How innovations from developing nations trickle-up to the west

Group Danone salespeople in Bangladesh
More than a month before Business Week published an article about ‘trickle-up innovation’ (that I reported on earlier this week), Fast Company had already delved into the issue of how innovation now trickles up from emerging to advanced economies.

“So why is Nokia looking to use Kenya to debut a free classifieds service (think a mobile-phone version of Craigslist), complete with a first-ever feature that lets people shop using voice commands to browse for goods? And why are Western banks seeking ideas from India’s ICICI when its average deposits are one-tenth of those in the West?

The answer is that the traditional model of developing new products is quietly reversing course. Call it “trickle-up innovation,” where ideas take shape in developing markets first, then work their way back to the West.”

The article contains a number of examples, including Nokia’s Mosoko (mo for “mobile,” soko from the Swahili for “market”), sometimes described as ‘Craigslist for the Next Billion’, Infosys’ retail data tracking system ShoppingTrip360, Danone’s Eco Pack, a low-cost yoghurt line, developed in Bangladesh in partnership with the Grameen Bank, and India’s ICICI Bank which can make a profit with low-income customers where transactions are on average one tenth the amount of those in the United States, Brazil’s Natura, a cosmetics firm that bested Western companies on its home turf and has expanded throughout Latin America and now Europe, and China’s Goodbaby, which has 28% of the U.S. stroller market.

The Mosoko background page is particularly interesting as it provides background, and introduces some other similar applications currently in development.

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  1. This is fascinating. I live in New York City, and have noticed this development of “trickled-up innovation” with a mobile company- Metro PCS. Their stocks are through the roof, and the concept is to join a Service Provider with a low monthly fee, no contracts, no commitment, a pay as you go plan. Just like buying a phone that operates with Pay as you go Sim Cards.