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Futurist Apala Lahiri Chavan recently posted a fascinating video on designing for emerging markets. (I’ve embedded the video at the end of this post.)

The example she uses is the concept of micro-selling. Now ubiquitous in India, micro-selling is the packaging of products in tiny single servings.

The large multinationals completely missed a major opportunity because they didn’t understand the local (Indian) ecosystem. It was a small, local Indian company that intuitively understood the needs of Indians. They realized that in India, many people simply can’t afford to buy large packages of products.

And so this small Indian company hit on idea of selling products in tiny single-servings that most anyone could afford. The idea caught on like wildfire.

Apala explains how remarkable insights can come from the most innocuous conversations. But you’ll never uncover those hidden gems of insights unless you have an immersive experience in the target ecosystem.

The bottom line is that you must understand the ecosystem your customers reside in, especially in emerging markets where the ecosystems – local customs, needs and realities – differ dramatically from the West. If you don’t, you’ll miss the mark.

Caveat: The audio is pretty bad, with all kinds of background traffic and conversation. But trust me, it’s worth enduring. Besides, the background noise just makes the video that much more authentic. Enjoy!