Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 A Hub Firm’s Role in Business Ecosystem: A Case Study of Incheon International Airport Corporation Hyung-Jin “Michael” Park1 This study analyzes the case of the Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) that has successfully been serving as the leader of the business ecosystem, and sorts out the role that have been played by the IIAC as the hub firm, and proposes a conceptual framework on a hub firm's role as leader of a business ecosystem. A hub firm of a business ecosystem plays role as (1) strategic center, (2) manager of the business ecosystem members, and (3) orchestrator among the business ecosystem members. The conceptual framework may be used as a guideline on what to do for companies to make a sustainable development. 1. Introduction The performance of a company is attributed by its capabilities as well as by the achievements of the business ecosystem to which the company belongs (Iansiti and Levien, 2004). A business ecosystem is an economic community consisting of suppliers, primary producers, customers, competitors, and other stakeholders to offer valued products or services to customers (Moore, 1996). Such an ecosystem includes a hub firm as a leader (Jarillo, 1988), which may change the ecosystem‟s achievements depending on the hub‟s role. This study intends to explore the role of hub firms as responsible leaders of the business ecosystem and to improve the ecosystem‟s performance. To that end, this study aims to analyze the case of the Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) that has successfully been serving as a leader of its business ecosystem and distinguish the role that the IIAC plays as a hub firm as well as arrive at a conceptual framework on the role of hub firms as leaders of business ecosystems. This study is constituted as follows: First, the activities that the IIAC has carried out as the leader of its business ecosystem are analyzed; second, a conceptual framework on the role of a hub firm as leader of a business ecosystem based on the firm‟s activities is drawn; third, the validity of the conceptual framework is discussed; and fourth, theoretical and practical implications are suggested. 2. Case Study on IIAC2 (1) The Business Ecosystem of the Incheon International Airport The number of workers at the Incheon (ICN) International Airport (IIA) is approximately 35,000 and they are employed by 570 organizations and companies. Only 900 people are IIAC employees, while the rest, more than 34,000 people, are employed by other organizations and companies. The IIA workforce includes those engaged in airport operations such as police, prosecution and customs officers, airline workers, security staff, and information-desk workers as well as those 1 Dr. Hyung-Jin “Michael” Park, Department of Management, Marketing, and Information System s, University of Tennessee at Martin, USA. 2 The data relevant to the IIAC was cited by the following source: KMAC (2011), Something Different in ICN Airport; What Is the Difference?, Seoul, KMAC. Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 employed by commercial facilities within the airport such as workers for the duty free shop, coffee house, and hotel. The IIAC and the 570 organizations and companies cooperate to provide the best service to users of the Incheon International Airport. There are 20 government agencies in the airport, including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the Ministry of Justice, Korea Customs Service, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism that employ as many as 2700 employees. From the business ecosystem perspective, the ICN International Airport becomes the platform, the IIAC is the hub firm, and the rest—the 570 organizations and companies—can be regarded as members of the business ecosystem. (2) ICN International Airport Ecosystem Achievements The ICN International Airport received the Best Airport Worldwide in Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Award 2013 hosted by the Airports Council International (ACI), an organization comprised of 1700 airports around the world (http://www.airport.kr/notice/NoticeView.iia?functioncode=46 &bulletinid=10780). It won first place in ASQ for nine years in a row, which was a record in the history of airports worldwide. The ACI selects a “Best Airport Worldwide” among 154 airports of ACI-member countries in a total of 34 sectors including 7 service sectors such as “kindness,” and 27 facilities and operation sectors including the environment, information board, shopping center, and parking lot based on a periodic evaluation of the previous year. (3) Activities of IIAC as a Hub Firm 1) Goal-Setting for the Best Airport Service Worldwide The IIAC set a goal to provide the best airport service in the world at the ICN International Airport. 