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Still an ethnic enterprise after a generational change? Indian-owned SMEs in Malaysia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2018


This study grapples with two key puzzles: first, what happens when companies established as ethnic-based enterprises, including by migrants, are passed on to the next generation? Second, do these migrant businesses remain as ethnic enterprises after generational transitions? The empirical focus of this study is Malaysia, a country with one of the largest ethnic Indian populations outside India. To provide insights into these questions, this article pays particular attention to how an ethnic enterprise functions, in terms of types of goods and services produced and its targeted market, after the emergence of a new generation of owners with more class resources. The evidence from this study will provide insights into the validity of the concept of ethnic enterprise following a generational transition.

Research Article
Copyright © The National University of Singapore 2018 

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The authors would like to thank the entrepreneurs from the eleven Indian-owned SMEs for their time and their feedback. They would also like to acknowledge the financial support for this research from the Population Studies Unit (PSU), Faculty of Economics & Administration, University of Malaya.


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53 This conforms to the arguments by Yoon In-Jin, ‘The changing significance of ethnic and class resources’; Virdee, ‘“Race”, employment and social change’; and Deakins et al., ‘Ethnic minority businesses in Scotland’, though their studies focus on the migrant cohort.

54 This is not the case with the larger, prominent jewellers in major malls targeting a multi-ethnic middle and upper-middle class. The owners of these businesses did not wish to be interviewed for this study.

55 Westhead, Paul, ‘Company performance and objectives reported by first and multi-generation family companies: A research note, Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development 10, 1 (2003): 93105CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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