As we wanted to keep things straightforward and hands-on this month, we’re highlighting “FUNCTIONALL”. Which is all about a new breed of products that are simple, small and/or cheap (with a dash of sustainability), giving them global appeal, from India to Sweden. Now, if that doesn’t warrant a brainstorming session…
FUNCTIONALL | Captures the phenomenon of simple, small and/or cheap products and services designed for low(er)-income consumers in emerging markets, with cross-over appeal to consumers in mature consumer societies.
Goods and services especially designed for emerging markets often incorporate one or more of the following characteristics:
- Smaller and/or limited number of features, to keep prices low.
- Simpler, or easier to use, for inexperienced consumers.
- Energy efficient (or not using any traditional energies at all) and/or easy to repair and/or waste-reducing.
- Robust, as some of them are used in rugged conditions.
- Well-designed (the democratization of design is a global phenomenon).
- Aimed at helping owners to generate income, or allow users to create self-sustaining systems.
A few reasons why these products are of interest to consumers in more prosperous economies, too:
- Cheap | ‘Cheap’ is king, both because of the recession (reduced spending power), and because of the shift away from ‘bling’ towards frugality and practicality as new status symbols.
- Simplicity and convenience | Small/simple (and cheap!) also rules because of transient lifestyles (more experiences in smaller, affordable doses), and the continual need for more convenience and simplicity. Look for numerous FUNCTIONALL innovations to especially do well in prosperous metropolitan areas (URBANY!), where busy, transient lifestyles are the norm.
- Design | Aforementioned ‘democratization of design’ means even demanding, experienced consumers will be pleased with products from countries and brands previously not known for high quality and design standards.
- Sustainability | Anything using less or no traditional energy, or causing less waste, or boasting longer life expectancy, will go down well with eco-(status) conscious consumers.
FUNCTIONALL is not only about all consumers, it’s also about all brands. Count on brands from established consumer societies and brands from emerging nations to come up with numerous FUNCTIONALL innovations. From Tata to Nokia.
Here’s a selection of the many FUNCTIONALL spottings currently coming our way: some of them already popular around the world, others just waiting to make the cross-over from ’emerging’ to ‘all’.
- The Classmate PC, designed by chip manufacturer Intel, is a low-cost netbook that is sold throughout the world, often rebranded and sold through local vendors. The third generation of the device was unveiled in June 2009, with the aim of meeting ongoing educational needs around the world.
- The Cherrypal Africa is a 7-inch mini laptop, designed for developing countries, that sells for USD 99. The company buys excess inventory and discounted components to keep the price down, which means that only minimum specifications are promised on the site.
- In December 2009, One Laptop per Child unveiled designs for the XO 3. The computer, which is basically a single sheet of flexible plastic, featuring touch screen technology, is due to be released in 2012. Costs should remain under USD 100, making it affordable for poor and rich consumers alike.
Food & Beverage
- Nestlé’s Maggi brand of instant noodles was first introduced in emerging markets such as India and Pakistan. The brand has since expanded to mature consumer societies, starting with Australia and New Zealand in 2008, where it is marketed as cheap health food.
- Diary giant Danone‘s joint venture with Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, aims to provide nutritious dairy products to deprived populations within Bangladesh by building as many as 50 local micro plants by 2016. Danone’s experiences in Bangladesh led to the 2008 launch in France of Ecopack, a low-cost yogurt line.
- In April 2009, Tata Housing announced plans to build 1,300 small apartments outside Mumbai, selling them for as little as USD 7,800. The floor area of the miniature apartments will be between 218 and 373 square feet. When the scheme was opened to booking in Mumbai in May 2009, more than 7,000 customers queued to pay the initial booking fee.One to watch if you’re into micro-housing (or micro-lodging), not just in developing nations: think ‘Single Nation’, sustainability, insane real-estate prices, TRANSUMERS, the global love affair with travel, and so on. See also the below:
- The Indian Hotels Company has built 21 Ginger Hotels across India, with plans to build 50 more within the next three to four years. The hotels aim to provide basic convenience to travelers at very affordable rates, with rooms costing between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,999.
- Tune Hotels keeps costs down by using a self-service online booking system, minimizing staff and employing a pay-as-you-use system for various amenities such as air-conditioning. The chain currently operates five hotels across Malaysia and Indonesia, but aims to expand to 150 hotels around the world by 2012.
- In Q2 of this year, Air Arabia plans to open a 300 room budget hotel at Sharjah International Airport. The hotel will cater to business travelers and individual guests passing through the UAE, offering amenities such as a gym, pool, wifi, and meeting rooms.
- The Grameen Foundation helps the world’s poorest (especially women) improve their lives and escape poverty through access to microfinance in 23 countries worldwide. Yet it also has a subsidiary in the United States, called Project Enterprise. Since 2008 Grameen has collected 1,700 borrowers in New York City, and last June (2009) it opened a second branch in Omaha, Nebraska. (Source: Time Magazine)
- A similar initiative, online micro-lending platform Kiva, has also expanded operations into the ‘developed’ world: it has partnered with ACCION USA, a microfinance institution lending in 48 states across the US, and Opportunity Fund, a community development financial institution based in San Jose, CA..
- The Logan range, a series of low-cost cars produced by Renault’s Dacia subsidiary in Romania, has been outpacing overall car sales in key European markets by appealing to budget-conscious consumers. The range was initially designed for emerging markets, using simple parts to keep maintenance costs down, but it has found success amid consumers’ economic concerns in Western Europe.
- After the much-hyped introduction of the Tata Nano in India (a small, beyond-affordable car for the ‘masses’), all eyes are now on the Tata Nano Europa. Tata plans to offer the Nano Europa starting in 2011, and around 2013 in the US. It’s likely to cost around EUR8,000 / USD8,000.
- Meanwhile, Renault-Nissan has claimed that its partnership with Bajaj Auto will result in the ULC model by 2012, at a cost that will be ‘lower than any car today made in India’ according to CEO Carlos Ghosn.
- In late 2009, Indian tractor manufacturer Mahindra and Mahindra launched a compact 4-wheel delivery vehicle designed for city center use. The GiO is designed to command more respect on the road than traditional 3-wheel delivery vehicles, while still offering the manoeuvrability necessary to move through inner city streets. One to succeed outside India, too?