2) Sales Promotion to Attract Transit Passengers The IIAC promoted aggressive sales strategy, breaking out of existing practices by changing the name of the operation headquarters to the sales headquarters. Instead of waiting for customers to come by themselves, the IIAC has proactively contacted customers. The IIAC sales and marketing team has visited cities with potential transit demands in the target areas including Japan, China, the U.S., and East Asia, and aggressively promoted sales to attract transit passengers. The IIAC advertised the advantages of using the ICN International Airport to airline companies and travel agencies by emphasizing the airport‟s convenience, low cost, and short procedure times. 3) A Duty Free Shop as a Premium Shopping Mall Among the total revenue of the IIAC in 2010 of 1.286 trillion Korean won ($1.1 billion), the revenue in non-aeronautical activities from commercial facilities and building rents recorded 802.6 billion Korean won ($0.7 billion), which accounted for about 62% of the IIAC operating revenue. This means that the ICN International Airport is not an airport with commercial facilities but a shopping mall with an airport. The ICN International Airport is a huge shopping center itself. The airport has developed its own duty free shop brand, which is not simply a duty free shop affiliated with the airport but a duty free shopping mall under the name of “AIRSTAR Avenue.” The size of the shopping mall alone is 15,000 m2. It includes three major Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 duty free shops—Shilla Duty Free Shop, Lotte Duty Free Shop and Duty Free Korea—and sells about 500 brands in 70 stores. 4) Transformation of an Airport through Culture and Arts: Cultureport The ICN International Airport advanced beyond the idea that airport business is just involved with facilities and services. The cultural and artistic services offered at the airport fall into three categories: experience, performance, and exhibition. 5) Mobile Check-in Service The mobile check-in is a service that enables a passenger to complete the boarding procedure on a mobile phone. If a passenger access “ICN International Airport Mobile Guidance Service” on Wi-Fi using a mobile phone and types in the reservation number, resident registration number, and a phone number, the passenger will receive the barcode image of a boarding pass with a designated seat. If a passenger places the received barcode on the self check-in device and scans his or her passport upon arrival at the airport, the boarding pass will be printed out. With no baggage, a passenger can immediately go to the departure lounge for departure inspection or has the option of going through the designated booth for self check-in passengers. This mobile check-in service enables a passenger to finish the boarding procedure as well as receive information on flight departures and arrivals, parking, mass transit to the airport, facilities, and phone numbers. 6) Automated Immigration System A passenger may pass through the departure lounge without seeing an immigration officer like taking a subway. This is due to the automated immigration system called “U-Immigration.” If a passenger puts his or her passport onto the passport reader at the automated immigration booth, which looks like a subway ticket machine, and places their fingertip on it, which is already registered, a face photo is taken and identification is confirmed at the same time. The immigration inspection procedure is then complete and the procedure for arrival is the same. By making boarding a flight as simple as taking a subway, this system provides convenience to frequent fliers. 7) U-Cyber Terminal The IIAC plans to open a U-Cyber Terminal that may significantly cut down on the time to complete the departure procedure by enabling passengers to prepare the necessary items for departure and complete the process on the Internet before going to the airport. While the air ticket reservation service requires passengers to visit each airline Website, the cyber terminal allows users to book and issue a ticket regardless of the airline. 8) Improvement of Public Transportation at Airport The IIAC established a mid-long term measure to improve the mass transit service in cooperation with the bus company. The firm held semi-annual meetings to improve the public transportation and researched solutions on accessible transportation. As a result, the firm increased the bus lines from an initial 46 to 99, twice as many, and made late-night routes available to passengers. In addition, the number of direct bus routes between the ICN International Airport and local cities greatly increased. It had been unprecedented for an airport to provide so many public transit lines to regions across the country. Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 9) Curbside Improvement Curbside is an airport area where passengers are dropped off or picked up by cars or buses. At the ICN International Airport, the departure terminal is on the third floor while the arrival terminal is on the first floor. The curbside for each floor is 600 meters in length, or a total of 1.2 km. The ICN International Airport also overhauled its curbside after conducting meetings to improve the mass transit service. It placed easy-to-find bus stops for customers in the wide curbside areas and to run the call-taxi service. By separating the waiting area and platform, it operates a control system that allows cars to exit the waiting area after leaving the platform. 