Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mainstreaming Emerging Markets

For the second year, the annual International CES in Las Vegas, the world’s largest tradeshow for the consumer technology industry, will feature a dedicated session that focuses on the role technology plays to further economic growth in developing countries. The second annual Technology and Emerging Countries Program (TEC) will feature two keynotes and a panel on “Creating the Global Tech Ecosystem.” This is no side-lined breakout event. The opening keynote speaker is Intel’s Chairman, Craig Barrett, and the closing keynote will be delivered by Cisco’s Chairman and CEO John Chambers. That CES is dedicating plenary sessions to emerging countries, and the fire power behind the speaker lineup for these sessions, speaks to a shift occurring across most of the top technology companies.

Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Nokia, IBM, Dell, Google, HP and many others have adjusted their strategies, operations, product designs or organizational structures to make emerging-market business growth a more central focus for their mainstream businesses. Corporate announcements, new products and partnerships relating to these markets are no longer couched in terms of corporate social responsibility. Mainstream business units appear to be taking a lead in their company’s revenue growth in emerging markets, bringing more efficient processes and abundant resources to the effort. A few years ago, it was difficult for companies to justify asking their mainstream businesses to take on performance metrics relating to emerging markets. Now, the development of Intel’s Atom processors, the creation of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group, and organizational changes at Cisco demonstrate that this is changing.

Vital Wave Consulting sees this as a very positive trend. Many emerging-market-focused organizations outside of mainstream business units have struggled within large companies to deliver on internal expectations. Incubation of these special strategies can be effective, but only to the point where these groups learn what systems, products and practices need modification within their company. Networking opportunities such as the TEC program at this year’s CES are a good chance for emerging-market focused business managers to share best practices and learn from industry leaders how to shift the responsibility for emerging-market growth from smaller, exploratory groups to stronger and more effective mainstream businesses.

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