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Multicultural migrant firms: Evidence from Italy



Objective: The article aims to show the emergence of a multicultural migrant firm (MMF) model on the market. The empirical analysis of the composition of human capital and economic strategies outlines a new type of migrant firm, which is losing its monocultural character in favour of multicultural heterogeneity. MMFs have reached a large diffusion in migrant entrepreneurship and they play an important role in the processes of integration between actors of different cultures and nationalities. Through three research questions, we investigated how this model differs from the conventional migrant firm one. Firstly, we studied how relevant are family and community ties still. Secondly how much does the propensity for innovation and differentiation of products or services change? And thirdly what is the level of internal diversification that distinguishes MMF from the migrant firm?

Research Design & Methods: We employed a qualitative, interpretative approach to obtain original empirical evidence on the characteris-tics of MMFs. We based our research methodology on 36 semi-structured in-depth face-to-face interviews with MMFs-owners or partners operating in Italy. Next, we analysed the transcripts from the interviews using a manual approach.

Findings: The research highlights, firstly, how much the diffusion of the firms studied derives precisely from the social and professional ties accumulated over time in the host country; relationships built locally, of a mixed ethnic/nationality nature and not coming exclusively from the pre-existent background, limited to one’s geographical origin. In Granovetter’s terminology, ‘weak ties’ gain importance over ‘strong ties.’ Secondly, the article demonstrates how MMFs are associated with processes of innovation and the identification of market spaces for hybrid products and services. Thirdly, we found that well far from being homogeneous, as the dominant monoethnic model claims, there is a variety of MMFs.

Implications & Recommendations: Because MMFs are highly heterogeneous in terms of economic objectives and values pursued, institutional support has to be as varied and differentiated as the set of target companies. Moreover, policies designed for MMFs must consider adequate consultancy tools (i.e. specific mentoring programmes and projects) regarding managerial practices, strategic decisions, and the planning of workforce training.

Contribution & Value Added: The article contributes to the current debate on the relationship between migration and entrepreneurship highlighting the importance and specificity of MMFs, which is a relevant under-researched segment of migrant entrepreneurship. Our work shows how the boundaries between native and immigrant entrepreneurship are much more blurred than the literature claims.


immigrant entrepreneurship, multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, migration, break-out strategy

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