Developing countries are becoming hotbeds of business innovation in much the same way as Japan did from the 1950s onwards. They are coming up with new products and services that are dramatically cheaper than their Western equivalents: $3,000 cars, $300 computers and $30 mobile phones that provide nationwide service for just 2 cents a minute. They are reinventing systems of production and distribution, and they are experimenting with entirely new business models. All the elements of modern business, from supply-chain management to recruitment and retention, are being rejigged or reinvented in one emerging market or another.
Why are countries that were until recently associated with cheap hands now becoming leaders in innovation? The most obvious reason is that the local companies are dreaming bigger dreams. Driven by a mixture of ambition and fear-ambition to bestride the world stage and fear of even cheaper competitors in, say, Vietnam or Cambodia-they are relentlessly climbing up the value chain. Emerging-market champions have not only proved highly competitive in their own backyards, they are also going global themselves.
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