See What Emerges

30 Dec

Have you ever heard the term “emerging markets?” Usually the term refers to countries whose economies are growing at a rapid pace, making them more competitive on a global scale. In today’s business world, you’ll hear a lot of talk about the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. These countries represent some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and a lot of American businesses are trying to figure out how to take advantage of them.

But let’s hold it right there, and change our approach for a minute. “Emerging markets” implies a business perspective- and I’d like to switch to a cultural perspective, if you will. When you think about it culturally, calling a place like India an emerging market feels a bit weird. Countries like Russia and India have economies that are way older than the US- an “emerged” market. And remember the whole Marco Polo trade route thing? Obviously, Chinese trading routes have been very important to the world’s economic development since way before our country’s time. So really, these markets emerged a long time ago. It’s just that they don’t yet match up to contemporary society’s definition of a “developed” economy with full consumer infrastructures.

A second game to play: think about products that are still gaining popularity in technically “emerged” markets. For example, yogurt. Yogurt is trendy in the US, but the US is still considered an “emerging market” for yogurt companies. Because compared to our brethren in Europe, for example, we consume much, much less yogurt. I grew up eating yogurt and never thought of it this way- yogurt seemed like an integral part of American life, in my home at least. But after reading some industry reports on yogurt in 2011, I realized that in yogurt companies’ eyes, the US has yet to be conquered. It’s still “emerging.”

The complication of big, powerful countries setting the protocol for other nations is not a new issue. Think about all the times one country has conquered another and declared “sorry, you’re not developed the RIGHT way, let us impose our customs!” And in today’s globalized, industrialized world, it’s pretty much impossible for countries to stay out of the race toward economic power. So let the race begin, I suppose. But in the meantime, between you and me- I’m just going to sit here thinking about ancient Chinese trade routes. Sounds like much more fun than thinking about factories and GDP!

 

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