Digital innovation in emerging markets

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By Elo Umeh

Organizations in developed markets are now looking at underdeveloped markets to leverage sales, growth and expansion opportunities. Emerging market demographics, growing middle class and usage levels of mobile are some of the reasons that make them attractive to businesses and investors. The presence of mobile phones has also made it possible for brands to reach their customers, build relationships with them and tailor solutions according to their needs. The mobile device, we can say, is a “unifier” between developed and developing worlds.

Over the years, emerging markets have proved to be a prime location for incremental scale in the digital ecosystem because they have perfected the art of reinventing the production, distribution and business wheel of established markets and large companies. This has been possible not necessarily through a clear understanding of the local needs but more of taking advantage of the low base of these markets and latent demand for services.

Anything offered is consumed within the market because certain macro-economic factors influence the decision process. Some of these factors include; international media, the influence of diaspora, target market’ lack of awareness and ignorance. Having an in-depth understanding of the market and its major stakeholders which includes the people at the bottom of the pyramid, is a very important approach to take while considering the invention of a new product.

Detailed research is important in understanding the local markets so that solutions provided will be best suited to meet the local customers’ needs. In most cases, the needs of the people in the lower class of an economic sector provide a vast array of opportunities to innovate.

Innovation as we know it has the potential to speed up growth and boost performance. For emerging markets, it is driven by entrepreneurs providing solutions to daily problems, social ills and key issues they face in their immediate community hence their sustainability. The relentlessness of these entrepreneurs to climb up the value chain also makes them very competitive and this pushes them to the global platform where similar problems are encountered.

Designing solutions for emerging markets come with its own problems. In most cases, the problem is always with lack of education and data. I remember when Twinpine – mobile advertising, was set to launch in 2011; we dedicated time and resources in educating brands and publishers about the business because the benefits were unknown to them. Other issues that can occur include challenges with energy, lack of infrastructure amongst others.

One thing is for sure though, the persistence and approach we deployed then has paid off. While we have built an organization anchored on continuous innovation that seeks out better ways of delivering value, externally we have also been able to invest in developing the market through consumer education and engagement as well as training of partners on the opportunities that abound in the digital media ecosystem.

Through ongoing engagement, we are able to empathize with customers on their pain points, as these form input into the innovation we have continued to deliver that are significantly focused on emerging markets globally.

Elo Umeh is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Terragon Group. Elo is passionate about growing digital in Africa, and with the company’s exploits, is transforming the way companies are reaching their customers. He is currently the co-chair of the Mobile Marketing Association, Nigeria. This article was originally published on  Linkedin

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