1) What is the corporate rationale of the Virgin Group?
Corporate rational is the way in which a corporate parent envisages the way that it can add value to its strategic business units. The Virgin Group sees itself as a restructurer; this means that it has low central costs due to relatively small corporate center, with fairly minimal involvement at business level. However they vary from the portfolio managers because they also set about trying to identify restructuring opportunities within their businesses and have the skills and expertise in order to intervene and introduce these changes where necessary. The Virgin Group have a huge range of about two hundred strategic business units ranging from airways to cola, and makeup to publishing. Part of Virgin's corporate rationale is that it tries to invade static' markets in which there are few competitors and where consumers don't get value for money because of this. The Virgin Group enters these markets to try and shake them up, for example they did this with Virgin Airways and Virgin Cola. By doing this if they manage to produce the product or service for a slightly lower price than all other competitors within the market then they should, along with their strong Virgin brand name, gain a big market share fairly quickly because they have undercut everyone else. This is a good way in which to enter a market because it uses the shock tactic to the other competitors who may have become too comfortable in this monopolistic market, and has potentially huge initial gains. By using this shock tactic, the other market leaders won't have anticipated it and will be slower to respond, for example when Virgin entered the airways market, British Airways hadn't anticipated them as competition and so were not prepared to be able to cut costs and compete. So Virgin Airways gained a big share of the market very quickly.
2) Are there any relationships of a strategic nature between businesses within the Virgin portfolio?
I think that although The Virgin Group seems to have many businesses in as many different fields, there are probably some strategic relationships between the business units. With these strategic relationships Virgin can achieve some benefits for example, economies of scale when buying supplies or with their logistics, more control over the market, access to more consumer information across several related companies or by making it easier for the corporate parent to understand and manage each strategic business unit if they are all in similar fields.
However on the whole Virgin follows an unrelated diversification strategy. This means that The Virgin Group is an organisation which moves out of its own industry or market and pursues new opportunities wherever they become available. It exploits its current competencies and sets about diversifying in ways which can make use of these competencies which may otherwise be under-used.
One way in which Virgin balances its corporate portfolio is to produce a Growth Share Matrix, otherwise known as the Boston Consulting Group Box. This splits each company up into either stars, question marks, cash cows or dogs dependent on their market share and the market growth. It is important to spread your companies within all four of these areas so that high risk companies are balanced with low risk companies. However Virgin being a company who focuses on high diversification and we know it is willing to invest in companies, I think Richard Branson may focus slightly more on stars and question marks where the market growth is high.
I feel one of the main reasons the Virgin Group is so 'randomly' diversified is also due to Richard Branson's personal objectives and his entrepreneurial spirit. He is a very well known figure who is known for taking huge risks. However he now has a solid background of income in order to take these risks but still have security to fall back on if they fail. This is a very enviable...