Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Face of Consumer Business Growth in Emerging Markets? A Woman

International Women's Day has passed, but we still have the importance of women - as consumers and catalysts for development - on our minds. And we're not the only ones. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu recently reported that women currently control nearly $12 trillion, or two-thirds, of the $18 trillion total global consumer spending. Additionally, women's earned incomes are growing faster than men's in developing countries, at 8.1 percent compared 5.8 percent. These figures underscore the important role women have in household purchase decisions and provide evidence of women's increasing buying power.

While women are emerging as a more powerful force in the global economy, their role in development is well established. Empowering women with education and economic opportunities can have a compounding effect on broad-based social and economic development. Women reinvest the vast majority of their income in their families and communities. And an extra year of secondary schooling increases women's earning potential by 10 to 20 percent. For these and other reasons, members of the development community, including microfinance institutions and several major international organizations, have a strong focus on women.

Women make up half of the population in emerging markets, yet they are often overlooked by multinational corporations. A study sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund and Cherie Blair Foundation, and authored Vital Wave Consulting, found that women are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man in the developing world. Closing the mobile phone "gender gap” is worth $13 billion annually to mobile communications service providers. Additionally, the mobile phone provides a host of social and economic benefits to women.* There's an opportunity for companies to recognize the increasing influence of women as customers, purchase influencers and broader agents of development. Those that do -- and provide products and services that are closely linked to the needs of a woman and her family -- can tap into this emerging consumer base and help improve their bottom line as well as the quality of life of families across the globe.

*Join Vital Wave Consulting's next Speaker Series on Thursday, March 25, 2010 where Dr. Karen Coppock will present the results of Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity, the first comprehensive study of mobile phones and women in the developing world. Details and Registration.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Huffington Post Spotlights Vital Wave Consulting CEO

The Huffington Post’s Jim Luce just published an article about Vital Wave Consulting CEO Brooke Partridge. The article highlights Brooke’s thought leadership in making ICT sustainable and profitable in the developing world and traces her path into this pioneering work.

For those of us that work at Vital Wave Consulting, it’s wonderful to see Brooke’s leadership and the “behind the scenes” work of the company recognized. Brooke leadership comes out not just in envisioning the possibilities of technology for the developing world, but in understanding how to put all the pieces together to make a good idea a sustainable business, from substantiating the business case to structuring the necessary partnerships to getting organizational buy-in for investments.

Congrats to Brooke on this well-deserved recognition!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vital Wave's mWomen Catalyzing Action

March 8 was International Women's Day, meant to highlight the pivotal role that women play in their societies and the unequal status that many women still have in many parts of the world. In the days leading up to it, the GSMA Development Fund hosted a workshop in London on how mobile phones are helping women to empower themselves and to raise their standard of living. During this workshop, cross-sector leaders from organizations as diverse as CARE International, Telenor and the South African government discussed how to accelerate women’s ownership of mobile phones for social and economic empowerment.

These discussions centered on a wide range of issues including overcoming the barriers to phone ownership by women and tailoring mobile services – such as mLearning, mFinance, mHealth -- to the unique needs of women. The workshop came just weeks after the launch of Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity, a new report authored by Vital Wave Consulting and sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which is getting considerable notice in the press.

The report, which found that closing the mobile phone gender gap could add 300 million new female subscribers and represents a $13 billion annual revenue opportunity for mobile operators, was recently cited in the Washington Post's Post Tech blog. Vital Wave CEO Brooke Partridge was quoted in the article as saying “Cell phones are more ubiquitous in the developing world so you have to look at development through cell phones because people don’t have alternative forms of access."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mobile World Congress Puts the Spotlight on Maturing mServices

The 2010 Mobile World Congress, held last month in Barcelona, featured the usual array of cutting-edge devices and new service offerings from handset makers and operators from around the globe. While Microsoft's launch of its new mobile operating system got the biggest headlines, some of the most intriguing discussions that took place centered on the increasing maturity of mobile services aimed at emerging market consumers. Gavin Krugel, the GSM Association's director of mobile banking strategy, noted at the event that one billion people in the world have access to a mobile phone but not a bank account. And Krugel said that there are now 40 million people worldwide using mobile money, a number that is growing daily. In Uganda alone, 18,000 people join the ranks of mobile money users each day.

The development of mServices has long held great promise, but the lack of a clear business case has hampered their growth - until now. Mobile money, despite regulatory hurdles, is leading the way. And the plethora of mHealth applications on display at the Congress demonstrates that it too is beginning to take off. The case has been furthered by reports such as Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity, authored by Vital Wave Consulting and sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The study, which included surveys of over 2,000 women in developing countries, found that nearly half of women (and two-thirds of women business owners), are interested in services such as money transfers via their mobile phones, a number that is even higher in countries such as Kenya where knowledge of these services is widespread.

Mobile services are positioned to become highly strategic for scaling business and programs in emerging markets. This will likely be the case for technology companies and a range of vertical markets (such as financial institutions, agricultural firms, and even governments). Yet mServices are still a nascent arena. Successful scale requires careful planning up front and an understanding of the conditions in each individual market. For example, where banks hold significant political and economic power it may be necessary to include those institutions in any mFinance services offering. Otherwise, those banks may view mobile banking as a threat. Taking a hard look at the market dynamics - including industry, regulatory or competitive barriers - can make the development of a successful mServices strategy that much more likely.