “(1) opportunistic entrepreneurship driven primarily by the recognition of opportunity arising from an innovative idea and, (2) necessity entrepreneurship driven primarily by the belief that one’s own business offers the likelihood of the highest utility” (Valdez, M. E., Doktor, R. H., Singer, A. E., & Dana, L., 2011). Both dimensions of entrepreneurship outlined by Valdez, et al. (2011) may contribute to economic development; however, the researchers have appropriately pointed to how cultural norms may affect any entrepreneurial development.

In an examination of the history of New Zealand entrepreneurship development in the period 1840 to 1990 by Hunter, I., & Wilson, M. (2007), the researchers document, in a very detailed analysis, the origins of entrepreneurship and explore the differences between more traditional entrepreneurial development in UK and United States compared to that of New Zealand. The historical data is is then analyzed to illustrate the “alternative entrepreneurial growth strategies and the evolution of industry and financing structures” which are unique to New Zealand (Hunter, I., & Wilson, M., 2007).

An important conclusion from a case study by de Vries, H. P. (2010) is pertinent to the comparative analysis of immigrant entrepreneurs in New Zealand and Aboriginal entrepreneurs in Australia. The study claims, “The difficulty associated with determining what constitutes immigrant entrepreneurial behaviour lies in the road being travelled differently by immigrants from dissimilar backgrounds, value systems, and cultural heritages” (de Vries, H. P., 2010). The paper, which outlines the findings of a case study analysis about the entrepreneurial habits of Indian immigrant in New Zealand in regards to “specific migration, settlement, cultural and business factors,” are indeed specific to this migrant Indian entrepreneurial sub-culture in New Zealand (de Vries, H. P., 2010).

Turning back to the Aboriginal entrepreneurial growth in Australia, it should be noted that little research of indigenous entrepreneurs actually exists. A few scholars have strived to understand various “characteristics, motivations and potential barriers to entrepreneurial activity” (Wood, G. J., & Davidson, M. J.,2011). It has been noted that the primary drive for setting up business ventures among the Aboriginal population in Australia is strongly linked to the desire to ameliorate disadvantage due to poverty and racial stereotyping (Wood, G. J., & Davidson, M. J., 2011). Potential barriers related to business development for this population “included lack of formal education, prior work experience, language barriers, culture conflicts and problems attaining sufficient finance” (Wood, G. J., & Davidson, M. J. 2011).

Much of the literature that does exist about this population points to the growth of Aboriginal female entrepreneurship and the encouragement thereof. These women have emerged as “a significant component of the Australian economy. Moving from traditional subsistence providers through welfare dependence, Aboriginal women today are positioning themselves in the normally male dominated, non-Aboriginal world of commercial enterprise” (Pearson, C. A. L., & Helms, K., 2012). The study by Pearson, C. A. L., & Helms, K. (2012) not only provides a micro cultural analysis of Aboriginal women and the ventures they’ve been involved in, but it also points to cultural, social, economic, and educational factors of this subculture in an effort to evaluate how these factors may affect nontraditional entrepreneurial populations such as this one in Australia.

Networks and Support

Leading scholars in the study of indigenous entrepreneurs have explained the link between networks and specific cultural contexts for populations like those in Australia and New Zealand. According to Foley, D., & O'Connor, A. (2013), “The way in which indigenous entrepreneurs network to achieve their business aspirations suggests that the underlying social capital dimensions are unique to their cultural context.” Furthermore, “The research reveals how indigenous and potentially other minority ethnic entrepreneurs draw upon internal and external network ties that are related to the historical and cultural influence on social capital” (Foley, D., & O'Connor, A. (2013).

Suggestions for improving the economic and social hardships of indigenous Australians have included their employment in the mainstream economy by becoming business owners: “Governments of all persuasions have implemented policies to encourage indigenous entrepreneurship; however, most appear to have had little success. To support and promote indigenous entrepreneurship effectively, it is important to identify the factors that either promote or hinder entrepreneurial endeavors” (Shoebridge, A., Buultjens, J., & Peterson, L., 2012). As of yet, these factors have not been successfully identified.

The Australian government has pledged commitment to promoting initiatives for Aboriginal entrepreneurship, agreeing it is a route for alleviating poverty, encouraging self-reliance, and improving quality of life; however, it had been suggested that the aspirations of a particular group of Aboriginal women are not as economically driven (Pearson, C. A. L., & Helms, K., 2012). A study involving interviews with Aboriginal women at a remote settlement in the Northern Territory of Australia reveals a much more pragmatic undertaking by these women who claim “they were driven not by desires to acquire wealth, improve their educational opportunities or to escape poverty, but by practical aspirations of operating a local store selling household commodities used in daily living, a coffee shop meeting place, and to meaningfully change their existing community roles enabling them to 'get off welfare'” (Pearson, C. A. L., & Helms, K., 2012). The documentation of the experiences and expectations of these indigenous women exposes how their culture, family, and community socializing networks are integral to fostering female entrepreneurship (Pearson, C. A. L., & Helms, K., 2012).

