High tech is now highly accessible. Cell phones, tablets, PCs, smartphones – they’re everywhere. In 2013, the number of mobile phone accounts in use around the world is expected to match the number of people on the planet! Demand in so-called “emerging markets” is outstripping that in mature economies and driving rapid growth. The shift is accompanied by dynamic high-tech trends, which together have profound implications for the entire technology sector.
Here’s some perspective. China became the largest consumer market for both PCs and smartphones in 2012. Russia is the world’s fourth-largest PC market and Brazil isn’t far behind. India’s demand for electronics hardware was US$45 billion in 2009 and is expected to be US$400 billion by 2020. And looking beyond the “BRICs,” cell phone usage in Africa is mushrooming, with some 500 million subscribers in 2010 (double that of 2008) and 850 million expected by 2015.
After that you have Mexico, Turkey, and Indonesia, which some expect to contribute up to 45% of global GDP growth in the coming decade. Furthermore, Africa, Malaysia and the Middle East form a significant part of the new growth market mix.
Some call them “emerging markets,” which we think is actually misleading. They are developing markets. China is now the second-largest economy in the world so I’d hardly call that emerging.
It’s about strategy and keeping pace
Not surprisingly, most major technology companies are prioritizing strategies to deal with today’s developing markets.
Take Nokia, which fell way behind in the smartphone market and suffered for it. The right strategy for the developing markets could pay significant dividends and help put it back on top. The ultra-low-cost phone market (cell phones between US$40 and US$100), is doing particularly well in India, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Cell phone use in Africa is growing too. And India presents hug potential because smartphone penetration is still relatively low.
The technology sector faces a unique set of challenges: rapidly changing consumer tastes, nonstop innovation and razor thin margins. In a world where the average cell phone’s selling price starts to depreciate after just 30 days, vigorous research to assess and predict trends in consumer technology is vital.
The speed at which tablets and smartphones took off provides an example of the industry’s pace and the need to be ahead of the curve. Add the limited lifespan of these products and the dynamic nature of the technology sector, and the pressure is on. Time to market has to be extremely short and marketing strategies have to shroud the products in secrecy until they are launched in much-anticipated, hyped-up events. The success of the launch has become absolutely critical – as logistics providers know only too well. The short lifespan of the product and the rapid drop in selling price puts even greater pressure on the value chain.
In 2011 the technology industry was almost overwhelmed by the astonishing growth of smartphones and tablets. Since then PC manufacturers are feeling the pinch as personal computing habits are changing and consumers find mobile tablets an attractive substitute for a desktop or laptop. The global wireless market and 4G and 3G data networks are also trying to keep pace as more and more users go mobile.
Supply chains need to keep up with these fast-moving trends, so a flexible infrastructure and the ability to expand or contract quickly are prized assets. Companies that are very large and have established networks have the global infrastructure to serve these needs. High-tech manufacturers need a dependable global logistics operation. A third-party logistics provider can take on the task and scale up, or down, to meet the needs of the customer – without exposing it to the fixed costs of unneeded facilities.
Providing solutions in some developing markets, however, is not without problems. For example, China might implement incentives to encourage growth in its western regions, but it takes time for the logistics infrastructure to catch up. And in Brazil, where production can be cheap, the costs of getting a product to market are significant. It is increasingly important for logistics providers to respond faster and with greater flexibility.
We find that dialogue is key in these situations so that we can understand the needs and create innovative supply chain solutions that keep pace with the rapidly changing market. This collaboration is a good way to exploit opportunities in developing markets. DHL is making the best use of its well-established local knowledge and sharing it with customers. We have, for example, organized workshops in developing market countries to help customers ‘connect the dots’ across the supply chain. In one instance we brought a PC manufacturer and a distributor/retailer together to discuss how to streamline their operation. We facilitated the dialogue, listened, and then were in a position to provide an efficient supply chain solution.
These workshops demonstrate our understanding of local markets – and they are, in part, how we have learned what really drives value for them. Listening to customers is vital in order to fine-tune a service to meet their needs – and that is even more important in the fast-changing, high-tech markets of the 21st century.
Further information: The emerging high-tech market