Around twenty years ago, when the Indian and Chinese markets first opened up to global brands, many were surprised to discover domestic incumbents were stronger than they had imagined.
Proctor & Gamble’s laundry detergents battled for the Indian housewife’s attention and share of wallet. It wasn’t just their usual competitor Unilever either but indigenous upstarts like Nirma, who’d carved out the low price category all by themselves. Other FMCG brands faced varying degrees of pressure, with a wide variety of outcomes, some of which still haven’t settled down. Even Coca Cola, the planet’s favourite refreshment, wasn’t immune to the local preference for Limca and Campa and Thumb’s Up.
Now, as the African emerging markets similarly capture global attention, there’s a new trend in pushback. Uber’s Nairobi entry hasn’t been unchallenged, as local apps leverage their greater local knowledge of the way things work. Ben Bajarin has already noted that in each of the major emerging markets of the developing world, its local incumbents in e-commerce, apps and hardware who take the lead.
Being overlooked for decades as a serious market seems to have had the same effect in the key sub Saharan economies as being closed off from the outside world had on the Indian and Chinese markets. Local solutions have grown and flourished. Market entry will not be a cakewalk and its a dangerous assumption for new entrants to make.
How can I end this short note without mentioning MPesa, Kenya’s inimitable and ubiquitous mobile money transfer system? Mobile payments have overtaken credit cards as the preferred cashless mode for transactions.
Technology is the new consumer product.