The (af)fluent global consumer class is enabling new brands

Over the weekend, I attended a wedding reception in Bangalore and stopped off in Dubai on the way back. Spending time in these large eastern megacities always reminds me there is a growing convergence among the global consumer class. This increasingly urban class desires the same products and services, regardless of whether they come from established or growth markets.

For example:

*I was pleasantly surprised that the gym had an extensive weight room. For a long time, I’ve found that gyms in growth market cities only house aerobic equipment such as treadmills and bikes. Now, though, I’ve encountered more and more free weights. Fitness broadly and strength training specifically is a consumer want no longer confined to the West. I have seen this play out to some extent in our portfolio: ClassPass has expanded rapidly into growth markets, and Allurion now sells its balloons in more than 20 countries. Instagram is Instagram, regardless of whether you are in Bombay or Boston.

*At the wedding, there was an extensive spread of Laderach chocolate, which is my favorite Swiss brand (sadly not available in the US). Hazelnuts are not traditionally consumed in India, but Laderach’s dark chocolate and hazelnut bark was the big hit of the night. The next day, I visited the Laderach store in Dubai, where I discovered that 88 kg of chocolate had gone to Bangalore for the wedding! The Laderach brand will expose an entirely new set of consumers to their trademark slabs of chocolate, before anyone in the US tastes them.

*When I was growing up, it was ‘cool’ for Indians to have a soft drink like Coca-Cola with their meals as a way to emulate the West. Today, wine is normalized among upper middle class Indians, in the same way it is becoming more available to the same strata of society in the US. The average consumer in Bombay does not feel the need to ‘emulate’ as much as he feels that he ‘deserves’ the same amenities as his middle-class counterparts in New York. He is more upwardly mobile than they are, after all.

*The Internet connectivity at all airports has become exceptional and frictionless over the past 1-2 years. I once started a company based on the premise that airports are worlds within the world, representing gateways to the cities in which they’re based. As global cities become more digitally connected, their residents demand seamless wi-fi connectivity. The brands prevalent in these airports are increasingly a mix of both foreign and local brands, not just the former alone.

There is a lot of space for new brands, new products, and new services catering to the (af)fluent global consumer class moving seamlessly between developed and growth markets. After a decade doing extensive business in the world’s capitals, I want to partner with a few of these emerging brands – the ones creating new trends they hope will proliferate across urban centers, which are native to growth markets like Bombay and being exported to other developed cities, which are native to the biggest metropolis the world has seen (the Internet), which are building for a multi-brand, decades-long future rather than betting on the quick flip.

If you are working on something like this, don’t hesitate to reach out!