Many thanks for your questions and comments.
In regards to religion and economic activity, I've been looking at Weber's work that attempts to link the historic rise of capitalism or otherwise in societies with the religions that underpin their respective cultures. His work is circa 1900 so the actual case studies are less relevant to modern society, but I think the ideas he draws out can still have relevance.
In terms of more recent studies on cultural behaviour and market infiltration, Fligstein (1996) has done some interesting analysis on the Japanese keiretsu. These are closely knit groups of companies in different industries but that share ownership ties, generally originating from a family ownership history and leading to well established interdependent relationships. It creates a very stable market structure that offers many advantages to the companies involved but makes entry into the market by new competitors very difficult.
Cultural issues can be even more important in countries with limited or inadequate formal institutions to support markets (e.g. lack of effective legal frameworks for property rights), where informal social institutions may take on the role instead. In that case, understanding the socio-cultural context will be even more important for those looking to enter the market. I hope to examine this further over the course of my fieldwork next year and look at some examples in practice.
As for overcoming the barriers, I haven't found any specific studies as yet but again the research is ongoing. There may be some useful lessons to learn from the marketing sector, where understanding cultural context is essential. An amusing example is cited by Carruthers and Babb (2000) regarding General Motors’ Chevy Nova. This was a very popular car in the US, yet it would not sell in the Latin American market for the simple reason that “no va” in Spanish translates as “it doesn’t go”! Cultural context includes elements as simple as linguistics, but understanding is definitely crucial.
Perhaps the other presenters may have some ideas in response to your point on overcoming cultural barriers to market infiltration, based on their practical experiences?
Carruthers, B. G. & Babb, S. L. (2000) Economy/society: markets, meanings, and social structure. California: Thousand Oaks.
Fligstein, N. (1996) Markets as Politics: A Political-Cultural Approach to Market Institutions. In American Sociological Review, 61, 656-673.