Why do business in BRIC?
Businesses in Brazil, Russia, India and China (or BRIC as they are commonly referred to) are hot property and targets for acquisition and partnerships, at least according to Reuters. Reports from Price Waterhouse Coopers and the International Monetary Fund in early January suggested that China will grow by 10.5% this year, India by 9.7%, Brazil by 7.5% and Russia by 4.0% – yet the four economies combined account for 7% of UK exports.
Understandably this is not as easy as it sounds. There are numerous hurdles, not least of which is language and culture. While English has to some extent been recognised as the international language of business, the reality is that in emerging territories (as well as most European nations), local still rules the roost and will continue to rule until the foreseeable future.
That creates a problem for anyone looking to trade or at least partner with any company overseas, unless of course you have multi-linguists in your midst. Even then, it’s still a cold call.
Business social networks opens up doors
This is where professional social networks can step in. Contrary to popular belief, a business social network is not just a site where you stick up your CV and unreasonably hope to get headhunted to work for Barcelona FC or a large Caribbean island [although if you put yourself out there you never know]. Professional social networks can be so much more than that. At Viadeo we have laid the foundations for a fully fledged business network, not just a career-focussed network where the job market dictates your membership. The key here is to try and create a platform for local and international communication and recommendation.
It’s not an alien concept. Internally many businesses already operate intranets to share and communicate company-related information and data. Externally, some businesses may use bulletin boards such as Ali Baba or trade portals to try and find new suppliers or overseas partners. Like Yellow Pages these sites can bring businesses together but not without some risk. There is no basis for recommendation and as the old adage says, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know (and who they know).
Build online network of contacts
If anyone wants to create partnerships in emerging territories, then recommendation is perhaps the only way to break through traditionally difficult barriers. Personal recommendation can transcend cultural and language issues by the very nature of it being a recommendation between good contacts. With a cold call, language and cultural issues become more stringent and therefore more unlikely to yield any business benefit.
So there is value in building an online network of contacts. We have over 35 million members globally and much of our growth is in China, India and Brazil where we have local presence and therefore local understanding and knowledge.
We have seen an increasing demand for cross-border contact with these regions but it is still early days. As with offline networking, online networking is about introduction and who you know. It takes time but a good network can reap rewards in the long run by enabling introductions to contacts that offline would be geographically challenging to initiate let alone maintain.
Power of global social network
It’s interesting that despite our global capabilities through social networks, email, telephone, video conferencing and even physical travel, businesses on the whole still operate on a very local basis and this applies to recruitment too.
Social networking is great for recommending people for new roles or for headhunting people into a vacancy but it is also great for expanding a workforce into new territories, finding language specialists and even temporary staff or interns.
As businesses are forced to look further afield to richly developing economies then the role of the global social network will increase. A good local network with links to other local networks will inevitably harbour overlaps and this is a rich vein of potential opportunity.
It’s still early days but as the networks develop it is possible to see a fertile platform developing on which businesses in all countries can develop safe relationships across borders.
And BRIC is just the start. Other regions too, although slightly less astronomic in their growth nevertheless represent new business opportunities. Vietnam, Nigeria, Indonesia and Mexico are just some of the up and coming countries.
As these economies grow so too will their business networks and their willingness for overseas partnerships. Their hunger for talent will rise rapidly and potentially their demand for English speaking staff too.
We are just passed the bottom of the upward curve in professional social networking.
Stage one of course is recognition and understanding. Stage two is developing personal networks and sharing information and advice with like-minded people in groups and forums, while stage three is about opening up sites to partners and third party applications. Viadeo is currently developing stage three with eyes already on stage four and five – to make the professional social network the underlying platform for business communication and information.
Value of social networks
Perhaps the best way to understand the value of social networks is to take them away. Imagine not being able to use them, to look up potential new staff, to develop your own career options or to research new business opportunities and share industry-relevant information and advice. It’s surprising how integral they have already become and we have only just started.