How economic uncertainty impacts the move to emerging regions

This is a contributed piece by Michael Gould, CTO and Founder at Anaplan

In 2001, Goldman Sachs’s chief economist, Jim O’Neill, first coined the BRIC acronym, predicting that the nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China, would eclipse the six biggest western economies by 2041 (later revised down to 2032). At the time it was certainly a bold and brave claim, as the very notion turned conventional western economic wisdom on its head. Nevertheless, it has since evolved into an almost ubiquitous economic term, shaping how an entire a generation of policymakers, investors and companies approach emerging markets.

But as the O’Neill publicly admitted last year (“I got two out of four countries right”), questions loom over the diversity of these economies and the other “Mint” nations of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. Can businesses really afford to view developing economies in this one-size-fits all mentality anymore, and do they actually represent a real opportunity in times of such economic volatility?

The macro-view

The shock Brexit vote and resulting uncertainty have shown the world that no economy, “developed” or otherwise, is immune to the geopolitical turmoil of modern times. While PWC’s latest CEO survey reveals that most company leaders are still banking on their heartlands for growth – in the form of the established economies like USA, UK and Germany – we are seeing a greater faith and willingness to diversify into emerging markets as well.

But these developing economies pose an interesting dilemma for businesses – the potential gains could be huge, while the possible losses can be equally as dramatic. In these times of global economic uncertainty, many smart businesses are turning to technology to give them the insight and organisational agility to tackle this conundrum.

The potential ripple effect

As new economic models and political governance systems diversify, and aspects of globalisation breakdown, so the opportunities in these markets vary hugely. While one might apply a generic notion of risk to developing economies, the nature of that risk can be quite different, and shape a company’s decision to dip its toe in the proverbial economic pool. It is important to understand these intricacies to fully appreciate, plan and forecast the potential ripple effect that such a decision could have on your organisation. O’Neill showed that you cannot predict the future, but now companies do have the power to plan for many possible scenarios and ensure that they are agile enough to capitalise. 

Comprehending the complexities and the volume of data involved in such decisions can be daunting but having the right processes in place to visualise and manage these risks, along with the flexible organisational structure to react to changing events, is crucial to successful operations in these regions. Recent technological developments can offer a solution here.

Even for the most flexible of organisations, operating on an entirely ad hoc and reactive model will always put you one step behind, particularly in developing economies, as reaction time is everything in these fast-paced and volatile markets. By harnessing technological developments in the cloud, planning can become a real-time factor. Spreadsheets and legacy tools are just no longer up to the task. Simply crunching the numbers to provide a business forecast for new or existing operations in dynamic economies can be so time-consuming, that the resulting data is obsolete by the time any action can actually be taken; the market moves too fast for them to keep up. If companies don’t address this, they face the simple choice between acting slowly, with huge exposure to risk, or going into new markets blind. The alternative provides opportunities for teams to collaborate in real-time, from any location, ensuring that everyone can make decisions based on accurate data.

Looking to the future

The PWC annual global CEO survey revealed that two thirds of CEOs think their business faces more threats now than three years ago, while a similar figure of 60% see more opportunities now in the same time frame. When managed correctly global uncertainty can also be opportunity. But the modern economic and political landscapes of these regions no longer allows for a one-size-fits all approach; the use of technology to plan for every eventuality is key.

Smart businesses need to be more agile, flexible and tailored in the way that they approach such opportunities. Companies have to ensure that the right processes are in place to manage the risks and capitalise on the lucrative openings that are out there for those that dip their toes in the developing economic waters.


Also read:
Local perspectives: What about the ‘MINTs’?


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