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Internationalisation as Institutional Escape for Family Businesses in Conflict Zones: Evidence from Afghanistan



Objective: The objective of this article is to investigate the use of internationalisation to “escape” the institutional voids present in conflict economic systems, through interviews with fifteen Afghan family business leaders who run businesses in Kabul.

Research Design & Methods: Relying on grounded theory, we explore the role of internationalisation in providing security and stability for family businesses in conflict zones. In total, fifteen family business leaders were interviewed by three members of the research team working in pairs, after an analysis of transcripts subsequently described over the course of the interview process.

Findings: We find that Afghan family business leaders demonstrate interest in internationalisation as a method of escaping institutional voids in the domestic environment, and that their most commonly cited motive in doing so is to obtain legitimacy in foreign markets through the establishment of quality standards.

Implications & Recommendations: The appropriate way to proceed with internationalisation is to follow a stepwise process, so that family business leaders can draw upon both strengths inherent in their family and also engage in organisational learning through relationships with family businesses in neighbouring countries with similar cultures.

Contribution & Value Added: We contribute to institutional theory by advancing our understanding of how insecurity, lawlessness, and tribalism play a role in the internationalisation of family businesses in conflict zones and to the family business literature by documenting how family business internationalisation is a response to domestic institutional voids.


entrepreneurship, business internationalisation, family business, conflict zones, Afghanistan, institutional theory

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Author Biography

Muska Hanify

MBA Alumni, American University of Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan

Omar Al Serhan

Business Division Chair and Assistant Professor of Business, Faculty of Business Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Sarath W.S.B. Dasanayaka

Senior Professor of Management of Technology and belongs to the Management of Technology Department at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

Kimberly Catherine Gleason

Associate Professor at the School of Business Administration Department of Finance, American University of Sharjah


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