Andrew Henderson

Andrew Henderson

Founder of Nomad Capitalist and the world’s most sought-after expert on global citizenship.

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Forecasting trends from around the world

When people find out how frequently I travel and the list of places I’ve been in and out of, they often ask me what trends I see around the world that I believe will take hold. So I decided to take time today to put forth a few of my favorites.

Increased Mobile Phone Freedom.
When the US government enacted legislation to allow you to “port” – or move – your phone number from one carrier to another several years ago, it was heralded as a great advance in telephone freedom. Yet around the world, and especially here in Asia, much greater freedoms and capabilities exist.

For instance, in Manila, I was able to walk into a 7-Eleven store, plunk down $3.50, and not only get a ready-to-activate SIM card from my choice of carriers but all but about $0.75 of my money back in service credit. Put that SIM card in an unlocked phone and you’re up and running with a new phone number in about five minutes.

You can purchase more “load” at the same stores any time you need it. And unlike in the US, you’re in control of how you use your phone. You can apply some of your credit to an unlimited plan such as unlimited texting for a week, or choose to pay per text. You’re not locked in to one method.

Emerging markets are some of the greatest users of cell phones because other technologies westerners take for granted – for example, home broadband – aren’t widely available or cost effective. So people use mobile technology. I’m reminded of the Indian concept of “paisa vasool” – value for the money.

Emerging market consumers demand it and phone companies have answered the call. Companies in these places will find more ways to deliver amazingly flexible, cheap, and interchangeable cell service in ways it’s hard for US consumers to imagine.

For under $100, for example, I purchased a phone with two SIM card slots so I could take advantage of two different networks on one phone, or use numbers from two different countries. This type of consumer-friendly will be forced to become more prevalent, and stagnant companies like T-Mobile with smaller followings will be forced to drastically improve innovation and flexibility – or die.

More Innovation in Cheap Mass Market Concepts.
To say that McDonald’s or KFC in the Philippines will deliver food to you 24/7 is one thing. After all, labor is cheap – as little as $250 a month for less skilled jobs. Yet throughout Asia, even fast food chains have found ways to innovate. In recent years, I’ve seen how chains like this will happily bring food to your door in Hong Kong, mainland China, the Philippines, Malaysia, and even affluent Singapore.

They’ve figured out a way to innovate and deliver better value to busy consumers.

You could say the United States invented this type of efficiency. Heck, they came up with the idea of a drive-through. Yet emerging markets will be the next place where large-scale innovation for the mass market will be made.

But it doesn’t have to stop at just fast food. I mention McDonald’s and KFC because they are American concepts that have been widely accepted by young and newly middle-class consumers in Asia.

These consumers may be keen to spend but aren’t as affluent as their counterparts in the US and Europe. Therefore, entrepreneurs must work to make their life easier and the product more desirable without extra costs. As more and more mass market concepts like fast food are prone to innovation overseas by cost-conscious entrepreneurs, businesses in the west will adapt more of their models for their own customers.

More Encryption in Everyday Internet Use.
As government requests to censor internet content go up at record rates, more and more people worldwide are realizing their government detests their privacy. While Russia is one the of chief offenders, the US is doing its part, too. So scornful of the capabilities of the internet is the Land of the Free, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally signed the indictment of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom.

Going forward, more places will offer encrypted web services. The use of proxy servers and virtual private networks to get around government filters in countries like China has been an internet megatrend since the internet gained traction there. Many countries in the emerging world are all too familiar with the government having too much power over every detail of their life, and will be suspicious with their data.

As the emerging world and countries ruled or now under the rule of authoritarian or authoritarian-lite governments continues to grow, you can be sure that privacy will be foremost on their mind. Likewise, as westerners begin to come out from the haze of Obama’s dreaminess and realize their own government has it out for them, they likewise will see the need for such services.

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