WORLD WIDE OPPORTUNITIES WHERE THE GLOBAL ACTION IS It may not be in the places you expect -- or the places you know. To find tomorrow's runaway growth, broaden your vision.
(FORTUNE Magazine) – GLOBALIZATION. Aren't we sick of it? Haven't we heard enough already about consumers from Alabama to Zambia wearing Levi's and Nikes and sweaters from Benetton, drinking Coke and Pepsi, eating Big Macs and Mars Bars, and driving off in their Toyotas on a junk food high listening to Madonna sing ''It's a Small World.'' Don't we already have global sourcing for computers, car parts, steel, and all manner of goods? Absolutely. But in many ways our view of the global consumer is like the pre-Copernican map of the universe that had Earth at its center. Our map centers on North America, Europe, and Japan, the most developed markets, which is one reason brand name consumer companies have been taking a pounding on Wall Street. Markets are mature, goes the logic, growth isn't to be had, and the world isn't waiting breathlessly for the next washday miracle. Maybe not your world. But from Eastern Europe's struggling new capitalists to the Pacific Rim's strivers and Latin America's reborn entrepreneurs, a planetful of people wait impatiently for everything from diapers to digital switching gear. Ignore them and you miss the greatest growth opportunity most companies will ever know. Obviously there's still a little business to be done in the developed world. In Western Europe the well of opportunities created by the EC in 1992 has not gone dry -- but drawing a bucket there is an expensive proposition. Any way you rearrange it, the market, though 300 million strong, is not growing. Ditto for the U.S. (253 million) and Japan (124 million), where demographic shifts present openings for nimble operators. But as a well-known packaged goods CEO tells his new products staff about the developed world: ''Just remember that nobody needs anything anymore.'' Here's a perspective on the expanding universe. In our little corner of the galaxy live five billion souls; the World Bank says 3.6 billion of them, some 77%, live in what are known as developing areas. While Western Europe is mired in recession and Japan nervously jiggles its bursting bubble economy, the developing world economy is expanding 5% to 6% annually. Asia is growing a huge crop of consumers. Hundreds of millions will enter or approach the middle class before decade's end. What's on their shopping list? Cars, forecasts the PacRim Consulting Group in Hong Kong, some 58 million of them over the next six years -- more than America's expected production over the same period -- and like numbers of washing machines. Eastern Europe's 300 million consumers, unleashed by capitalism, ''need it all,'' says Endre Gussi, general manager of the IKEA store in Budapest. ''Wardrobes, kitchens, bookshelves, lamps. Basic needs satisfied in the West are not yet fulfilled here.'' South America, long smothered by protectionism and shackled by inflation, is attempting to throw off its chains. Consumers are ready. Underserved by some native companies, South Americans have grown to trust international brands. As incomes rise, of course, so do consumer appetites for everything from soap to stocks. The vital question for marketers: When should I jump in? The short answer: Sooner than you probably think. In developing Asia a person earning $250 annually can afford Gillette razors, says the London securities firm Smith New Court, and at $1,000 he can become a Sony television owner. A Nissan or Volkswagen could roll in at $10,000. With an annual income of $1,000, Eastern Europeans can afford only refrigerators, says a study by Whirlpool. At $2,000 they rate automatic washers. ''Central Europe is passing through this threshold,'' says Ruggero Bodo, vice president for planning at Whirlpool Europe. ''People in these markets are screaming for high-quality, good-performance convenience goods.'' Consumers show astonishing resourcefulness in finding ways to buy what really matters to them. Recall that in the U.S. the first satellite dishes sprang up in the poorest parts of Appalachia. Notes Peter Kennedy Jr., a consultant with the Futures Group in Glastonbury, Connecticut: ''The poorest slums of Calcutta are home to 70,000 VCRs. In Mexico, homes with color televisions outnumber those with running water.'' Remember also that low average-income figures may conceal a lively luxury market. In Warsaw (average annual income: $2,500) well-dressed shoppers flock to elegant boutiques stocked with Christian Dior perfume and Valentino shoes. Even simple grocery stores have installed fancy gourmet counters featuring French cheese and wine. In China, where per capita income is less than $600, the Swiss company Rado is selling thousands of its $1,000 watches. Guinness is doubling its sales force to cope with the demand for Johnnie Walker Black whisky -- most of which is now bootlegged. Suppliers of everything from petrochemicals to chewing gum will have to meet world standards where none existed before. Make no mistake, the Second World and Third World seek only first-rate product. U.S. companies once viewed China as a place to unload lower-value merchandise. No more. ''You can't sell a TV in Guangdong