From Imitation to Innovation: Zongshen Industrial Group

Posted: 10 Apr 2012

See all articles by Nancy Dai

Nancy Dai

Harvard Business School, Asia Pacific Research Center

Date Written: August 23, 2010


As Zuo Zongshen drove the transformation of the Zongshen Industrial Group from an early imitator in the motorcycle business to a company that increasingly focused on innovation as a way to get out of the hyper-competitive commodity business, he continually faced new challenges. The company had become a leader in gasoline powered motorcycles and small gas engines, but increasing taxes and restrictions on the use of motorcycles in congested urban areas had spawned a new industry, electric motorbikes, which posed a threat to the company's core business. Sourcing the technology for these e-bikes, and hiring and retaining the management and creative talent the company needed were continuing challenges. The case traces the development of capabilities in the Zongshen Industrial Group, how it used the early imitation phase to foster rapid technological learning and upgrading, and how it used a unique corporate structure and listing strategy to finance the acquisition of important technologies.

Learning Objective: Expose the process of learning and technological upgrading, and tie it to frameworks on modularity and capability development.

Suggested Citation

Dai, Nancy, From Imitation to Innovation: Zongshen Industrial Group (August 23, 2010). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Case No. 610-057, Available at SSRN:

Nancy Dai (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School, Asia Pacific Research Center ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics