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Commercial success in emerging countries requires the participation of local people

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Commercial success in developing countries depends on the participation of local people. Both the worst and the best ensue. Two consecutive case studies allow us to be convinced of this.

Emerging countries regularly see the worst and the best attempts to put them on the path to progress. These mostly come from foreign companies that generally operate with the support of a country or within the framework of international cooperation. Recent history has shown how important it is to involve the local population to ensure the success of this type of initiative. The case of the failure of a massive project aimed at providing drinking water to African villages and the success of the world’s fifth largest jeans manufacturer, Arvind Mills in India, illustrate this prerequisite. Will their successors be able to learn from this?

Drinking water is a poisoned gift to Africa?

The Global Water Fund (GWT) is a kind of international coalition mobilizing actors from the world of finance, major philanthropic organizations, technology, NGOs, media, business, governments and civil society. GWT organizes, generates and disseminates essential and essential resources to address the global water crisis. Without clean water, children will continue to die at a rate of 10,000 a day, the economies of developing countries will collapse or never collapse, healthcare costs will skyrocket, and hopes of joining the global economy will fade. HIV programs will fail. And bloody wars will break out, says the site of this alliance.

Rob Kramer, its president, likes to recall a deafening cycle of aid from developing countries. In Africa, a village in need of water was provided with a particularly costly and expensive drinking water supply system. Its installation made it possible, among other things, for the women of the market village to save four hours a day fetching water, sometimes carrying a newborn on their backs, often in sweltering heat.

It was not surprising that stakeholders in the mega project saw that the pipes supplying the village with water were regularly sabotaged. The results of the investigation stunned everyone. The women of the village themselves sabotaged the pipes in order to preserve these moments, painful to be sure, but it allowed them to escape from their husbands, to talk among women, to be good girls going to fetch water for their old mothers who do it for. When they were just kids, etc.

Ruf & Tuf jeans are making a name for themselves in India

By contrast, firms were able to spread to poor areas by adapting to local uses and customs.

Arvind Mills, the fifth largest manufacturer of jeans in the world, has always sought to enter the Indian market. Trousers that ranged in price from $40 to $60 were far too expensive, and as for local distribution networks, they were a far cry from allowing access to villages in a country where the rural population is still very important.

Like IKEA, Arvind Mills launched the Ruf & Tuf brand of handmade jeans, every collection including denim, zips, buttons, rivets, thread, and patches. All for $6. The kits were then distributed by various village tailors who saw their interest in distributing these products in spare parts that the villagers would have neither the time nor the inclination to assemble themselves. Ruf & Tuf is now the best selling jeans brand in India, surpassing Levi’s and all other brands.

What lessons can be learned from future attempts?

Several lessons can be drawn from the previous two case studies.

First, that the former GM chief was wrong when he said “what’s good for General Motors is good for America,” just as Americans are wrong to believe that “what’s good for the United States” is good for the rest of the world. The world has become globalized, but it is not flat and even less smooth. Regional characteristics will always resist one idea, which may be the most benevolent.

So, it is absurd to desire in place of others. Every individual, every human group, reduced to its simplest expression market segments, customer classification, user tribes, must have, will have a destiny to choose. If you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can’t put one foot in front of the other in their place.

Finally, any solution may only be temporary. The first pipes that supplied water to American cities were made of wood (some still exist in Philadelphia). The telephone network until a short time was in copper wires and now the 3G network, 4G, 5G … What we think is a solution, an idea, an advanced technology, may become obsolete tomorrow.

Finally, it is sometimes the initiatives of private actors motivated more by commercial than philanthropic motives that sap progress. Modern economic history is replete with examples of this.

Meanwhile, in faraway Africa, women walk with an eternal step carrying heavy jars full of water on their heads, without ever dropping them. They keep their technology a secret that no multinational company will ever be able to find out, to better break it down before reselling it as a group.

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