unless it's a 29-inch with flat-screen technology,'' says George Baeder of PacRim. ''No self-respecting Cantonese would want anything less.'' Why so demanding? Mass media have educated consumers worldwide about the best of everything, and advances in retailing have made it available. Explains Goran Carstedt, president of IKEA North America, the global furniture retailer with operations from Bahrain to Singapore, as well as in Europe and North America: ''You were a hero to present the best bookcase produced in Northern Europe to Scandinavians. Today it's not enough. You have to compete with a bookcase produced in Taiwan by a manufacturer who has access to all the technology, capital, and labor that you do.'' $ After sizing up the global opportunities, RJR Nabisco International President Rick Thoman is investing heavily in Latin America. The company recently opened a bakery in Monterrey, Mexico. Clorox just completed deals in Argentina and Chile to consolidate its ownership of distributors there. Procter & Gamble, CPC, and PepsiCo are also stepping up their South American acquisitions. These big labels like South America because it is youthful and increasingly affluent, and consumers have an abiding trust in international brand names. More important, trade and economic barriers that once complicated business are eroding, making ownership more practical. Says Thoman: ''It's becoming a level playing field. The openness of markets augurs very well for Latin America.'' Stitching the region together commercially are a series of trade agreements that will let goods flow across borders. Among them: Mercosur (Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil), Ancom (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela) and Caricom (Caribbean nations). As such pacts take effect, companies are seeing the beginnings of a pan- Latin American market, much as in Western Europe. Despite the dominance of one language, Spanish, the region had tended to divide into a Europe-oriented market in Argentina and the southern cone, and an American orientation in the North. The dichotomy is blurring, at least from a marketing viewpoint. Says Thoman: ''We can shoot commercials in Colombia and show them all over.'' Even Brazil, ever on the verge, is once again showing signs of life. Although inflation may hit 2,000% this year, reform just could happen. If it does, the government may sell businesses it controls in steel, telecommunications, and petrochemicals, energizing a huge segment of the economy. Latin America's promising picture grows far brighter if Congress approves NAFTA. Says Josephine Jimenez, director of Montgomery Asset Management's six emerging markets funds: ''NAFTA will change the course of Latin American economic history. The consumer is waiting to spend, and the U.S. is the least expensive place to shop in the world right now.'' Mexico, for instance, with a population of 83 million, needs six million housing units. The country produces only 700,000 cars a year. The U.S., with three times the population, manufactures 15 times more cars.
AS IN SOUTH America, opportunities in Eastern Europe are immense. A new market of more than 300 million hungry consumers is about as large as Western Europe's. Reform seems irreversible. Only a few years ago Warsaw was a drab city, full of decaying concrete, peeling paint, and empty stores. Today it's the heart of Europe's fastest-growing country. Poland's economy should grow 4% this year, leaving Western Europe in the recessionary dust. More than half of working Poles have found jobs in the private economy. Per capita incomes in Eastern Europe remain surprisingly low. The average Romanian and Russian earn about $600 a year. The average Hungarian, the richest East European, takes in only $3,440 (vs. an average of $20,000 in the EC). Post-communism, state workers and the underclass of unemployed have struggled. Only a minority have so far prospered: traders, repairmen, and tiny manufacturers freed to flourish; managers of state companies set to go private; lawyers and accountants; stifled artists and writers finally playing to paying audiences. Eastern Europe's consumers are starved for basic goods that bore Westerners: Hamburgers, refrigerators, pizzas, telephones, and many others fly out of the stores. Overwhelming demand forced supermarketer Ahold to double expansion plans in the Czech Republic.
Managers generally see Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia as Eastern Europe's best bets. In these four pioneers Whirlpool Europe is achieving sales growth averaging 6% a year, says Ruggero Bodo. That's three times the figure in Western Europe. In a recent marketing study, Whirlpool concluded that these Central Europeans have the advantage of being ''geographically and culturally tied to Germanic countries'' and that their ''economies are less reliant on former Soviet markets.'' Carmakers are rushing to invade the still small market. French automaker Renault says it sold 2,300 vehicles last year in Hungary, 2,000 in Poland, and 1,600 in the former Czechoslovakia. In Germany, by contrast, it sold more than 200,000. The potential is what's exciting. Western Europeans own 450 cars per 1,000 people, while Central Europeans own about 200 per 1,000.
