New markets may not be so different from the old

Not that long ago we were blithely referring to ’emerging markets’ for design, lumping together China, Russia, India and even Brazil.

Some, notably China, were seen as challenges to the UK economy, given their ability to produce goods at low cost, or, in the case of India, cheap call centre services. But for design groups, all presented opportunities to broaden their horizons and source work abroad.

Several consultancies have made successful forays into these territories. Interiors group Redjacket and branding strategy group Acanchi were early into China; Bill Wallsgrove forged links in Moscow through local branding group Mildberry, which now also boasts offices in London, Brussels and Milan; and groups such as Start Creative and Enterprise IG have more recently moved into India.

What has come out of the experience, though, is that you can’t band these disparate nations together. Business may be there for the taking, if you have the strength and patience to pursue it, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Wallsgrove’s take on Russia, for example, is of an entrepreneurial culture, with powerful individuals, typified by Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich, whose interests are various. This is a far cry from the reports from Apple design head Jonathan Ive or Factory Design in London about dealings with Chinese factory workers, where the will is there, but not yet the skill without supervision to create goods to the standards we in the West expect.

Enterprise IG global chief executive Simon Bolton is among those putting great faith in India (see Letters, page 11). Bolton has extensive experience of overseas markets, particularly in the Far East, through his previous life in ad land, and sees a healthy market for branding groups there.

While all these markets differ from the UK, none is naive. The case for Western-style branding has to be sold in for appropriate fees to come into the equation. But isn’t this true of most UK clients? So what’s the difference there?

Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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