What will the Global 500 look like in 2021?

Over the past decade the dominant theme of the Global 500 has been the steady influx of companies in emerging markets, especially China, and the relative decline of Europe and the U.S. Going forward, the composition of our list will increasingly be shaped by forces that transcend national boundaries. They include resource scarcity, the dizzying growth of cities, the rise of intelligent infrastructure, and the aggregate purchasing power of the world's poorest consumers.

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About 4 billion consumers live at the base of the economic pyramid, earning less than $3,000 a year in local purchasing power. As a group, they are often rural, poorly educated, and economically underserved. Yet their aggregate purchasing power is enormous, creating major opportunities for businesses that can deliver products they need at prices they can afford. The base of the pyramid is a $5 trillion global market, according to the IFC. Personal-care and packaged-food giants like P&G (No. 86) and Unilever (No. 139) are increasingly focused on this market, along with many telcos and health care deliverers.

By Richard McGill Murphy, contributor @CNNMoney - Last updated July 09 2012: 8:06 AM ET
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