Last Thursday’s Fourth Annual Emerging Markets Symposium was a morning of critical discussion and inspiration as business leaders and academics tackled the topic of “Winning in Emerging Markets”. The symposium, held by Northeastern University’s Center for Emerging Markets and led by director and professor Ravi Ramamurthi, focused on sharing lessons from experience in order to look to a future of economic collaboration in rapidly growing economies around the world. The speakers came from various sectors and experience levels, from seasoned CEOs to students currently building start-ups abroad; this made for a dynamic and interesting morning.
The symposium began with an inauguration by Governor Deval Patrick. In his remarks he focused on education, innovation, and infrastructure as the drivers of a developing economy, adding that Massachusetts has been and is developing in all of these key areas. He stated that eastern Massachusetts has the highest concentration of colleges and universities worldwide, that the Commonwealth is a center for innovation, and touched on infrastructure projects that are ongoing in the western part of the state. He urged that now is the time for Massachusetts to become even more involved in the global economy, beginning with our universities, saying “This globalized economy is all about an explosion of knowledge, and we have that in spades.” According to the Governor, committing to investment in education and innovation in the Commonwealth creates a “platform for future growth” and makes Massachusetts an enticing business partner for cities and countries with emerging markets.
After Governor Patrick gave his remarks, the symposium opened up for a question and answer period during which he answered frankly to questions about future trade missions, specifically on the African continent, and job creation. The rest of the morning was filled with engaging presentations from a diverse group of speakers, all building on Patrick’s key points of education, innovation, and collaboration.
Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO and COO for EMC Corp. Centers of Excellence spoke to the strength of collaboration throughout global offices and stressed the importance of working with and hiring local staff to tailor one’s business to emerging markets’ standards. Working in emerging markets means being willing to liaise between local and global, Sao Paulo and Boston. In a CEO panel, Luis Bonell of Liberty International and Giri Chakravarthi of Emhart-Asia, Stanley Black & Decker presented on “Capturing Business in Emerging Markets”.
Despite the differences in their sectors, insurance and household tools/ fasteners respectively, both underscored the importance of having a deep understanding of market dynamics and local cultures as a key to success. Ventia Kontogouris, of Venkon Group, LLC., talked about creating businesses from scratch in emerging markets, speaking from her 20+ years of experience in venture capital investments in India. Again, she highlighted local to local collaboration as paramount in doing good business across the globe. Nigel Burton, Chief Marketing Officer at Colgate-Palmolive, was the luncheon keynote, focusing his remarks on marketing challenges in various local contexts and giving voice to the perspective of a large multinational corporation with a larger presence in emerging markets than in traditional, western markets.
A definite highlight of the morning for many were two wonderful presentations from Northeastern students on their personal experiences in Cameroon and Uganda, and the work they’ve undertaken in these regions. Michael Cantalino presented the business model for his start-up, Jola Venture, a company that provides solar powered food dehydrators for farmers. Elizabeth Cherchia shared her experience with Northeastern’s Engineers Without Borders and her water security projects in a Ugandan village. Their dedication was inspiring and garnered praise from the distinguished speakers for ensuring us that our future in emerging markets will be a bright one.
The key words of the day were education, innovation, collaboration and cultural competency- words we live by here at UNA-GB. Our Model UN and classroom programming serve nearly 3,000 students in the greater Boston area, teaching them valuable skills in problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking through various cultural lenses. While corporations are making their mark on emerging markets, we’re doing work right here in Boston to prepare young leaders for a promising future in a globalized world.
And stay tuned… exciting news to come about one emerging market in particular and our 2012 UN Day Luncheon!!