Friday, August 30, 2013

Mobile Meals

The Economist is the latest to serve up lukewarm Emerging Market news after a decades-long buffet with all the gluttonous expansion the world could ingest. Slowed growth, lackluster ROI, bribery and corruption scandals, and of course the PC getting served with divorce papers by a few billion former prospects. Companies that have counted on emerging-markets growth have fallen short, leading some to question whether the buffet is closed for good.

These are worrying trends, to be sure, but they are hardly signs of the apocalypse. Emerging markets are not the feast they used to be, but they still offer myriad opportunities for growth. As smartphones pass the noteworthy milestone of outselling feature phones globally - due largely to swelling sales in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe - many opportunities will be mobile-based. Besides the obvious boon for operators and handset manufacturers, there is promised growth for everyone in the mobile Internet value chain (app developers and store owners, content and service providers, networking and even peripherals). The ad agency Publicis, which recently merged with Omnicom, has seen the writing on the wall and gone on a buying spree of emerging-market firms. As billions of new consumers acquire smartphones and tablets (and the means to purchase more goods), it makes sense to be the one who speaks to those buyers. 

Who will mobile advertisers be working with in 10 years? They will be working with companies that develop products and services with compelling features and functionality, at the right price for wildly diverse emerging-market customer segments. Their clients will have a plan for navigating an increasingly competitive environment, hyper-localized go-to-market strategies, and careful management of country risk factors. They will be working with company executives who don't mind snacking on-the-go. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Facing Traffic Mortality in Emerging Markets, Head On

This week, Vital Wave's CEO was in a head-on car collision with a Ugandan boda boda (or scooter). Amazingly, everyone involved walked away unscathed, narrowly avoiding joining the 50 million people worldwide who are injured or killed in car accidents each year. This incident also underscored an issue that is highly relevant to the continued growth of emerging markets. The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled traffic fatalities a serious but neglected public health issue that disproportionately affects developing countries. A full 90% of the 1.3 million people killed each year in road traffic injuries are in low- and middle-income countries. Low-income rural countries have a per capita traffic death rate more than twice that of high-income countries, despite owning only 1% of registered vehicles. This discrepancy appears to be widening, and current trends suggest that road traffic injuries will be the third leading cause of death and disability worldwide by the year 2020.

"The use of smart phones to reinforce safety habits will be much more affordable in developing countries than integrated, in-vehicle systems such as collision avoidance systems. The technology and some applications already exist to connect vehicles with smart phones for supporting safe behaviors such as speed limit and seat belt compliance."
- Nicholas Ward, Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Montana State University
The impact of traffic injuries is felt across all sectors of emerging markets. Economically, road crashes cost developing economies the equivalent of 1-3 percent of GNP each year. These costs will only go up as car ownership and traffic levels balloon faster than the surrounding road infrastructure and traffic safety culture can support. In addition to the direct costs of automotive crashes, the healthcare resources required to treat these injuries also take away from efforts across the developing world to address high rates of infectious disease and the increasing burden of chronic disease.

Cross-sector efforts present opportunities to address this growing but neglected health and economic problem in emerging markets. The WHO points out that "reducing the risk in the world's road traffic systems requires commitment and informed decision-making by government, industry, non-governmental organizations and international agencies, and participation by people from many different disciplines, such as road engineers, motor vehicle designers, law enforcement officers and health professionals and community groups." Such coordinated efforts – through public-private partnership, strategic investments, and rigorous evaluation of needs and interventions – stand to have direct, positive impact on social and economic goals as well as business growth in industries as diverse as high-tech, healthcare, and automotive.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Analytics in a Changing Landscape

Analyzing data in emerging markets used to be fairly easy. Of course, that's because there were little or no data to analyze. But those days are pretty much over. The bleak landscape of reliable data on customers and markets in developing countries has bloomed like a flooded desert. And today, new data are being captured through government and business information systems, mobile phones, social networks, and retail transaction systems. With two-thirds of its growth expected to come from emerging markets in coming years, perhaps no other industry stands to benefit more from rigorous data analytics in emerging markets than Pharma.

The pharmaceutical industry can benefit from solid analysis at every stage of the value chain. For instance, disease tracking data support the discovery and development of new therapies. Remote data collection and diagnostic or treatment support can aid clinical investigations and help companies understand how health workers and patients manage health and disease. Improved analysis can help companies segment diverse global customers and devise localized pricing, packaging, and educational programs. Once products are in the field, data can be mined to make improvements in the supply chain, patient education, and communication or training for health workers.

If applied creatively and skillfully, data analytics could help pharmaceutical companies move past the role of pill manufacturer and toward the business of providing personalized health services. As data grow and become more accessible, the time is ripe for pharmaceutical companies to develop and apply new tools that enhance the care experience (and grow their business). This will require evaluation and prioritization of areas where data can bring the most value, and then a clear plan of action to implement the technical and analytical systems to capture, analyze, and integrate that data. With agility and a business-driven focus on quality data analytics, pharmaceutical companies will discover the value of making medicine from desert flowers.