A New Year is a time to look back and look ahead at the world around us. Most publications and writers put forward articles talking about past happenings and future possibilities. I too did the same last week. Thinking more about it, I realize that what is needed is not to just look at trends, but also evaluate them from an “emerging market” perspective. The world is a very different place as seen from India and countries like India. These countries are home to two-thirds of the world’s population. The challenge and opportunities lie in seeing how the latest technology trends can be applied to our countries, people and the small and medium-enterprises (SMEs) that account for most of the business.
The digital divide exists – between the developed markets of the world (US, Europe and Japan) and the emerging markets of the world (India, China, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa). Emerging markets have long suffered from lack of proper infrastructure and information. In many cases, their economies and enterprises have functioned in isolation of the rest of the world. Now, continuing progress across the board in computers, communications and software is offering hope that instead of the digital divide continuing to increase, it can perhaps be narrowed. Globalisation is no longer the preserve of the multinationals; SMEs in these countries can, using the latest technologies, look at selling products and services in other markets of the world.
The solutions for emerging markets do not lie in aping what the developed markets are doing with technology. What is needed is to (a) understand the latest technologies and their implications, and (b) understand the local challenges and ground realities. The marriage of the two will create unique, cost-effective solutions which have a potential to reach the mass market of consumers and enterprises, and genuinely make a difference.
Take a look at India. At first glance, it may appear that things ought to be much cheaper in India. But most things are much more expensive – right from real estate and travel to telecom and technology. Even the perceived cost advantage in salaries may not translate into huge benefits because of the inefficiencies – in processes and logistics. Yet, for the first time, there is at least a possibility that by using technology appropriately, it may be possible to drive grassroots change and increase both domestic consumption and exports, leading to raising the standard of living and the country’s GDP.
I intend to, over the next few columns, present a viewpoint from an emerging market (India) on what these new trends and technologies are, what they mean, and how they can be applied to leapfrog and potentially, build out global companies. The ideas are by no means perfect, but are meant to initiate thought and discussion. Our future lies in our own hands. We as entrepreneurs have to build a base for the coming generation to leverage and grow.