10) Bus Ticket Office Improvement At the launch of the airport, the bus ticket office had poor facilities compared with the passenger terminal area. They were in different shapes, such as cylindrical or square. The office designs were incompatible with the exterior of the airport and it was hard to determine their purpose. Unrepaired old ticket offices were even destroying the entire views of the airport. Specific lines of bus ticket offices were integrated into one office. Bus fare is now payable with T-money cards or credit cards with an optional transportation card for the airport limousine. 11) Door-to-Door Service Door-to-door service offers detailed guides to customers on the way from the ICN airport to their final destination. It is a service that offers active service to take responsibility for customers until arriving at the door of the final destination rather than saying goodbye at the airport terminal door. KORAIL Arex Airport Express and call-taxi companies are working together on providing this service. 12) Sea and Air Freight Service The biggest feature of the ICN International Airport is an advanced base of global logistics that uses combined transport linked between sea and air freight. The combined transport is a way to move freight brought by trucks in China to Inchon by sea using a car ferry and delivering them around the world by directly loading the cargo onto the flight. The containers are imported through the car-ferry routes between Qingdao, Yantai, and Weihai in China and Inchon are sent to the U.S. or Europe by air. Global companies including Samsung, LG, Sony, and Foxconn have been using the combined transport for sea and air freight services at the same time from the factories established in China. 13) Successful Outsourcing Operations To maintain the high service of the ICN International Airport, it was imperative to successfully outsource. As of January 2011, the airport was in outsourcing partnerships with 37 companies in three sectors including airport operations, facility maintenance, and information technology (IT). The number of employees working for the partner companies was about 6,000. The partner companies are engaged in not only terminal operations but also transportation management, cleaning, security, screening, maintenance of terminal and affiliated building facilities, airportconstruction data management and IT system maintenance, as well as airport fire service and animal control. Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 14) Using Volunteers The IIAC annually recruits volunteer workers according to the circumstances. Because the volunteer workers meet many foreigners while working, they must be fluent in different languages. Those volunteers with experience in welfare institutes for disabled persons, those who know sign language, and those with experience in airport-related fields are preferred. Such volunteer workers are filling gaps in the airport-service sector from gaps that are missed by airport-service providers. 15) Price Management of Food and Beverage Stores Many people think the food and beverages sold at airports to be more expensive than in cities. However, through research, the ICN International Airport has adjusted the price of products, such as a single cup of coffee and a bowl of black bean noodles, to the price of products sold in the city. The contracts with food and beverage stores include provisions on pricing or menus that allow customers to buy their favorite meals at reasonable prices. 16) The Fastest Immigration Process It takes only 16 minutes to go through the immigration procedure for departure and 12 minutes for entry at the ICN International Airport. This is much faster than the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommended standard of 60 minutes for departure and 45 minutes for entry. The fact that the ICN International Airport has the fastest speed in immigration procedures is another reason it is evaluated as the best in the world. 17) One-Stop Information Service with an Integrated Information Center The ICN International Airport established two integrated information centers in the arrival lounge of the passenger terminal on the first floor to provide information on airport and domestic tours. At the information center, passengers enjoy one-stop service for any information regarding the airport, transportation, or sightseeing in English, Japanese, and Chinese. The system removes the inconvenience of finding individual information centers on specific information. In addition, the airport has also integrated the information counters for subway, bus, and taxi service to provide a one-stop service for any type of transportation. 