While many companies struggle to find the bottom in this global recession, others are finding pockets of significant growth in unexpected areas: for example, the explosive market for mobile phones in rural India. CIOs can look for inspiration in this tale of untraditional opportunity as part of your effort to identify new markets and new customers in an otherwise brutal economic climate.And because CIOs are among the only executives in big organizations who understand the entire spectrum of complex business processes from quote to cash, they're in an excellent position to recommend how new approaches can be incorporated most effectively.
In the mobile-phone example, India has 700 million citizens living and working on small farms who might not appear to be obvious targets for high-tech devices. But just as global strategist and author C.K. Prahalad forecast in his book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, traditional thinking often blinds us to significant opportunities in the emerging global marketplace. Because many of these small farmers in India make less than $1,000 per year we give zero consideration to the possibility that they could become a thriving marketplace for companies willing to experiment with new business models and product and pricing strategies.
Consider the story of Indian farmer K.T. Srinivasa, as told recently in The Wall Street Journal:
"While the way his family threshes rice -- crushing it with a massive stone roller -- hasn't changed for generations, his [new cell] phone has changed the way he farms. He uses it to decide when to plant and harvest by calling other farmers, to get the best prices for his rice, coconuts, and jasmine by calling wholesalers, and to save hours of time waiting on the road for deliveries and pickups that rarely come on time. "Life is much better with the cell phone," he said from a rice paddy in the shadow of the new [cell phone] tower.
The numbers for cell phone service subscribers are impressive: up 48% last year to almost 350 million, with 10 million new subscribers coming online in December and a projected 11 million for January, according to the Journal story.
These highly untraditional times are requiring some equally untraditional actions in slashing costs and conserving cash, but they might also provide an excellent opportunity for CIOs who are willing to exercise a little unconventional thinking to help identify new growth opportunities.