Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 20 July 2012

Cities and states
Cities are getting bigger, faster; creating opportunities and problems.  In 1950, 30% of the world’s population lived in them, in 2010 we crossed the 50% mark, and by 2050 it’s estimated that 80% of the planet’s people will be urbanites.  The phenomenon of growing cities has existed for centuries, though the constantly accelerating pace of urbanization is a hot topic with the media and academics alike today.  We’ve whittled down the stack to a handful of pieces centered on two themes: an introduction to the science global urbanization, and urbanization in emerging markets.
Also this week: a closer look at Indonesia and its growing middle class, Chinese design trends and political sensitivities, a surprising infographic on food security, an argument in support of the Indian economy, and advice to us all to spend some quality time away from our electronic devices.
Urbanization
Science of urbanization: The recent availability of a deluge of data from across the globe relating to cities is feeding an explosion of study into every aspect of city life, from consumption and culture to traffic congestion and crime.  The Economist presents an overview of the science in The laws of the city.  Two of the experts cited in that article provide a summary of their own research in Unified Theory of Urban Living, where they note “Cities are the crucibles of human of civilization, the drivers toward potential disaster, and the source of the solution to humanity’s problems.”  Or you can take 17 minutes to watch one of them, Geoffrey West, present some key findings to a TED audience.
Urbanization and emerging markets: The McKinsey Global Institute has an ongoing research project focused on the world’s 600 largest cities and their economic impact.  MGI’s latest update to this work attempts to make sense of macro trends, such as the fact that by 2025, cities will add 1 billion people in the “consumer class,” with fully 60% of this growth happening in emerging markets.  Among other things, MGI argues that global businesses need to look at city level data in order to identify opportunities and set strategies to reach these new consumers.  Meanwhile, Organizing for an emerging world provides a primer that could help frame discussions about how to create the right corporate structure necessary to build and support new business models.
Last laugh: For a lighter take on cities—and the important differences in assumptions found across urban cultures—we recommend Derek Sivers’ two-minute TED lesson.
Indonesia
Indonesia is the world’s 4th largest country by population (and 18th largest economy, according to the Economist World in Figures 2012).  Two weeks ago we noted that it was considered a candidate to be the next Asian Tiger economy—here we take a closer look at what Indonesia has going for it, as well as some major challenges working against its future success.
Missing BRIC in the wall documents the staggering growth of the Indonesian middle class, transforming the consumer goods sector in that country from a focus on basics (example, toothpaste), to more luxurious items such as ice cream and skin care products.  On the other hand, it also touches on the country’s lack of productivity, transparency, and regulatory consistency.
What An Indonesian Start-Up Can Teach Brands is a snapshot—promotional, to be sure—of how entrepreneurs in Indonesia can help global companies target consumers more effectively through mobile technologies.
A more academic examination of Indonesian middle class consumer culture—particularly kafe tenda  (tented cafes) and mall culture—can be found in Consumerism and Emergence of a New Middle Class in Globalizing Indonesia.  The work closes with the observation that, more than other southeast Asian countries, Indonesian middle classes are dependent on the state—making them unlikely to be a force for greater democratization and transparency.
China
Two news items this week focus on opportunities and sensitivities surrounding the upcoming leadership changeover: a short report of the “reform movement,” and this account of a standoff between middle class citizens and government officials.
An interesting sketch in the New Yorker looks at a nascent trend in Chinese advertising and creative design—it’s a Q&A with the 20-year old winner of a 2012 Cannes Lion prize.
Food for thought
If you want to see improvements in a nation’s food security…then empower women to participate in the economy.  The Economist Intelligence Unit discusses this finding with a brief infographic.
Do you have a bearish view of the Indian economy?  Shashi Tharoor, an Indian MP, author, and former UN official, argues that India’s expertise in “frugal innovation,” or finding effective (and marketable) solutions for the base of the pyramid, will continue to supply dynamism to the country’s economy.
Finally, the vast array of information technology at our disposal can help increase collaboration and productivity…but it can also create new problems and unproductive behaviors for associates at all levels.  A recent argument in s+b for spending some time unplugged.  Yes, it’s ok to read it on your iPad, just this once.

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 10 August 2012

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing - 6 July 2012