Catalyst Asia Briefing -- 5 November 2012

Need A Break From U.S. Election Coverage?


This week we offer you a selection of attack ad-free reading material on globalization, China, BRICs, and the emerging middle class.


Globalizations | Technologies creating connectedness…or not?  Splintering the online world


We may have mentioned this before, but Catalyst seeks out areas of ambiguity and enjoys a healthy dose of counterintuitive thinking—these are rich seams of information that often yield valuable insight.  With that in mind, a trio of articles dealing with the topic of globalization and connectedness:


-   In The Global Village Has Arrived the Dean of NUS’s School of Public Policy, Kishore Mahbubani, looks out on a world that has—for the first time—more phones than people, and sees technology creating global convergence.  However, this planet-wide interconnectedness spreads beyond technology and communication to economies, public health, and the environment.  We like the succinctness of Mahbubani’s argument that new global problems will require truly global solutions; though not all will agree with his underlying assumptions….


-   In fact, IESE Business School professors Pankaj Ghemawat and Steven Altman argue that the current spate of financial crises, protectionist pressures, and weak growth demonstrate that the world is far less connected than it appeared to be—only “10 to 20 percent globalized” in their view.  Rather than stop at this metric, Strategies for Global Connectedness makes the case for a more intentional approach to globalization. The pair believes that we need to investigate the additional gains we can achieve from further globalization before we act—in essence, to look again before we leap.


-   Our last globalization piece considers the vast amount of information that persists on the internet—and some of the darker consequences of that persistence.  MIT Technology Review’s Ways to Delete Embarrassing Posts from the Internet argues that new standards and technology fixes can address some of the problems…and worries that an evolving “right to forget data” regulation in the EU could have the unintended consequence of splintering the global web.


China | Africa policy, and a marketing strategy to Chinese consumers


-   Recognizing the overwhelming demand for Western-based businesses to make inroads in China, we think it’s a good idea to scan the horizon to see where the Chinese are focusing their own investments, and why.  In China’s Africa Policy, a piece notable for its brevity on a matter of international policy and development, INSEAD professor Jonathan Story frames China’s Africa policy as a pure economic play.


-   Introducing established brands into the Chinese consumer market can be difficult—more so when those products perform a function that may be new or underdeveloped in the country’s culture.  That’s the dilemma faced by Reckitt Benckiser Group’s Veet hair-removal cream, as described in the Bloomberg story, Hair Apparent for Women in China.  The company’s current marketing solution seems to be gaining traction, though we wonder about the long-term impact of an approach that one observer characterizes this way: “marketing plays a role that is very similar to that of the apple in the Bible.  It creates an awareness, which subsequently creates a feeling of shame and need.”


Emerging Markets | BRICs, and Designing Products for Emerging Middle Class,


-   Don’t sugarcoat it…In a blunt style—verging on cynical in places—Morgan Stanley’s head of Emerging Markets and Global Macro, Ruchir Sharma, makes a detailed case against “thinking in acronyms” and viewing the continued growth of Brazil, India, Russia, and China as inevitable, or even likely.  Read the Foreign Affairs piece, Broken BRICs, and decide for yourself.


-   Foreign Policy magazine weighs in on the same topic this month: in Think Again – The BRICs, Former World Bank official Antoine van Agtmael agrees that the BRICs should not be viewed as a unified bloc, and that their individual prospects differ.  However, he still views these emerging economies as “the main source of growth in tomorrow’s world,” even if that growth is currently slowing.


Emerging Middle Class | Innovating for value, Third Billion??


-   We enjoyed the case studies in McKinsey Quarterly’s report, Designing Products for Value, as they look at how a handful of companies are tackling the challenge of designing the products that consumers in newly prosperous countries demand, at a price they can afford, and on a timetable that lets them compete with nimble and ambitious rivals.


-   In this recent Strategy + Business article, How to Keep Promise of Third Billion (with a link to video), the authors highlight their “Third Billion Index,” completed by Booz & Company, that correlates the prosperity of a country with the economic status of women within its borders.  We found this an interesting perspective on one half of the emerging middle class.


Food For Thought | Vermeer’s Hat, and Walmart Labs


-   Are you looking for a thought provoking analysis of seventeenth century paintings and what they tell us about the history of the global economy?  We thought so.  Read the review of Vermeer’s Hat here, and then if you’re intrigued, find the book on our Kindle library.


-   “Changing the way people shop.  1,000,000,000 at a time.”  Walmart certainly understands scale, and it is trying to leverage its resources to find solutions to online retail that will allow it to catch up to dominant players there such as Amazon.  You’re Not in Arkansas Anymore describes the company’s new lab in Silicon Valley and how its planning to go about that task.

Asia Trends – Urban Poor

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 28 September 2012