Preeti Varma
Sep 4, 2014

How Asian startups can learn from MINT

Entrepreneurialism, innovation and a pioneering spirit seem to be the epitome and key definer of emerging markets.

Preeti Varma
Preeti Varma

There has been a lot of news about the surge of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in Asia, especially in the digital and share-economy spheres. According to CKGSB Knowledge, a business school and think tank in China, 17 per cent of global innovation currently comes from emerging markets. A recent Nielsen report suggests that consumers in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines are among the top five prepared to participate in the share economy.

Alongside consumers, young digital entrepreneurs are also taking note as innovative startup culture takes hold in Asia. Unlike the halo their counterparts in Silicon Valley have created for themselves, Asian startups will need to use guerilla cultural understanding and intelligence from other developing markets in order for them to succeed. The newly coined 'MINT' countries will provide Asian startups a chance to study and learn from other developing countries.

Jim O'Neill, the economist of 'BRIC' fame, at the beginning of this year began championing Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey as MINT—the next generation of emerging market trendsetters.

These markets are changing rapidly. Consumers, and especially young people, in these markets are altering their attitudes and behaviors. It is important for Asian marketers and brands to understand these emerging audiences and countries, as they will help provide lateral inspiration.

Most developing countries have a number of things in common: they all have big populations, growing middle classes and an abundant stream of young workers. There are high expectations for the surplus of these young employable men and women. They are using technology to eliminate the barriers and boundaries formerly presented by geography. They are learning more, forming new opinions, adapting lifestyles and re-evaluating their needs and wants. This, in turn, will affect the way brands are perceived and interacted with as these global citizens share their opinions and beliefs with the rest of the world. Startups need to understand the nuances within each market in order for them to be relevant for them.

Entrepreneurialism, innovation and a pioneering spirit seem to be the epitome and key definer of emerging markets. According to White Board Mag, a magazine for entrepreneurs, “developing markets have everything to gain, a lot less to lose, and they are already well accustomed to overcoming huge problems.”

Western businesses are looking to developing market startups for their flexibility, adaptability and their innovative ethos. Developing markets in turn need to look to each other in order to retain these qualities, which are essential to startup culture. They need to lead the way in culturally nuanced thinking which will help differentiate themselves from developed countries.

Our recent work on MINT shows that the behaviours among youth in the markets are aligned with these new ways of thinking. These behaviors and attitudes come from a sense of empowerment, positivity and greater confidence in themselves and their country. The shift in their nuanced outlook is defined by a developing market behavior—something relatable and noteworthy to Asian startups. These commonalties between developing markets are important to analyse for any innovative company—they show cultural insight and intelligence, which, as we all know, is the way forward for any successful business. 

Preeti Varma is an associate director at Flamingo Singapore



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