From the management consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton’s Spring 2007 Issue of Strategy + Business, an article called The Flatbread Factor by Alonzo Martinez and Ronald Haddock caught my eye. The following snippet of a paragraph, describing the lifecycle of development of an emerging market, as posited by Martinez and Haddock, is the basis for the graph I’ve crudely tried to recreate above.
As a country evolves from developing nation to industrialized nation, the population’s basic needs pass through four distinct stages. In developing countries, most of the population is preoccupied with basic survival — obtaining adequate food, shelter, and clothing. (Much of sub-Saharan Africa is in this stage right now.) As a middle class emerges, people seek greater quality in their food, housing, and clothing. (This is currently happening, for example, in much of China and India.) Once a transitioning market’s population can afford relatively high quality, they begin to seek convenience; they buy time-saving appliances and processed foods, and they may move closer to work. (This stage is emerging today in Eastern Europe and Latin America.) Finally, as the market graduates into the realm of developed nations, the population wants customization; with needs for survival, quality, and convenience now met, people will spend a premium (as many do in North America, Japan, and western Europe) to satisfy individual tastes and desires.
Contentious little soul that I am, there was something about this path to progress, this roadmap to development, which while historically accurate vis a vis lifecycles of nations already developed, that does not quite feel right to me, in today’s global context of socioeconomic shifts and thinking. It raises numerous questions in my mind regarding not only the viability and feasibility of such a roadmap, but also whether this is even appropriate or contextually relevant to the nations deemed developing?
Realizing that my questioning this entire concept could go on and on, making for a long rambling post, I’ll break up my argument into smaller bite size pieces. However, before I close this introduction to the questions raised by this paragraph and the accompanying chart I’ve tried to use to communicate my concerns, I will leave you with one thought.
In today’s world of impending climate change and global warming, scarcer resources and fossil fuels, environmental concerns and endangered species, is "Industrialized" necessarily the right goal to aim for?
Wasn’t it the Industrial Revolution, unchecked mass production and subsequent rise of consumer consumption, one of the key causes of the problems the earth faces today?
Do we really want to aim for more and more happy little consumer societies all wanting convenience, throw away and disposable customization? Isn’t that the root of the fear of the current economic boom in Asia? That as the 2.5 billion Indians and Chinese all want their choice, their convenience and their customization, what would be the subsequent impact on the Earth?