Go East – For a Brighter Future

Dateline: London, Edie Lush; Executive Editor, Hub Culture

I was struck by the vibrancy, the drive and the spirit of Vietnam while I was there for a week last year for Johnnie Walker & Hub Culture’s Keep Walking Project in Ho Chi Minh City. There was hardly a whiff of recession; rather everyone I met spoke about opportunity.

The last few days at Hub Davos reminded me of the realization that the future – at least during my lifetime – lies in Asia.

Janmejaya Sinha, Chairman of the Asian region for Boston Consulting Group told me that we’ve been here before. “In 1800-1820, China and India were 50% of the world’s economy. In 2040 it will be the same. It doesn’t mean that anyone loses, it means that the opportunities are much greater.” Boston Consulting Group did 1600 interviews of people who are the emerging middle class.

In effect, they helped to redefine what the emerging middle class is. “It used to be $40-70,000 household income in the US. That’s the super-rich in India.” The new middle class is Asian and earning “between $7000-20,000. They want a better life now. The new middle class dream is a house and some education. Health care will come later.”

This is an engine that is already revved up and running. “From post WWII, every company wanted one thing: the American consumers’ wallet. Now we’re going back to 1800 when the East India Company wanted the Asian wallet. But now we need to re-discover what it is. People like to make money, they’ll go where the money is.”
Peter Lacy, Managing Director of Sustainability Services for Accenture’s Asia Pacific Region told me he’s looking at how you engage this new middle class. Accenture’s latest report shows that when “you look at the most receptive consumer group – they’re Asian, they’re urban, they’re digital and they’re millennial. They are real influencers.”

Furthermore, when you look towards 2030, “the dominant consumer goods spending will be in Asia. Within that group, the Millennials will have the most significant chunk of that spending. They’re pro-social, pro-environmental, they think they can change the world, and they think it is their duty to change the world. By 2030 their wallet will be worth $7 trillion. The Future is Asian.” They are the new global shapers, a group actively in development with even the World Economic Forum itself.

What about those left in the West? BCG’s Sinha said, “The global opinion is still formed by the FT, the WSJ, the Economist… the BBC. The Economist devotes 2 pages to China, 6 pages to Britain and every so often, ½ a page to India.” If they’re to stay in business, this will have to change.