18) Rearrangement of Check-in Counter Each airline has an individual counter in the passenger terminal. IIAC, as the hub firm, designed the placement of the counters to improve customer service and operational efficiency. Initially, the passenger-terminal counters were divided into Korean airline companies in the east and foreign airline companies in the west. However, as 70% of the ICN International Airport passengers used the two Korean airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, people were crowded at those counters during peak times, which often caused chaos. As a result, the IIAC rearranged the airline check-in counters to reduce the inefficiency in the second opening stage of the airport facility. First, it separated the two Korean airlines to opposite sides of the east and west, which improved the chaos. Korean Air was placed in the east end while Asiana was moved to the opposite side. Thanks to such a rearrangement, passengers were equally distributed, creating a more streamlined process. Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 19) Maintaining Network Stability The business ecosystem of the ICN International Airport has a relatively higher network stability compared to the ecosystem of ordinary manufacturing companies. This is due to immigration-related government agencies and airline companies should be in airports. Meanwhile, the airport operations, facility maintenance, and IT are among the changeable member companies of the ICN airport ecosystem that are engaged in not only terminal operations but also transportation management, cleaning, security, screening, maintenance of terminal and affiliated building facilities, airport construction data management and IT system maintenance, as well as airport fire service and wild animal control of bird and other animals. The IIAC enhances the network stability by extending contract periods for the companies if they are selected as excellent partners when evaluating the outsourcing contracts. 20) Activities to Raise the Satisfaction Level of Airport Workers The ICN International Airport ecosystem includes not only public officials and airline employees but also outsourced company workers. The IIAC has made efforts to raise employee satisfaction among the outsourced companies in addition to its own workers. The IIAC also established the “Stationed Workers Center” in the transportation center on the first basement floor that allows for a comprehensive process of petitions raised by airport workers. All kinds of administrative petitions by airport workers, such as issuing parking passes or facility maintenance, can now be dealt with at one location. 21) Services for Taxi Drivers at Airport The IIAC has made efforts to win the hearts of taxi drivers who do business at the airport by providing various services. The firm created an extra lounge to help eliminate fatigue and provide free foreign language lessons to standby drivers. Such efforts have helped taxi drivers to feel a part of the ICN International Airport membership. 22) Introduction of a Passenger Forecasting System The passenger forecasting system announces the forecast number of passengers on D-2 for departing passengers and on D-1 for arriving passengers. The passenger forecasting system allows service workers to be flexibly assigned based on the predicted number of passengers by terminal number and time zone. Therefore, it prevents the possibility of lower service quality due to a workforce shortage at peak times. The method is similar to the flexible operations of cash registers at crowded times in large supermarkets. 23) Understanding Customer Demands through a Customer Council The ICN International Airport runs a Customer Council of ordinary passengers to determine the needs of customers from their point of view. The Customer Council is often regarded as a mere formality as many such types of councils are formed to meet requirements but few actively pursue complaints. However, the IIAC has evaluated the council activity performances, re-invited excellent customer council members, eliminated the council members that did not participate, and recruited new council members. Rather than passively gathering complaints, the Customer Council has been encouraged to proactively collect complaints and is rewarded for evaluation scores of the members‟ activities under Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 the newly introduced “Activity Score Program.” Any complaints raised to the council are answered within 24 hours. 24) Forming Operational Consultative Groups with Ecosystem Members The ICN International Airport has formed various operational-consultative groups that include representatives of 20 government agencies and independent companies including airline companies to provide integrated services. Among them are the ICN International Airport Operational Council, the Security Council, and the Service Improvement Council. They have meetings to adjust each member‟s role to meet the common goal of providing the best airport service in the world. 25) Regular Dinners with Ecosystem Members Relevant workers of the stationed organizations have dinner together on a weekly or monthly basis such as “Hwa-yo-hoe” or “Sam-hwa-hoe” („Sam‟ means third, „hwa‟ means Tuesday, and „hoe‟ means meeting. In other words, they have a meeting every third Tuesday.) At these dinners, workers share ideas and expand their understanding of each other‟s business. Sitting together at the dinner table, they discuss ways to improve airport services. 