Sunday, August 27, 2006

start-up anarchy

In China's boom economy you get a whole new type of entrepreneurship developing. This is a spam text message advertising, as you may be able to guess, an MBA/DBA program. Text spamming is rife in China and offers range from the usual phone company, restaurant, shop etc promotional offers, to more unusuals ones such as services of assassins. Yes, SMS spam for 'private detectives' offering a range of services ranging from intimidation to assassinations have been widely reported (my colleague even received one such SMS the other week).

This is a good example of the anarchy of market development here. Chinese consumers have all sorts of experiences now on offer; in Guangzhou there’s a bathroom themed restaurant with diners seated on toilet seats, serving food resembling excrement. Others include a company farming butterflies to be released at wedding ceremonies, a restaurant specialising in rat-meat cuisine, speed dating get-togethers for asexuals looking for a celibate marriage and a bar where you can insult and attack the staff to relieve stress. This may all be at odds with the idea of developing markets as conservative in tastes, or restricted in options. While that's often true if you look for a standard repertoire of facilities, services and behaviour, what you can find in its place is more fragmented and anarchic development. This is being fueled by a generation of entrepreneurs unfettered by traditional business planning ideas about sustainibility, acceptability and sometimes, morality. The sheer population size of China helps this enormously too - when your local market is around 5-20 million people there'll be a good chance you can find a critical mass to help even niche ideas take off.

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