Hourglass: Making the Most of Your People
Growth Beyond Home
Taking advantage of opportunities in emerging markets.
Emerging market growth has continued through the economic, fiscal and debt challenges that have undermined business confidence in recent years. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that an increasing number of companies are refocusing their growth strategies on those fast-growing markets. With youthful populations, rising per capita incomes and often healthy public finances, emerging markets are increasingly moving centre stage.
Emerging markets present specific opportunities for Irish and Ireland-based companies, not least in Ireland's 'success story' sectors of food and beverage, life sciences, and ICT and digital media.
In China alone, there are now around 125 registered Irish companies, up from just 45 in 2005. This is progress, but clearly dwarfed by the estimated 4,000 UK companies in China, for example, which even on a per capita basis means that there are twice as many UK as Irish companies present.
Irish companies have arguably been slower off the mark than their continental, UK or US counterparts. Take the food and beverage sector, where Irish produce has been relatively prominent in Europe and the US. Yet in China, from Scottish whisky to German beer, Swiss cheese to Australian beef, the premium food and beverage space is marked by a relative absence of Irish companies.
This pattern is repeated across several sectors, and not just in the more traditional 'physical export' sectors. In education, for example, while several Irish tertiary and specialist institutions have made important inroads with representative offices and recruitment activities in Asia, total Asian student numbers in Ireland are under the 10,000 mark.
New Zealand, for example, of comparable scale to Ireland, has almost 30,000 Asian students at the tertiary level alone. Australia, with roughly only five times Ireland's population, has more than 250,000 international students at the tertiary level, with the largest inflows from China and Korea. Despite the advantage of time zone, Australia and New Zealand are no closer in flight time to major Asian markets than Ireland is. With Ireland's educational heritage and English-tuition environment, all within 90 minutes flight of major European tourist destinations, this represents a significant, but largely untapped, opportunity.
These sectors, among others, offer real opportunities for Irish companies. Yet the later the entry to emerging markets, the harder it will be to gain market share from those brands currently establishing their market-leading reputation.
Clearly, determined Western companies can succeed in emerging markets, and with Ireland's pragmatic and personable business culture, there is no inherent reason why Irish companies cannot also compete and win in rapidly evolving markets.