Emerging markets, beyond geography alone

I’ve been thinking over the past few days that we have been looking at emerging markets with too narrow a focus. Lets break this down logically. Emerging markets are those that can be defined as emerging opportunity areas for innovation. Andrew Zolli put it very well in his piece in BusinessWeek,

And eventually, corporate managers will master these skills, at which point every consumer product will be permanently dipped in white acrylic, come with an ergonomic fly wheel, and embody a whimsical anthropomorphic cuteness.

Then what? To find the next deep wellsprings of innovation, you have to learn to listen to "weak signals"—fringe ideas today that will be common wisdom tomorrow.

His three key areas identified are ‘ecology’, ‘gaming’ and ‘social networking’. What if, I thought, we were to look at them as emerging markets? Then, instead of the run of the mill understanding that emerging markets are countries or nations, lets look at them from the socioeconomic and geopolitical point of view. Now, we have 5 emerging markets:-

1. Geographic
Here is where BRIC, ASEAN, Mercosul et al get covered – the emerging markets of India, China, Brazil, Turkey, Egypt etc

2. Gaming and virtual worlds
This is an emerging market in its own right, witness only the amount of business being done on Second Life. I wonder at this category, whether it includes stuff like all the brand placement in "Talladega Nights" ?

3. Social networking or "my life online"
Any one of you reading this on my blog right now know exactly what I mean when I say that we can seperate our lives online – where we have a different circle of friends and acquaintances than our lives offline. This is the sweet spot where companies like Skype, Typepad and Google perceive as emerging markets.

4. Sustainability
There is probably a better word for this emerging market, but ecology, the environment, global warming, climate change and resource contraints lead to the emergence of a market for ‘green’ products, services and messages.

5. Social development/ bottom of the pyramid
Does this really need an explanation?

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