THE SCOPE of what non-Japanese Asia will need as we reach its century of dominance is hard to fathom. Consider just the broad categories: It will become a voracious consumer of petrochemicals, plastic, and energy. Already the world's biggest steel market -- more than twice as large as the U.S.'s -- it will increase consumption 4% to 5% annually (U.S. consumption is falling). The demand for housing will explode as wealth begins to distribute families -- now stacked three generations per household -- to roomier quarters. Just how much of this huge market will the West grab? ''What Western companies are doing is a toe in the water,'' says PacRim's Baeder. But Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean rivals have been swimming in these markets for years, gaining an edge that may be impossible to beat. Consider plastics. In five years, Taiwan's Chi Mei has emerged as a world leader, overtaking GE Plastics, Monsanto, and BASF in production of ABS, the high-grade plastic used in computer keyboards and telephone cases. Other players are lurking in other areas. President Foods, a $1-billion-a-year Taiwanese company, envisions China alone as five regional markets, each capable of producing $5 billion of sales. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen fast. Technology is radically changing development cycles in Asia. Consumer goods cycles in developing economies are beginning to parallel technology cycles, achieving greater advances in shorter times. Adds Baeder: ''It's going to take China ten years to do what Taiwan did in 25.'' If that's the case, he says, then companies such as President will have an advantage over non-Asian multinationals. They can recognize where China is in its development because they've been through it already.
The People's Republic of China, 1.2 billion in number, is an infinity of hot summer days to a world of would-be lemonade salesmen. Smith New Court says average per capita income has reached $1,000 in the southern cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and Shanghai is close. These figures may be low, considering the value of government subsidies for food and housing. By almost any measure, China will become Asia's largest consumer market after Japan by 2000. That's good news for companies such as Nike, which recently recorded its first million-dollar sales month in China; in the U.S. it sells $1 million every three hours or so. Opportunities are enormous in telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and specialty chemicals. As the population shifts its protein source from vegetable to animal, a characteristic of economic growth, grain consumption increases dramatically -- you've got to run seven times as much grain through a cow to produce the same protein you would get from eating grain itself. Should China increase its caloric intake an unremarkable 15%, the country would have to produce or import 150 million tons of grain. To trading companies such as Cargill this is no small chunk of feed, as it represents the entire worldwide traded grain market. India is no less astounding in the scope and complexity of its growing market. Estimates of its middle class range from 100 million to 300 million, depending on what you're selling. While definitions vary, no one disputes that consumers with income to spend on branded goods are increasing faster than any other section of society. The growing reach of television, including the explosive 200% growth of urban STAR TV viewers since June 1992, is expanding markets as well. Says Titoo Ahluwalia, who heads MARG, a market research and consulting firm in Bombay: ''It's not just that the middle class has more money. Communications is playing a big part. There is both a capacity and a propensity to buy branded products.'' This heady growth will likely continue if India can contain political instability, its caldron of religious disputes in particular. The Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia and Indonesia are busily replicating the feats of tiny Singapore, which became a global player in a remarkably short time. One reason: Singapore's communications infrastructure, one of the best in the world, which the country used as a springboard to global trade. Any attempt to talk about the global market invites overstatement. But what you can say calmly and conservatively is portentous enough. ''People everywhere want to be part of the global consumer world,'' says Peter Kennedy of the Futures Group. As widely as their tastes may range, they will ever want the same things -- quality, trust in the products they buy, and perhaps some prestige to top it off. Most certain of all: In this decade far more than before, consumers from Guangzhou to Gstaad will get what they want.
CHART: NOT AVAILABLE CREDIT: FORTUNE CHART/SOURCE: PACRIM CAPTION: THE PAC RIM'S BOOMING BUYING POWER
CHART: NOT AVAILABLE CREDIT: FORTUNE CHART/SOURCE: THE FUTURES GROUP CAPTION: GROWING GLOBAL MARKETS Middle-class growth and expansion of economic freedoms, such as market access, create opportunities (China data estimated).