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Panel Discussion: BRICS and the Opportunity of Emerging Markets

What’s hotter than this year’s Global Mobile Internet Conference held on a sizzling Beijing spring day? The EMERGING MARKETS of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and as per this year’s panel, Singapore (BRICS).

The BRICS panel, moderated by Song Wei GMIC President and GWC, included:

Russia – Evgeny Kosolapov, CEO of iFree Asia

India – Abhinav Mathur, CEO of Spice Labs

China – Liu Xiaosong, Founder and CEO of A8 Music

Singapore – Steven Goh, CEO of MIG33

The panel’s discussion shed light on what characterizes emerging markets. These are markets with massive numbers of users, in the millions, that do not have mature operating environments. Another aspect that the panelists agreed upon was that emerging markets are equally as complicated as developed markets in the West.

While emerging markets have a common strength, a thriving and sturdy customer base, they have several weaknesses. For BRICS, capital is decreasing and R&D is lagging behind.

As per the Russian market, Mr. Kosolapov elaborated on the opportunities that are present in his home country that are generating millions of dollars in revenue. He pointed out that the cost of a handset is not the only complication in this market, but also the ability of users to actually pay for apps and games. While Western app stores rely on credit cards, the same is not true for emerging markets. When asked about any barriers present when localizing in China and whether we can build an alliance with BRICS, he answered that his company “looks as this as a global playground. We also take Chinese apps into Russia, or look to build partnerships with others like India. There should be no limits for any developers.”

Mr. Mathur introduced the Indian market as being divided into multiple segments. He highlighted that which focuses on getting “the world-experience,” such as the iPhone, and the segments that focus on feature phones. Challenges in the Indian mobile market, he explained, center around pricec being very high compared to the market GDP and Wi-Fi not being very prevalent. In India, though a lot of innovation is going on, apps are very localized and related to local culture, whether India’s music industry, religion, or the national sport.

In the Chinese market, Mr. Xiaosong said high-income individuals are not necessarily high-end users. He foresees many customers changing to Android phones as price drops. In order to reduce regional disparity in China, he pointed that it is essential to make products that work well in all regions. In an environment where copy-cat is everywhere, Mr. Xiaosong said, there are many start-ups but not many innovative ideas. The importance is to appeal to customers and to create loyalty among them.

As the Singapore representative, Mr. Goh is most excited about Indonesia, South Asia, and Africa. One of his observations from these emerging markets is that they are not being led by Americans, but instead by Chinese handsets. In respect to local consumer needs, Mr. Goh said they are led by Android in Indonesia, India, and Africa and led primarily by what comes out of China and Japan.

The main lesson learned from the BRICS is that localized content is always more favored by users. This is one strategy that is certainly working in emerging markets.

Edgard Duque

 

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