October 12, 2009

5 Pockets of Growth to Exploit in the Next 5 Years

In 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis I explored how the market looks different to companies and leaders as they emerge from a crisis.  Industries are reshaped, companies razed and (some) reborn, and consumers tastes shift as quickly as ever.  Given the current state of affairs in the US recovery effort, I’ve recently wondered:


“What are 5 pockets of growth to exploit in the next 5 years?”


Though I have a few ideas myself, I opened this up to the Linkedin community to get other opinions.  More than 20 of my friends, former colleagues, and other connections submitted their input.  Five distinct sectors emerged as the most popular choices among the LinkedIn community; I’ve outlined them below, along with the most interesting comments and a bit of my own feedback. 


1)      Mobile Web Technology.  More than one-third of the Linkedin respondents believe that mobile technologies and Web 2.0 innovations will be a significant growth area over the next 5 years.  I could not agree more, particularly after having read this morning’s BusinessWeek article, M-Commerce’s Big Moment.  Reporter Olga Kharif details how companies like Papa John’s are harnessing technologies that enable customers to place orders while mobile.  Innovations will alter how we buy products, as well as which products we choose to buy. 


2)      Green Energy. As Roxanne Reese, James Sawers, Art Hobba, and Christine Peiffer all indicated, innovation, political pressure, and natural necessity have had us trending in the “green” direction for some time.  I agree it is highly likely that the next five years will hold more green business opportunities.  From green fuel sources (solar, wind, water) to biodegradable products, consumers and businesses alike should expect to keep their focus here.


3)      Biotechnology.  Pacino Shi and Mark Ishac envision biotechnology as the healthcare niche that will see a growth explosion in the coming years.  Given the high demand for inexpensive vaccines to combat deadly diseases – a demand that will increase as the world population continues to grow – this appears a likely outcome.


4)      Education.  As Niranjan Agarwal tells me, “Education is the base on which any economy grows. Youth constitutes more than half of world’s population… A focus on this area will not only improve the education sector but will also encourage provision of livelihood opportunities, growth of industrial sector and growth in economy.”  Several others agreed with Niranjan. 


5)      New Media.  This past year has seen titans of traditional media slip into decline.  McClatchy is hanging on to its market capitalization by a thread.  Conde Nast recently put one of its most popular magazines up on the chopping block.  The Tribune Co. is bankrupt.  No longer are people content to be “marketed to” – they want to influence the market themselves and feel their voice is heard.  As Kevin Roberts said in his speech last week at the World Business Forum: “Welcome to the participation economy.”  Our Linkedin community saw consensus on this sector as well.


Other Suggested Growth Sectors:  Telecommunications, Pharmaceuticals, Manufacturing, Smart Grid, Nanotechnology, Education, Data storage, Space technology, Agriculture, China (Infrastructure), Real Estate, Banking, Infrastructure, Leisure and Entertainment, Governance, Automotive, Home Improvement


Thanks to the following Linkedin members for taking the time time to make insightful answers:

Hamish Taylor, Roxanne Reese, Niranjan Agarwal, Divyaroop Bhatnagar, James Sawers, Keith Williams, Opinder Sardana, Eric Shirley, Robert Bragaw, Art Hobba, Pacino Shi, Christine Peiffer, Mark Ishac, Michael Lyubomirskiy, Hamish Taylor, Debra Bankes, John Feddersen, varun bhatnagar, John Colquit