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BW Businessworld

Investing In Courage

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How courageous is it to invest in a new market? At the St Gallen Symposium this year, this question is influencing many debates.

Whether it is about recovery of Europe or about transparency in financial markets, these issues are being interpreted for a rebalanced world.

Entrepreneurs from Asia are increasingly irritated by terms like emerging markets. These markets should be re-positioned as high growth markets.

The world will then be divided between high growth and low growth markets. So countries in Africa, Asia would be "high growth", while those in Europe and other western economies should be "low growth".

It appears that business leaders in the west are still coming to terms with this shift. I was bemused to notice that a discussion on investing in "new territories" was rapidly interpreted as investing in developing economies.

Business leaders from the west still believe in a uni-directional flow of capital. Even though data suggests that trade and investment between developing economies is growing faster than ever. The smart corporations realise it, but many still don't.

An increasing number of corporations from Asia are going global and expanding. They need more courage than existing MNCs.

Investing in some EU countries is riskier than investing in some emerging economies. For many companies, moving to developing economies is more a leap of desperation than a leap of courage.

A company that expands its business to new markets is not just taking a leap of courage, it is doing so to ensure its survival.

The theme at St Gallen this year is rewarding courage. This is a great concept that resonates as much in business as in political leadership.

Political leadership, too, has to be courageous in developed economies. As new countries become economically stronger, political and business leadership will have to give them space.

Western economies will have to allow as much access and support to companies from Asia and South America as they expect in for their firms in those markets.

While political leaders in EU are uniting to revive the region, they must also make it more open. Future growth will be in high growth economies in regions like Asia and Africa. If western companies want to grow in the new regions, they will have to allow eastern companies in their own backyard.

True courage will reflect in accepting and embracing the balance in global economic power.

(Pranjal Sharma is a senior business writer. He can be contacted at [email protected])