26) Activities to Improve Members’ Sense of Unity in the Ecosystem Although the workers at the ICN International Airport work in the same place, they have little in common as they have been hired by different companies. As mentioned above, since about 570 organizations or companies are working at ICN International Airport, it is never easy to generate cooperation under a common goal. However, as a hub firm, the IIAC has achieved cooperation among people in different organizations under the goal of making “an airport that provides the best quality in the world.” How has it been possible to convince workers in different organizations to unite in one goal? ICN airport workers have a familial organizational culture. An event titled “The ICN International Airport Workshop on Cooperation” initiated that culture, beginning in 2005. The event was held at an initial stage and attended by executive members of 11 stationed government agencies, 9 airlines, 9 ground-handling companies and duty free shops, and 9 customer service departments of partner companies. The IIAC provided a sense of unity to all the participants. 27) Sharing Achievements with Outsourced Companies The IIAC has established various mutually beneficial programs to improve the strategic partnerships with outsourced companies. One is an achievement-sharing system to build a strategic partnership. Under the achievement-sharing system, if a partner company suggests an idea for new management innovation and it is adopted, the achievements from implementing the proposal are shared with the partner company. For example, if a partner company suggests an idea to save expenses and it is adopted, the reduced expenses are shared by the partner company. 28) Profit Distribution among Ecosystem Members at the ICN International Airport The ICN International Airport froze the airport tax charged to passengers for the past seven years and reduced the landing charges by maximizing indirect profits from the revenues in duty free shops. In addition, the airport discounted rent for the duty free shops that were having business difficulties due to the swine flu. Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 29) Other Activities Aside from the activities mentioned above, the IIAC has conducted the following activities to meet the goal of providing the best airport service in the world: a baggage processing system that reduces the baggage delay rate to less than 1/10,000; the Who‟s Who program of networking to raise worker understanding and interests; an assimilation program for communication within the organizations; a unique personnel policy, “Job Posting,” that displays jobs in which employees apply for the team they want to work on and the team managers select who they want; a new ERP System, “Auri,” which was adopted to upgrade the internal management system; and the IIAC Clean Compact program for moral management. Since such activities are conducted by the IIAC itself, this study excluded them from building the conceptual framework of the research, which is based on the business ecosystem rather than the business activities. 3. Building a Conceptual Framework on the Role of a Hub Firm as Leader of a Business Ecosystem 1) Drawing Concepts from IIAC Activities as Leader The following are the concepts that came out of 28 activities that the IIAC conducted regarding the business ecosystem: First, the concept of “setting a common goal in the ecosystem” was formed in regards to the activities under the goal of providing the best airport service in the world. Second, the concept of “redefinition of the business ecosystem” was built around the activities of changing from passive management — just waiting for customers— to active sales strategy to attract customers. Also, changing the duty free shop into a premium shopping center and transforming the airport into a cultural and artistic airport. Third, the concept of “creating new services (or platforms)” was created through the activities of a mobile check-in service, an automated immigration system, U-cyber terminal, public transportation service improvement at the airport, curbside improvement, terminal ticket-office operations improvement, door-to-door service, and sea and air freight service. Fourth, the concept of “selecting and managing ecosystem members” was formed based on the activities of successful outsourcing operations, using volunteers and price management of food and beverage stores. Fifth, the concept of “maintaining stability of the ecosystem” was established by the activity of maintaining network stability. Sixth, the concept of “raising the satisfaction level of ecosystem member-company workers” was established by the activities of increasing satisfaction among airport workers and convenience services for taxi drivers doing business at the airport. Seventh, the concept of “improving knowledge mobility among ecosystem members” was formed based on the activities of introducing the passenger forecasting system, understanding customer demands through the Customer Council, forming operational-consultative groups that ecosystem members participated in as well as holding regular dinners among the ecosystem members. Eighth, the concept of “improving a sense of unity among ecosystem members” was built by activities to improve the ecosystem members‟ sense of unity - a workshop on cooperation, Sky Festival, the same uniforms for partner companies, united marketing under the common brand. Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 Ninth, the concept of “sharing achievements among ecosystem members” was established by the activities of achievement sharing with outsourced companies and profit distribution with ecosystem members. 2) Forming a Conceptual Framework for Hierarchical Concepts The following conceptual framework is established based on the concepts above: First, the upper-level concept of the “role as a strategic center” is created by combining the concepts of setting a common goal in the ecosystem, redefinition of the business ecosystem, and creating a new service (or platform). Second, the upper-level concept of the “role as a manager of members” is formed by combining the concepts of selecting and managing ecosystem members, the rearrangement of ecosystem members, adjusting the activities of each ecosystem member, maintaining stability of the ecosystem, and raising the satisfaction level of workers of ecosystem member companies. Third, the upper-level concept of “role as an orchestrator among members” is established by combining the concepts of improving knowledge mobility among ecosystem members, building a sense of unity among ecosystem members, and sharing achievements among ecosystem members. A hub firm of a business ecosystem plays role as (1) strategic center, (2) manager of the business ecosystem members, and (3) orchestrator among the business ecosystem members. These concepts can be demonstrated as the following Fig. 1. Fig. 1: Conceptual framework on the role of a hub firm as leader of a business ecosystem. 4. Validity Check of the Conceptual Framework Existing research is reviewed to check the validity of the conceptual framework suggested in this study. In terms of the existing research on the role of a hub firm as an orchestrator among the members of the business ecosystem, Hacki and Lighton (2001) argued that hub Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference 8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6 firms serve as an orchestrator of the business ecosystem while Dhanaraj and Parkhe (2006) explored the role of a hub firm as an orchestrator in detail. Dhanaraj and Parkhe (2006) suggested the following roles of hub firms: First, the hub firms are required to play a role in improving knowledge mobility within the business ecosystem. Innovation is created by the existing knowledge combined in a new way (Kogut & Zander, 1996). To introduce innovation within an ecosystem, knowledge among members is required to be actively exchanged within the business ecosystem. Hub firms can enable innovation by improving knowledge absorption, network identification, and interorganizational socialization. Raising interorganizational socialization means intensifying the official or unofficial networks among the companies in the business ecosystem (Brown & Buguid, 2001). Second, hub firms have to ensure that the value created in the business ecosystem is equitably distributed to each ecosystem member. If a free-riding member in the business ecosystem exists, others will avoid sharing information. Therefore, hub firms are required to serve as orchestrators to build confidence among the members of the business ecosystem. Third, hub firms are required to play the role of enhancing the network stability. Even if the business ecosystem is a loosely coupled organizational community, it may hamper the achievement of innovations if the stability of the ecosystem is severely destroyed (Lorenzoni & Lipparini, 1999). The first and second roles proposed by Dhanaraj and Parkhe (2006) were reflected in the conceptual framework of this research, which refer to the “role as an orchestrator among the ecosystem members,” while the third role of network stability was applied to the “role as a manager of the ecosystem members.” 5. Theoretical and Practical Implications 1) Theoretical Implications The previous research has made a partial approach to the role of a hub firm as leader of a business ecosystem. However, this study intends to propose an integrated model beyond the limit of partially made approaches by suggesting a comprehensive conceptual framework on the role of a hub firm as leader of a business ecosystem. 2) Practical Implications The conceptual framework suggested in this study may be used as a checklist on what companies should do to achieve sustainable development. As mentioned in the introduction, business achievements are made by the capabilities of individual companies as well as by the performance of the business ecosystem to which the company belongs. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the management and coordination of the business ecosystem to improve performances. In this regard, the conceptual framework of this paper proposes significant guidelines. 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