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Meeting the demand of emerging market economies

Professor Amir Sharif says global supply chains need to be prepared to meet a growing demand for tailored products and services in emerging market economies.

Prof Sharif of Brunel Business School was interviewed for a recent report published by The Economist looking at the challenges and opportunities posed by mass customisation in emerging market supply chains.

The report, which was published by the Economist Intelligence Unit as part of its Growth Crossings report series commissioned by Standard Chartered Bank, focusses on the rapidly evolving opportunities open to companies to customise and personalise products and services.

“Mass customisation and mass personalisation is an exciting and novel approach to meeting the dynamic demands of the contemporary consumer,” said Professor Sharif. “As part of research we are doing in this area - the so called fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 - it is clear that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the way that manufacturing and service organisations are seeking to provide tailored products and services to specific groups of individuals, or the individual themselves - at scale.”

The report identifies the requirements and potential for such customisation across emerging market economies and how global supply chains need to be prepared to meet this growing demand.

Explaining the significance of the topic, Professor Sharif added: “The build-to-order phenomenon has been with us for many years and this is now a well-established production strategy. But the intersection of technology along with social and cultural customer expectations to customise and receive tailored goods and services, especially in the MENA, Gulf, South Asia and Asia Pacific regions, means that firms and their supply chains need to be responsive to consumer needs.

"This may be easier in cultures where there is already a heavy personalisation ethos – such as in South Asia.”

However, Professor Sharif also notes that companies must continue to invest in their overall supply chain, technology and demand capture relationships in the first instance. He subsequently notes that supply chains in emerging economies are still heavily reliant upon the underlying transport infrastructure, which may hamper the success of delivering goods and services in the "last mile".

The report draws upon a wide and deep expertise from 525 business leaders across 14 countries globally (of which eight are from emerging markets), with over half of the respondents holding C-level / senior management positions of authority. In addition, Professor Sharif was part of a panel of seven senior executives and experts interviewed.

The report is available here.