Case Study

Tencent: Copying to success

18 pages
December 2011
Reference: IMD-3-2274

The case provides a history and description of the Chinese Internet company, Tencent – one of the largest Internet companies in the world. It is not a decision case; there is no decision point and no case protagonist. It has been written largely from public sources. The case is up to date as of the middle of 2011. The case describes Tencent’s interesting approach to innovation wherein the company takes established products and services, sometimes from within China and sometimes from overseas, and adapts them to the local market. There is some controversy with this strategy, as many see Tencent as an imitator (perhaps an illegal one) with very little of its own product development or innovation. The case does not pass judgment on this issue, but provides a balanced account of the pros and cons of this business model.

Learning Objective

The case opens a window to the world of Chinese Internet companies. On the surface, Tencent can be seen as an unscrupulous copier and imitator. However, a most nuanced analysis shows a company that excels at incremental innovation based on a sophisticated understanding of its target customers. The case can be used as a study in digital ethics. It can also be used in an innovation course to show the process of incremental innovation, at the expense of radical innovation.

Imitation, Internet
Published Sources
© 2011
Available Languages
Case clearing houses
IMD case studies are distributed through case clearing houses. In order to browse the collection and purchase copies please visit the links below.

The Case Centre

Cranfield University

Wharley End Beds MK43 0JR, UK
Tel +44 (0)1234 750903
Email [email protected]

Harvard Business School Publishing

60 Harvard Way, Boston MA 02163, USA
Tel (800) 545-7685 Tel (617)-783-7600
Fax (617) 783-7666
Email [email protected]

Asia Pacific Case Center

NUCB Business School

1-3-1 Nishiki Naka
Nagoya Aichi, Japan 460-0003
Tel +81 52 20 38 111
Email [email protected]


Research Information & Knowledge Hub for additional information on IMD publications

Discover our latest research
IMD's faculty and research teams publish articles, case studies, books and reports on a wide range of topics