While everyone wonders what surprises the futurists at Google, Facebook and Apple have in store for us, one company is quietly going about its work of revolutionizing the way social media is used in emerging markets. Currently the United States economy is considered to be the largest in the world, followed by China, and Japan; however, economists are predicting great changes in the next few decades.
In its report, "The World in 2050," PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) estimates that the Chinese economy will overtake the U.S. by 2025, but that is not the most surprising part. PWC also estimates that the Indian economy will leap from its current place as eleventh largest to the third largest world economy by 2050, only slightly behind the U.S. Other areas and countries that could become world economic leaders include Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico, several countries in the Middle East, as well as Turkey and Malaysia. Representing a population of 4 to 5 billion people, many in the prized 18-24 year old demographic, these emerging markets could dramatically alter the world's financial landscape.
Technology could play a major role in propelling these economies forward, except that some of the very same factors that work in their favor also work against them. Imagine 4 to 5 billion more people with access to Facebook and Twitter and you'll see that the world of social media influence could quickly be turned on its head. That raises the logical question of how to provide access to emerging markets where there is no telephone or electrical infrastructure in place to tap into the worldwide web. Data costs are outrageously high, most people can't afford the expense of smartphones or only have access to basic mobile phones, sufficient electrical power is not available, and internet cafes currently offer the only way to access the internet.
What if all that could be changed? One emerging company, VascoDe Technologies, an Israeli Cloud service, is betting their own future as well as the future of these countries, on their process of simplifying and fitting social media into the different needs and infrastructure limitations presented in emerging markets. Founded in 2004, VascoDe established operations in 2009 to enable mobile operators in these emerging economies to generate revenue from services which work on all mobile devices. Their patent-pending Client-less Mobile Interaction (CMI) system enables users of simple phones to enjoy advanced applications, such as Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and mobile Skype, without installing any additional software. Users simply dial a short access code and engage in real-time sessions that rely on VascoDe's cloud server.
Innovation is Key at VascoDe
According to Dorron Mottes, VascoDe's founder and CEO, innovation is a key value for the company's on-going growth. "We take innovation methodologically," said Mottes. "We cut across fields such as business, technology and operations and burn innovation into our company's DNA." As a serial entrepreneur, Mottes has over 18 years of experience in executive level management positions, managing and leading new initiatives from inception to implementation and significant sales.
Mottes says that helping emerging markets tap into the global conversation feels something like a "back to the future" or "straight-on to the past" approach. "As we're raising and facing very deep questions about the digital social life established economies are accustomed to, we are at the same time trying to figure out how to simplify and fit its essence to the different needs and capabilities of the emerging markets."
To help find solutions to these seemingly-insurmountable obstacles VascoDe has developed a set of tools which support and enhance what they see as essential for continued innovation. These tools include rapid prototyping and evaluation, as well as instituting methodologies for gathering and analyzing feedback. The product line evolves based on direct feedback from the field, both statistical and personal.
As part of the evolution of its overall vision, VascoDe sought to identify key values of socializing emerging markets. They wanted to analyze and appreciate cultural differences while still responding to cultural similarities seen in the human need to communicate and interact, speak out, find employment, show off, and pair up. Providing answers to these social needs required VascoDe to reshape and even fine-tune such well-established communication mechanisms as Facebook and Gmail to fit the target needs.
The challenges to fulfilling this vision included reachability, technical, social and business. But collaboration within a team of seasoned entrepreneurs, managers and experts allowed an ego-free creative process where room for new ideas could be created along with the predefined plans. VascoDe also leveraged its own social family network of partners, investors, and special experts as part of the innovation process through brainstorming sessions via mail, telephone or in-person meetings.
In answer to the "million dollar question" of whether innovation in an organization should be centrally managed or distributed, VascoDe decided to have it both ways. It is centered by a dedicated person, but all employees are encouraged to contribute. There are daily discussions and sharing of knowledge, a funneling process for new ideas, and a prototyping system for analysis of ideas with potential. Ten percent of the company's R&D efforts are allocated to innovation in products, technologies and solutions.
Mottes concluded with a sample story of the impact VascoDe's innovation can have. "We contacted one of the people we met in the field test," he related. "This person told us that our service changed his life because he could now apply to jobs with email and check it for responses on a daily basis. Although checking email has almost become a burden to the western economies, for those in the emerging markets it is a life-changer."
This all proves that you don't necessarily have to look to the so-called market leaders to see the future. We have already seen how social media has changed the face of communication in the U.S. market, but companies like VascoDe are already innovating how they can change the face of communication in the world market.