Entrepreneurs and perspectives in emerging markets

In our lives we are always dealing with the future, with perspectives: will my football team win? will my project to succeed? my sector to perform well? my country to grow? Entrepreneurs, in the other hand, tend to think most about: will my service/product to succeed? will people accept it and see the value I see in it? But entrepreneurs are very fortunate people in emerging markets. Regular citizens of emerging markets do not have time to spend in those quasi philosophical questions about the future. Simply because they first have to survive. I have a restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a humble restaurant for day-by-day lunch meals. Four years ago, I asked to whom my employees would vote for president and why. Some of them told me they would vote for Lula simply because before Lula was elected they tended to eat eggs, beans and rice everyday at home with their families and after Lula was elected, with the same salary, they were able to add meat to their diary with higher frequency. That was the “huge” change in their lives: their ability to buy more with the same salary, to live better after all. For people that get survival salaries like my employees, a huge part of the population in emerging countries, dealing with long-term perspectives is a privilege for few. Money to invest in an idea is even scarcer. They have to worry with the basics before.

Yet, there is another important variable in that issue, the importance of religion. It is true that religion is losing power in some regions of the world but definitely not in large parts of the emerging markets. Do you know what happens after we die? I am sure you don’t. However, most of the religions of the world claim they know. This is purely an issue of perspective, I think. If you believe in a religion that tells you you’ll go to heaven if you do good things this means something, but if it tells you you’ll come back to Earth as another person or another animal, this means another thing. This issues impressed me a lot during the time I spent living in India and traveling to China and Africa because that kind of beliefs changed the perspective of millions of people, including the way they consume, of course. In China, for example, religion is almost forbidden. In Russia, it used to be. What is the impact of that to local entrepreneurs? And to foreigners? In Brazil, Christian Evangelists are building a market-friendly Protestant kind of religion. Big thing. What is the impact of that in people’s perspectives? How does people start a small business in each one of those places? If they are born there, they will know, almost intuitively, what social norms they will have to deal with in order to increase their possibility of success. If they are not from there, they will have to study or to learn about local social norms either to build something in accordance with local perspectives or to question, to change, to modernize those perspectives. This may represent either a great innovation or a pitfall. Definitely a complex issue in a world getting global.

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