Research Methods

A review of the literature proves that much more research needs to be done to produce an adequate basis for case study analysis between the Aboriginal Australian entrepreneurs and the immigrant Indian population operating businesses in New Zealand. Most conducive to this study has been the realization that traditional entrepreneurial models from places like the United States and United Kingdom and even the emerging field of International Entrepreneurship (IE) do not provide the necessary framework to access the development of these unique, localized indigenous and immigrant entrepreneur groups.

Studies that might help form a basis of analysis include Akgun A. A., Baycan-Levent T., Nijkamp P. and Poot J. (2011) in which the roles of local and newcomer entrepreneurs in rural development are assessed along with a distinctive regional and cultural backdrop which they’ve called “a comparative meta-analytic study.” This assessment of rural development highlights newcomer rural entrepreneurs as important instruments of change. Literature based on qualitative ethnographic case studies has not proved useful as “systematic pooling and scrutinizing of the main attributes and findings of such studies enhances their comparability and permits some generalization (Akgun A. A., Baycan-Levent T., Nijkamp P. and Poot J., 2011). Our goal instead is to focus on specifics, as we wish to analyze the differences and not to generalize these very different cultural entrepreneur populations, even though there may be some similarities.

Analysis and Discussion

Despite high and steadily increasing levels of entrepreneurship among both Aboriginal Australian populations and immigrated Indians living in New Zealand, their businesses have not produced the economic growth one might expect. Upon review of the literature that details the specifics of these two cultures, this no longer becomes surprising. The entrepreneurial habits of these groups mirror their cultural values, which do not emphasize wealth, but rather practicality and sustainability; they work for what they need and do not have the western notions of big business or capital gains.

Western concern over the perceived ineffectiveness of the entrepreneurial endeavors of both the Aboriginal Australians and the immigrant Indians in New Zealand is proof of how little we know about these cultures of which are fundamentally different than what we are familiar with and require a new paradigm for proper analysis. When Valdez, et al. (2011) L. expresses a need to “maximize economic development through entrepreneurial activities, differential national policy and managerial approaches,” the point that these entrepreneurial endeavors are what the study identifies as “necessity entrepreneurship,” is not fully considered in that when the necessity is reached, it might be the cultural norm to call this successes and not perceived under achievement because of greater potential.

Again, there is not enough specific research to assess whether or not the entrepreneurial-based economies of Aboriginal Australians and immigrant Indians in New Zealand are perceived by their members to indeed be ailing, but our American-based perceptions of entrepreneurship simply do not translate to these cultures who have very different, complicated value systems that we are not privy to. Foley (2011) comments that “successful commercial enterprise born of entrepreneurial activity is increasingly recognised as a means through which the world's impoverished indigenous minority peoples might attain financial independence.” Instead of focusing on numbers and capitalist growth rates, this study suggests aiding these communities through “combination of an empowering pedagogical approach and socio-culturally relevant content” (Foley, 2011). The key term here is “socio-culturally relevant”--a suggestion that complex cultural circumstances, the history, value systems, and community framework are all aspects that need consideration before we prematurely evaluate entrepreneurial development of these particular cultures or impose upon them our western ideals. Additionally, a pedagogical approach as suggested by Foley (2011) would work reflexively; teaching indigenous cultures how to thrive will also teach us more about their respective cultures, habits, and goals in respect to entrepreneurism.

Conclusions and Limitations

The experiences of indigenous and immigrant entrepreneurs are fundamentally different than mainstream entrepreneurs in regards to culture, value, history, and networks. Each of these criteria provides important contextual information as to how we can develop a proper system of analysis for minority groups such as indigenous populations and immigrants. Our western mindsets have been a hindrance in our conceptualization of the entrepreneurial development of cultures foreign to us who often define entrepreneurialism as simply a means to an end of sustainability and not an opportunistic endeavor to live beyond what is strictly necessary.

Based on the literature surveyed, researchers endeavoring to provide a case study analysis of the entrepreneurial development of Aboriginal Australians and migrant Indians in New Zealand are severely limited in their knowledge of socio-cultural influences on their economic growth, or lack thereof. While it is a valiant effort to help alleviate poverty and hardship for Aboriginal Australians, one cannot presume to understand their value systems and perceived needs. The same is true with the migrant Indian entrepreneurs in New Zealand who have been criticized for an apparent stunt in economic growth despite increased entrepreneurialism. The fact is that we do not have enough qualitative data to even begin to judge these cultures and their economic development on a quantitative scale. It will take much more research and an open mindset to be able to understand the particular development of these economies, how entrepreneurism functions and is perceived by business owners in these unique cultural climates.


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