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  • Writer's pictureGregory Wade

Why you Absolutely Need to be in Emerging Markets Now!

Create. Connect. Contribute.

The 3 C’s quite simply are representative of the opportunity that is the Asian Century & in particular emerging economies consuming goods & services by the millions (wait, billions).  I coined the 3 C’s while heading up a $3B USD business in Asia Pacific to help provide a sense of direction, purpose and resolve for those looking to establish a link between the new world of consumer demand and the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in emerging (let's call them aspirational) markets & beyond. Why?  

There is no better place to be in the world of demand for technology than in Southeast Asia and there is no better place to be in the world of consumer goods and services than in aspirational markets like Indonesia!  The markets have leapfrogged adoption cycles that we are accustomed to in the West.   This is a fact borne, by example, in the growth of smartphones sold and enjoyed and the percentage markets ($2.4T USD combined GDP) such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) now represent on a worldwide scale.  

For a taste, check out this documentary on the rise of mobility in Indonesia.

The potential in aspirational economies isn’t overlooked by those with a broad international mindset but there is so much more to the story (and most aspirational markets) that can be missed (either because of preconceived notions, bias, naivety or other misconceptions).  

The misses by Western governments and companies are legendary but it doesn’t have to be this way.  Most from the West just don’t get what it takes to go into non-European based geographies.  

I’ve seen it all in Asia Pacific.  From incredible consumer adoption cycles, social media advocacy and universities adapting their curriculum to emphasize technology development to government led import bans, daily policy shifts, requests for access to private data and political subterfuge.  

The Market is Massive!

Statistics generated by the large consultancy firms, NGOs and local research firms all point to the same market dynamics (i.e. large young population, increase in per capita income, growing rate of smartphone penetration, consistent GDP growth, a trillion dollar economy, etc.).  

The numbers draw businesses in and governments kowtow to foreign lands with dollars to spend but all too often aspirations are regularly not realized.   

I call that “the big shiny ball effect”.  

There are more important and telling attributes to places like Indonesia that are overlooked.  Firms and budding entrepreneurs who miss the fact that it will be aspirational markets like Indonesia that fuel and drive growth, do this to their detriment and could very well risk alienating customers, prospects and fans as competition rises.  Conversely, some analysts would argue that a resolve to focus on aspirational markets will only result in a negative impact to gross margins and that only developed markets represent an opportunity to maintain or grow profitability.  The reality is … one does not have to ignore the other in order to be successful.  All it takes is curiosity, resolve, purpose, guidance from firms like Populis and … the 3 C’s.


For illustrative purposes, Indonesia (substitute places like the South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and the Philippines) is home to some of the most creative and inspirational application developers & content providers in the world.  Domestic consumption can fuel the economy where it is lacking in many other FDI reliant aspirational markets.   The same can be said for goods and services produced for the domestic market but more and more Indonesian entrepreneurs are recognizing that they too can succeed with international relevance and appeal.  It is great that Western brands see an opportunity in aspirational economies but let’s see goods and services that are developed by entrepreneurs in Indonesia for consumption and enjoyment the world over!


Indonesian’s appetite for social networks and the communities around them is remarkable.  Twitter, Facebook and other platforms are very popular with Indonesia consistently ranking in the top 5 across all markets.  What is more impressive than the numbers, is the extent to which Indonesians will leverage social networks in order to improve their lives and their livelihoods.  The fact that there are Indonesian built social networks designed to connect people for things that matter is impressive and a true differentiator.   Entrepreneurship is based on the ability to find a gap and deliver a solution which provides customers with a meaningful reason to fill that gap.  The challenge is to continue to leverage these networks for purposes of doing great things and solving problems to everyday issues and challenges!


Despite some of the challenges of an aspirational economy, there is a genuine interest and desire within Indonesians to contribute to making the country a better place to live, work and to enjoy life.  For that matter, there are multitudes of goods and services that have been developed with the purpose of promoting Indonesia and all things Indonesian …  Whether the service is travel related with a primarily domestic target market or a product developed to raise awareness of a social issue or success story, the fabric of Indonesia is such that there is unrelenting desire to make a difference and if leveraging technology helps … so be it.   Entrepreneurs who support efforts that make a difference are successful the world over even if on a relatively small scale.   In other words, “pay it forward”.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

There is a saying “the numbers don’t lie” and that might be true in mathematical equations but

if those interested in understanding more of the opportunity that is Indonesia (and aspirational markets) rely solely on the numbers … they will miss the much bigger picture.  

The picture continues to be created through so many connections of entrepreneurs who are contributing to the building of a flourishing and dynamic market.

With so many Western market economies facing mounting debt, low employment levels and uncertainty about the future, aspirational markets are prime and ready to accept our goods and services while at the same time representing incredible trade options important to contributing to a growing economy in the West.

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