In another blog post, I wrote about AV/IT convergence as a kind of wave a trend that businesses like Biamp can neither control nor change, but can continue to ride successfully if we remain savvy about changes to distribution channels and trends in technology. Perhaps because I used to be a surfer many years ago, this metaphor of the wave comes to mind again as I think about developing markets.
The emergence of developing markets is a cultural and technological trend that impacts all sectors of business, not just the AV industry. But the demography of our sales is changing rapidly, and I think it offers some interesting insights into the current and future role of developing markets.
Rapid Growth and Resiliency
Biamp has been selling into export markets for many years, and currently we sell to about 100 countries worldwide. Our business in these markets has changed and grown vastly in the past six or seven years. For example in 2005, our biggest export markets (in descending order) were Germany, Italy, Australia, Singapore, and China. The developed markets led this list. Now, just seven years later, two BRIC countries India and China top our list of export markets, followed by the developed markets of Australia, Germany, and Italy. In 2005, 29% of our total export business was in developing countries. By 2011, that number had grown to 46%. Our proportion of business in developing countries almost doubled in six years, and the trend is only continuing in that direction.
During that same time period of massive growth came the global financial crisis, but it wasn’t truly global. The developed markets were hard hit, but many of the developing markets showed only a slowed growth for a short period of time. Two of Biamp’s biggest emerging markets are good examples of what I mean here: India’s growth rate dipped for a year and then came back and, as a whole, China’s rate of growth barely moved at all. Russia may have been hit hard by the crisis, but it’s bounced back in a way that many developed markets have yet to experience.
Freedom from Silos
Another interesting factor at play here in the emergence of developing markets is their freedom from traditional business silos. In developed markets, audio, video, and IT companies have and largely continue to function separately, due to historical demarkations. Although this has begun to change recently in the developed markets, it’s important to note that this has never been a factor in emerging markets. Industries that have typically been siloed in developed markets are merged in developing ones that embrace convergence. In India, for example, the four biggest AV contractors are IT companies. These computer companies have become the biggest AV contractors in India because they bid on the whole network the AV bit is just a small part of that network.
Freedom from silos has also allowed emerging markets to leapfrog entire generations of technology. Because they’re not mired in transitioning from older to newer technologies, they don’t have the inertia of the developed markets. They’re able to jump right in and embrace the technology that’s ahead of the mainstream. Let me illustrate it this way: about ten or fifteen years ago, it was very fashionable in large, newly built homes to install networks so that all of the computers in the home could talk to one another. That made sense for the technology available at the time. But if I were building a new home today, would I install a network? Of course not. I’d simply install a wireless router and not wire anything at all. This, in essence, is what emerging markets are able to do due to their ability to clearly see things as they are now, rather than how they used to be.
The Future of Emerging Markets
As I mentioned, the AV industry, like other industries, is going through some big changes right now. I think the emerging markets are well positioned to exploit these changes. In addition to the factors I discussed earlier, I believe their flexibility and focus on education will allow them to maintain their already rapid growth and resiliency. There are some exciting developments happening right now in India, China, and Russia. These countries are what I imagine America must have been like in the 1950s: infused with possibility and optimism and energy, spurred on by the desire to get educated and claim their place in an exciting future. It’s very energizing for me to see what’s happening in emerging markets as Biamp continues to stay in the sweet spot of this unstoppable wave.