Business / Global
The entrepreneurs with an idea for a digital democracy, Johannesburg's downtown gets a facelift, and online purchases can now be on London doorsteps within 90 minutes.
Empire of vegetables
The no-frills supermarket chain Rema 1000, owned by the Reitan family, controls 20 per cent of the food retail market in Norway. Last year it had a turnover of NOK1.8bn (€227m).
UK — DIGITAL DEMOCRACY
In a political age where the president of the United States has five million followers on Twitter, democracy is getting digital. “It’s about finding new ways to harness the collective intelligence of the people,” says Chris Quigley, co-founder of UK company Delib, a specialist in creating digital applications for political organisations. This can range from voter feedback on new policies to more extensive voter consultation at an earlier stage in the legislative process. Founded in 2004, the company (Quigley with Matt Golding in their Soho, London office) has since built apps for the likes of Presidents Bush and Obama, as well as playing a key role in the new British coalition’s push for a Big Society”. But by crowd-sourcing legislation online, isn’t there a risk of creating a shallow Twitter politics? “It’s a supplement, not a replacement,” says Quigley. “And we would argue that any extra information is a bonus in politics.”
Three of Delib’s apps:
- Spending Challenge:
Nationwide survey for the UK Treasury on how to cut costs, with over 45,000 ideas submitted to date.
- Your Freedom:
For the UK Cabinet Office, allowing citizens to suggest laws to be reformed or removed.
- Quadrennial Revue:
Working with staff at the US Department of Homeland Security to shape its direction over next four years.
Romano Ricci, great grandson of couturier Nina Ricci, launched his sixth fragrance under the brand Juliette Has a Gun in August.
What is your advantage as a smaller brand?
Control, in terms of markets and points of sale – I want to assure a certain level of service. Also, I have always wanted a high quality product at an accessible price. I believe this has played a role in Juliette having a good year in 2009.
Has your family’s brand been beneficial?
I’ve always felt independent of the brand – we have very different visions of femininity. But the name has given me some credibility.
What trends are coming up?
I think the recession will result in more discreet fragrances – simple, pure scents that are less opulent than in the past.
Back to bikes
China — TRANSPORT
In China, bicycles went the way of the Mao cap in the 1990s when the car became king, but two-wheel commuting is back in fashion among a new generation nostalgic for simpler times. One of China’s oldest manufacturers, Forever Bicycles, has tapped into this rebirth by updating its classic models, once known as “old tanks” (a reference to their less than sleek design), to appeal to style-conscious urbanites. The firm, founded in Shanghai in 1940, now produces 1.3 million bikes a year and its latest, the Forever C, combines classic features such as leather with flamboyant design twists, think chunky white tyres with hot-pink rims. The cycle revolution has started.
New Zealand — AIRCRAFT
New Zealand-based company Altitude (once part of Air New Zealand’s engineering division, but now a distinct commercial subsidiary) has been specialising in luxury aircraft interiors refitting since 2008. With just 75 staff working on one plane at a time, Altitude’s first interior for the Boeing Business Jet will launch in 2013, costing around US$27m (€20m).
Spain — LANGUAGE
Spanish as a language for business:
7.5 per cent of the global population, it is estimated, will speak Spanish by 2030.
14 million people currently study Spanish as a second language.
2050 is set to be the year when the US will become the leading Spanish-speaking country in the world, with one in three of its residents being of Hispanic origin.
650 per cent increase in Spanish used on the internet between 2000 and 2009, making it the third most used language on the net after English and Mandarin.
150 per cent increase in people learning Spanish has been registered in Japan in recent years, showing that the East is serious about the language.
This is mirrored by an 80 per cent increase in Eastern Europe.
One of Ireland’s most famous merchant families is facing economic hardship as a result of a faulty investment in a collapsed property project. The Barry dynasty – which is behind Barry’s Tea – might be forced to offload shares in the family-owned company for the first time in its history.
REGION TO WATCH
Johannesburg — PROPERTY
In the 1990s many of South Africa’s biggest businesses left the crime-ridden centre of Johannesburg and headed to the suburbs, leaving the central business district deserted. But a new sense of urban pride is emerging in the city’s downtown, where entrepreneur Jonathan Liebmann is wooing suburbanites with a clutch of ambitious arts, culture and hotel developments.
His first – Arts on Main – debuted last year, a sprawling complex of renovated, century-old warehouses filled with galleries, fashion ateliers and restaurants. Now Liebmann has expanded his downtown footprint with his second project – Main Street Life – which opened in July. Set in a restored 1970s office block, it includes additional shops and galleries along with some 200 apartments and an events space.
Its most important allure is the 12 Decades Hotel – Jo’burg’s first downtown “boutique” property with 12 rooms created by interior designers, artists and fashion designers. Both sites are part of Liebmann’s larger Maboneng Precinct project, which aims to return Johannesburg’s East Side to its former commercial and cultural vitality. Next up: The Main Change, a third scheme opening next year in between Arts on Main and Main Street Life and envisioned as an “innovation hub” for small and mid-sized businesses.
Although all of Liebmann’s projects are concentrated downtown, he sees his developments as helping spur economic growth throughout all of the city, if not beyond South Africa itself. “I’m committed to helping Johannesburg become a leading international city as a platform for growth on the entire Africa continent,” he says.
Peru — COFFEE
Peruvian coffee is not as well known as that grown by Latin American rivals Colombia and Brazil but trade is now booming. The number of coffee sacks being exported has more than quadrupled to 380,000 since February. Starbucks and Nestlé have increased investments in Peruvian coffee and the government is committing €8m in loans to help boost productivity.
Hawaii — TOURISM
Closer to Seoul than it is to New York, Hawaii has become the destination of choice for an upwardly mobile South Korean tourist class. After the introduction of a US visa waiver in 2008 and daily flights from Incheon, the number of Korean visitors soared. Some 40,000 Korean tourists arrived in the first half of 2010 alone – an increase of 97 per cent. And as Honolulu hosts next year’s APEC convention, this island chain is set to become an ever more popular pitstop for travellers from the east.
UK — COURIER SERVICES
“Arguably the biggest problem with online shopping is the lack of instant gratification,” says Tom Allason, head of Shutl, a new courier service in London. Its partners include retailer Argos and its average charge is £8 (€9) for a London delivery within 90 minutes of an order being placed online – 24 hours a day. National expansion plans are in the works.
WHERE TO INVEST
Nerds of Nairobi
Kenya — TELECOMS
Three years ago, Kenyan firm Safaricom launched M-Pesa, a banking service for mobile phones that allows you to transfer money as simply as sending a text. That such new-tech creations are happening in East Africa might seem surprising, but this one of the region’s booming sectors.
Kenya is gaining a reputation as a crucible for tech ideas that exploit the potential of even the most basic mobile phone. And much of this innovation is thanks to the iHub, a gathering place in Nairobi for tech-heads that opened earlier this year. The concept is simple: create a welcoming space, both online and off, where entrepreneurs can meet and brainstorm projects that they will eventually take to market.
The tech market is expanding certainly. Safaricom reported a near 40 per cent rise in pre-tax profit last year and its subscriber base grew by 18 per cent to nearly 16 million. “By nature and by circumstance, people are forced to become entrepreneurs,” Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph says.