Ideas going global. Ideas gone global. Ideas have gone global. For an idea to withstand the test of time, it must have universal application and must attain a global status. By universal, I do not mean multi-planetary level, but something pretty close. Think Google or Microsoft and while these seem to be very easy answers as almost everyone knows them because of their industries, we can talk about lesser-known but equally if not more important industries like semiconductors or plastics and petro-chemicals? Why are semi-conductors more important that search engines or operating systems? The answer is pretty simple, you cannot build a house without a foundation. You cannot have equipment that power up search engines or operating systems without what powers up or make those equipment function.
The idea that does not have a universal appeal will die, and this is quite the wakeup call for entrepreneurs, CEOs and thought leaders. But how do you measure universality? What are the things that point towards an idea, a product, service or value having a universal application? Well, first we need to go over some facts;
- In 1950, the U.S accounted for nearly half of the world’s total GDP
- Emerging economies are growing at two to three times the pace of the developed ones and currently contribute to 35% of the world’s total GDP
- By 2025, emerging markets will likely make up more than 50% of the world’s GDP
- China has surpassed the US in terms of iPhone users
- India represents the largest population of Facebook users
- The countries with the highest number of technology graduates are the U.S, India, and China. India and China power the emerging markets
- China is no longer home to the world’s cheapest labor.
Fact 1 says that for your idea to be universal, it must have applications in the U.S. Little wonder why most Asian automakers flooded the U.S during that period and operational efficiency was born as a means to compete favorably with them. However, that was in the 1950s and times have changed.
Fact 2 says that emerging markets are experiencing faster growth rates than already developed economies. These markets are largely driven by China and India that make about 40% of the world’s labor force and population. In 2017, their combined economic output of $32.6T was more than the European Union’s $20.9T.
Fact 3 says the true test of universality is when your idea, product or value will have practical applications in the emerging markets; most notably the B.R.I.C countries; Brazil, Russia, India, and China. China and India are the two most populous countries in the world, other countries in this market like Brazil, Russia, and Indonesia are amongst the top 10 most populous countries in the world. While they may not have the purchasing power of the developed economies, they certainly make up for it in terms of sheer numbers which will give organizations considerably economies of scale should they be involved in products, or a very large audience should they be thought leaders or entrepreneurs in the services space.
Facts 3, 4, 5 serve to reinforce the rhetoric that the universality deals with numbers and practicality. How accepted will your products or services be in the grand scheme of things in the world? How many people can effectively connect with and to the solutions you aim to produce?
Fact 6 says you need to be updated with current practices. Large corporations enjoy tremendous economies of scale because they leverage and exploit cheap labor. Apple, Nike, Samsung, Intel, and most large companies usually have their production factories in China, but recent events have seen a change in fortune with rising concerns in the international community.
There is only one implication that these facts have; The true test of universality is in how well you can service the emerging markets, but there are two drivers to this. To succeed at this, you must play your strengths to their weaknesses. What are these weaknesses? Chief amongst them is that emerging markets do not have the purchasing power of developed economies, this will force you to delve deep into innovation and think of how your products or services will be affordable. While Nigeria isn’t an emerging market, you cannot neglect what the Asian phone makers did. Samsung and Apple phones are premium brands, and the majority of the Nigerian smartphone market are low-mid earners. What did Tecno, Infinix, and co do? They made budget smartphones that cost a fraction of what the high-end phones costs. In doing this, they leveraged a beachhead strategy and targeted a particular niche. This, in turn, forced Samsung to make low-end budget smartphones while retaining the premium product line, just to be able to compete favorably. The same can be said of the Chinese backed Opay that exploited cost leadership to dominate the bike hailing market, to drive Nigerians to make use of their payment platforms.
The Industrial Revolution 4.0 has made it less difficult to achieve universality. 3 years after Google’s inception, they were in more than 70 countries, while Amazon could only boast of 3 countries. Howbeit, some achieve this faster than others, the dynamics are different; Amazon, regardless of her global dominance still relies heavily on inventory management, which translates to actual physical things, and deals heavily with supply chain management, while Google doesn’t, but the fundamentals remain the same, they are all competing globally, and their services are practically applicable across board.
All of these ramblings point to just two things; the test of universality lies in its reach and application.