You could call Mauro Guillén a futurist. The Cambridge University professor spends a lot of time mulling global market dynamics and poring over data — all with the goal of gleaning the dominant forces that are likely to recast the global landscape in coming years.
Guillén, dean of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, detailed his thoughts in his book 2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything.
The book burrows into a number of interlocking trends, including the soaring financial clout of women and the burgeoning demographic realignment transforming Asia and Africa. Guillén sees the next industrial revolution taking place in sub-Saharan Africa, due partly to shortages of food supplies and arable land elsewhere on the planet. He points out that an estimated 500 million acres of fertile agricultural land — roughly equivalent to the size of Mexico — have yet to be developed in Africa.
At a recent event in our San Francisco office, Guillén spoke to clients about the tectonic shifts he foresees and how they are influencing financial, economic and commercial trends. He expands on those thoughts in this interview.
About eight years ago, when I was teaching at Wharton, I started to make presentations about where I thought the world was heading. My audience was comprised of my students and then groups of executives. From the beginning, I focused on demographics, economic aspects and technology.
I was motivated by questions and feedback from audiences. I took notes and saw what kind of reactions they had. Probably four or five years into that process, I decided to try to detail some of this and write a book.
The bottom line is that the world as we know it is coming to a figurative end. The status quo is changing. Africa is projected to be the second-biggest region in the world by population, after South Asia, by 2030. With people living longer, the population 60 years old and up will constitute the largest consumer market segment in the world.
China already has the largest middle class in terms of the number of people, some 800 million. That group’s purchasing power is slightly bigger than that of America’s 165 million middle-class people. By 2030, China will have the largest middle-class consumer market, bigger than the U.S. and Europe combined.
Give it 10 to 15 more years and India will have a younger and bigger middle class than China. I’m convinced that India’s eventually going to be the largest consumer market in the world. Emerging markets and their middle classes will be more than half of the world’s total. Women will own more than half of the wealth.
The key is that the largest markets write the rules of global competition. Increasingly, product standards, regulatory guidelines and even branding will gravitate around the new largest middle-class markets.
First, it’s important to make people, employees and customers aware of the massive transformations ahead. Awareness and ownership of change is important because change is the only possible response to change.
We need people and organizations to be prepared for that.
Each of these trends means the global landscape will be utterly different with regard to consumers. Opportunities for investing or for doing business are going to be found in unexpected places.
Given that so many things are changing in the world right now from many different angles, I think the challenge is to connect the dots. Essentially, make sure that you understand how something over here may influence something over there.
We have to realize that some of the long-held assumptions that we make are no longer true — for example, thinking the largest consumer segment will always be the younger generation, or that the American consumer market will always be setting the tone for the rest of the world.
It’s happening because more women are working and there are more women with educational qualifications that enable them to get jobs that are better than their mothers and grandmothers had. They are making money, and they’re saving it. That’s one aspect.
The second aspect is that women live longer than men, on average. In way more than half the countries, between 60% and 80% of the wealth is owned by people above the age of 50. Women live longer than men primarily in rich countries, so mostly Europe and the United States for the last 20 years or so.
For me, the most interesting trend is going to be robotics in health care. We’ve already seen that in the operating room, obviously. We’ve seen it in many areas of health care, but how about post-health care patient care?
Robotics in the home for the elderly who can no longer perform [everyday] tasks has shown promising results in early limited experiments. Elderly patients who have been taken care of through robotics say they prefer it because they feel less embarrassed about their needs.
When so many things are changing, when there’s so much uncertainty, it’s important to introduce changes but always follow a basic golden rule: Never make a decision that is irreversible. Always keep your options open because when uncertainty is all around us, it’s important to be able to course-correct.