Ignorance of cultural dynamics is never a good policy, but in business it is not only undesirable but costly as well.
This frame of mind is especially hazardous when doing business in emerging markets, as it can lead us away from some very profitable and sustainable business opportunities.
When we think of developing nations, we often imagine that the commercial opportunities they offer are limited to prohibitively pricey and occasionally ethically dubious resource-extraction ventures, such as mining or gas exploration.
However, when we take such a grim view of emerging markets, we miss some of the greatest entrepreneurial opportunities available.
Strange as it may seem, developing markets are some of the best venues for innovative technology. Paradoxically, this is because they have no established technological infrastructure, so new technologies do not have to leapfrog older, tried and true methods to be accepted as the standard.
For proof of this phenomenon, we need look no further than Africa, where cell phones are not only the preferred means of communication, but the preferred means of transferring money and making electronic payments, or South America, where the Internet cafes that the United States has steadfastly refused to accept have become the primary means of Internet access for much of the continent.
However, the same lack of infrastructure that makes emerging economies such promising markets for new technology also introduces a few unusual issues that bear careful consideration.
The first issue to consider when planning a technology launch is dependency. All of your design and campaign planning will come to nothing if you release a product or service only to discover that it depends on a technology to which your intended market does not have access. The best course of action is simply to scrutinize the "dependency tree" for your technology, paying special attention to software and hardware which is out of your control, such as telephone landlines or another company's proprietary drivers.
On the social side, take care to carefully consider the needs and budgets of developing countries. Because many of your customers will have little disposable income, you will probably not be able to convince them to pay for overly complicated, expensive, or frivolous programs or gadgets.
The services and products that you design should be affordable and, most of all, practical. If you choose to fill a need rather than create one through marketing, then you are more likely to see customer interest, along with your company's value, rise.
While developing countries may trail behind much of the first world financially, they share the same need for communications and technology. By taking aim at filling these needs in ways tailored to the different needs of emerging markets, you can create a sustainable, profitable business with the growth potential of emerging economies today.