PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to address the effects of deep environmental changes on business network actors’ behaviors. The consequences of political, institutional, and socio-economic changes on Tunisian automotive spare-parts distribution networks during the past five years are examined. The authors chose the Tunisian automotive spare-parts distribution network for several important reasons. Most importantly, it gave us a unique platform to study the aftermath of deep political, socio-economic, and governance shocks caused by the Jasmin Revolution on a historically stable, simple, and productive business network within the import-dependent Tunisian spare-parts distribution system.Design/methodology/approachA qualitative, exploratory research project was conducted in Tunisia to assess and interpret changes in actors’ behaviors and business relationships within the automobile parts aftermarket due to major social, economic, and political upheavals. Automobile parts jobbers served as principal source of data for investigations. Jobbers were selected as key respondents because of the middle and pivotal position they occupy in Tunisian automobile parts distribution channels. For this reason, they were able to provide insightful and compelling information about business relationships with upstream channel members such as manufacturers and wholesalers as well as with downstream channel members such as retailers, repair shop owners, and repair technicians.FindingsThe authors found that seismic political, socio-economic, and interpersonal relationship shocks to institutions significantly impacted the behaviors of key actors in those networks, which, in turn, altered the nature and conduct of business within those networks. Profound changes in the companies’ external environment provoked changes in the companies’ proximate relationships and business dealings. In the short-run, these changes brought more conflictual and more short-term and selfish behaviors on the part of network actors in their ongoing business relationships. In long term, the increased volatility and uncertainty will likely bring wanted and unwanted institutional changes which, in turn, will likely create new forms of behaviors, relationships, and business networks. This new situation will cause a distrust between distribution actors and among notorious automotive brand names that are counterfeit and sold as genuine brand.Research limitations/implicationsAs in the case of qualitative methodology, this research has several limitations. One of them is the focus on jobbers. Although the choice of jobbers as a key respondent is justified by their middle role between the importer wholesalers as their suppliers and the repair shops as their clients, the views of these other actors are not directly mirrored in the research. Another limit is that only the most important jobbers were asked who were generally threatened by the counterfeit products and who did not deal with those products. Thus, the view of the new actors is missing from the picture.Practical implicationsManagers must pay attention to potentially dangerous combinations of elements which, when taken together, may prompt self-serving and destructive behaviors that may threaten the continued prosperity of long-standing business relationships and networks. As in the Tunisian case, the lower the level of compliance combined with the availability of low price, counterfeit or imported goods dramatically increased the level of short-term, malevolent relationship-destroying behaviors. Perhaps the greatest danger to overall network prosperity comes when short-term opportunism replaces the pursuit of long-term mutual benefits. Research has long demonstrated that high-involvement long-term relationships are essential for distribution companies’ growth and sustained performance.Originality/valueGiven the immediacy of the revolution and the paucity of research on channels in developing North African nations, this work stands to make a timely contribution to the literature. The influence of weak institutions (including governments) is a unique and important contribution. Other unique contribution is the introduction of counterfeit goods into consideration showing their role in the changes of actors’ behavior and in the possible source of conflicts.
IMP Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 12, 2018
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