Middle class to reach 5 billion by 2030 with increase mainly driven by Asian and other rapid-growth markets

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  • Middle class to reach 5 billion by 2030 with increase mainly driven by Asian and other rapid-growth markets
  • Middle class purchasing power set to triple by 2030 world-wide due to rapid growth in emerging markets
  • Demand from the new global middle class to grow from US$21 trillion to US$56 trillion by 2030
  • 40% of spending by global middle class in Asia by 2030 compared to 10% today
  • Asia Pacific middle class consumers are expected to spend US$33 trillion by 2030, compared to US$5 trillion today

Hong Kong, 10 November 2011 — Over the next 20 years, global economic trends will completely transform the customer base for most industries. Rising per capita incomes, favorable demographics and continuing economic growth are creating massive growth in the numbers of the global middle class. By 2030, there will be an additional three billion people joining this cohort, and most of them will live in Asia.

"Asia alone currently has 525 million people belong in the middle class which is greater than the population of the entire European Union. Between now and 2030, an additional three billion people globally will enter this income bracket." Gerard Dalbosco, Managing Partner Markets, Asia Pacific at EY comments. "Over the longer term, this explosion of spending power has the potential to make a significant contribution to a sustained global economic imbalance between West and East."

Companies will need to change their strategic direction to capitalize on new demands from a fast-growing global middle class, particularly in the emerging markets. This will involve creating entirely new products and services if they are to truly innovate and grow. These are the main recommendations from a new EY report, Innovating for the next three billion: The rise of the global middle class, based on a survey of 547 executives worldwide and in-depth interviews with some of world-leading entrepreneurs.

The survey highlights that the majority of companies from developed economies currently direct most of their energies and activities towards the premium end of the market in their main high-growth markets. Even among high-performing companies in these markets that proportion remains as high as 40%. The report argues that this focus on luxury goods will have to change.

With new middle-income customers expected to grow by three billion by 2030, representing a growth in demand from US$21 trillion to US$56 trillion, the report identifies the capabilities necessary to innovate: customer insight, people culture, research and development and operations and business model – combining local relevance with global scale.

Dalbosco explains: "There is a huge potential for middle class consumerism in rapid-growth economies, and this report demonstrates the scale of opportunity for companies that develop innovative products. Companies need to think about fundamentally changing the way they work in order to take advantage of these changing demographics. By 2030, 40% of spending by the global middle class will take place in Asia, which compares to 10% currently."

Frugal innovation

The survey demonstrates that companies are at least beginning to innovate in these markets. More than three-quarters of the respondents think that adopting "frugal innovation" – or economical use of resource to provide products affordable by those on a lower income – is a major opportunity. And companies in the survey with higher-than-average earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) growth seem more likely to recognize the scale of the opportunity, with 81% of the high performers thinking frugal innovation is a major opportunity, compared with 68% of those with lower EBITDA growth.

Dalbosco continues: "Companies – regardless of market – are currently missing a significant and increasingly important opportunity in developing economies and must bring products in line with the income distribution in rapid growth markets. This requires a fundamental re-thinking of innovation and go-to-market strategies.

"It's no coincidence that those companies leading the way with innovation in rapid-growth markets are headquartered in rapid-growth markets, where they have an advantage in generating 'frugal innovations', or those that can be sold to the emergent middle class. Companies in rapid-growth markets have long operated under an environment where there is a shortage of resources and poor infrastructure and these constraints have forced them to be highly creative and entrepreneurial."

The report identifies four capabilities needed for companies to "frugally" innovate for the next three billion consumers:

  1. Customer insight – Successful innovation requires the companies to get close to their customers and understand the problem that needs to be solved.
  2. People and culture – Companies need to adopt a culture and mindset that are willing to tailor products to customer’s needs.
  3. Research and development – A global network of R&D centers enables companies to leverage global resources and re-apply innovation across multiple markets.
  4. Operations and business model: combining local relevance with global scale – Rapid product innovations are important, but equally as important is the need for companies to think about the business model and ensure that it is appropriate for a lower-income customer base.

Dalbosco concludes: "Each of the key capabilities identified by our report comprises various components that are either local or global in nature. The key to success will be for companies to combine these local and global components to ensure that their products and services will be relevant to local customers, while still enabling the company to leverage global resources."

Looking ahead to the next three billion

Over the next two decades, rising per capita wealth in rapid growth markets will generate a significant growth opportunity for multinational companies. Understanding this market, and developing products and services that meet its needs, will become a strategic priority that cannot be ignored. Companies that downplay its importance and focus on traditional premium markets in developed economies, will not only miss out on this massive opportunity, but also find themselves increasingly disrupted by agile new competitors in their home market.


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