Where You Can Fit in Global Mobile

Yesterday’s discussion with Nikolai on global mobilization from the perspective of government and major corporations really only scratches the surface.  Yet, there’s a lot that can be extracted from just those five basic points that can be useful to developers and others who are on the periphery of the mobile market.

Mobile & Internet Infrastructure — Rolling out 3G, 4G, WiFi, landlines or even satellite into remote locations is not itself a problem.  Making it commercially viable for companies to do so is difficult.  That is the critical barrier.  Going on, per the goal of Internet.org to provide Internet access essentially for free?  That’s far more challenging.

Tip:  If you live “near” an unconnected or under-developed region, it is worthwhile for you to acquaint yourself with the people and companies likely to be involved in developing it.  It will be easier to get to know them on closer to a “first name basis” before the real development putting you ahead of everyone else competing to be part of the jobs, projects and other opportunities.

Supply and Demand — Alongside infrastructure development the drive is to increase demand for mobile/internet services – which is very difficult to do when the devices are priced way outside the people’s purchasing power within a particular area.  That’s where the Nokia X line comes in – bringing mobile within the purchasing reach of more people.  That initiates new competitive cycles where, over time, a) even more affordable devices become readily available, b) cascading increases in business increase the area’s purchasing power, c) more people acquire secondhand devices.

Tip:  Waste not, want not.    There are several possibilities worthy of exploring.  One is that many people with older mobile phones will be looking to get some cash value out of them to help pay for a new device.  Sometimes, these are resold.  In some cases it could be viable to work with vendors to have apps to have your apps pre-installed on these second hand devices.  This seems a bit far fetched, but if your average paid advertising cost per install is $ .50 to $1.00 is frequently greater than local emerging market wages.

Distribution — In the short-term, the rollout of new products like Nokia X resides mostly outside of the “internet business model”.  It must be done through “brick-n-mortar” stores, where in some areas the actual “bricks” might not exist.  Sequentially, it is less about product time to market than it is about the time to actually build that market starting with the major cities of each developing country.

When we talk about distribution within emerging markets, standard methods such as United Parcel Service, Federal Express, DHL and others have limitations.  The same applies to the post office system or UPU (Universal Postal Union) – the world’s largest logistical and banking network.  With 660,000 post offices worldwide, there is one for every 11,000 people, except they are not evenly distributed.  Post offices also double to provide some financial services to 1.5 Billion people and are actively looking for ways to integrate with mobile payment providers.   http://news.upu.int/no_cache/nd/gates-foundation-helps-upu-support-partnerships/

Tip:  Acquaint yourself with the mobile vendors – new or incoming.  People who buy new mobile devices will be happy to get some free apps on day one, especially from local/native developers.  As an app developer, you can take the initiative in developing B2B relationships with mobile retailers and other local businesses interested in exploring mobile advertising.   This is also an opportunity to develop community-oriented apps.  Moreover, as a developer – you do not personally have to be in a remote location to service it though you may need to partner or work with someone who does live locally.

Even easier, is to purchase a few new devices and place them with a friendly business on a consignment basis.  There is nothing to say that as a developer of apps that you cannot be involved with the distribution of mobile devices.

Gross World Product — It is interesting to look at this on the grand scale.  The G20’s meeting in Australia this year prompted a pledge to increase Gross World Product (GWP — sum of all GDP by country) $2 Trillion over the next 5 years (above and beyond their current plans) – without really getting into the how of actually doing so.  Roughly, that means expanding at a rate of about 5 – 6% vs. 3 – 4%.  The how of doing so is clear.

Actual GWP for 2012 was $72 Trillion ($85 Trillion in terms of Purchasing Power Parity), with an average per capita of $12,400 (PPP).  Regular internet usage is presently available to 2.7 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people.  If the Pareto Principle applies (it may or may not), GWP could reach $90 trillion in nominal terms.

This invites a lot of questions as relates to sustainability, currency/money/value in real terms, and a lot of other things, to boot.

The practical end of this IS that many – most, but probably not all, emerging markets will be viable in the long-term.  Just because business does not exist someplace yet does not mean it never will.  That favors those able to anticipate, to plan and be prepared for when it does come – provided they have patience.  The market just doesn’t come all at once, but over time, in stages.   How to benefit practically on this point is more nebulous as it requires in-depth research plus an understanding of the market in specific areas, to get the timing right. 

It is better to be a little bit too late to market than “way too early”.  Being too early to a market equates to virtually no profitability and a high likelihood of project abandonment. 

Competition in Markets – Markets develop in stages typically because different companies prioritize specific markets relative to their investment capacity, fit, risk, partners, possible ROI.  This is all relevant to the developer as it can help determine which platform/s you develop for, which payment systems you incorporate, who you try to partner with.   All of these things also influence, but do not necessarily control, the direction of government assimilation/integration of technology or collaborative (contractor) or strategic corporate partnerships.

Aside from being strictly a developer, cultivating awareness and in-depth understanding of this level of the market is useful in building up your role as an analyst or consultant.  To varying degrees, this can be enhanced even as a solo developer, by being involved in local/regional/national government. 

Maybe I should pick smaller topics… but there’s too much here to not at least touch upon so we can revisit later in greater depth.

The one thing I would most like to underscore concerns Process.   There is an obvious tendency to look at the world and see things in terms of Results.  We look at history as a series of results vs. a complex array of intertwined processes.

THE PROCESS in a lot of cases, starts with talking with others, sharing ideas, considering projects, exploring “what if…”

Too frequently, in the case of solo developers and small companies, there is a tendency to go it alone… and sometimes that does work.  More frequently though, the big things that happen are the result of people and companies working together.

It is understandable that developers and programmers like to focus on what they do best – design apps, program software, and other tech related activities.   Financially, for most, that results in more “misses” than hits.  Most businesses do not go out of business for want of technical skills, but for lack of marketing and other business fundamentals (like location, location, location).  What developers can take from this is that location, location, location is absolutely critical – but you don’t actually have to be there, to benefit from it.  You only need to be interacting with others who are there – and providing them what they need.

Ultimately – the best way to get to where you want to be is by helping others get to where they want to be.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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