I recently read an article entitled: ‘Frugal Innovation: Lessons from Carlos Ghosn, CEO, Renault-Nissan’ published in the Harvard Business Review. The authors, Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja, discuss the ever changing business environment and the effect emerging markets and their leaders are having on the automotive industry. It led me to think about the effect, if any, this has on Britain and our perceived position as a world leader. When one takes a look around London these days everybody seems to own a Bentley or a G-wiz! There seems no longer to be a middle ground. Are we faced with the reality that we are going back to a divide between rich and poor or are we just longing for something comforting, reliable and not overtly ostentatious? Do we reach for the shelves to grab Saxo Salt and Bisto gravy to remind us of a better day, or is it simply because we can’t afford anything else!
With the Chinese becoming the major investor in Electric cars and the possibility of over ½ million electric taxi cars by 2015, is the future moving away from Britain as a leading nation or am I being naïve and has that ship sailed a long time ago? It sometimes feels as if it has, and that we are solitary as an island in our own enthusiasm for greatness. As emerging markets strive for a majority middle class status, what are we striving for other than peace on earth and goodwill to all men and what good has our majority middle class status brought us other than being squeezed in times of austerity! Will the United Kingdom be, at best, a place for research and development and high quality, over engineered goods? This may not be such a bad thing with the BRICs looking to acquire brand and reputation wherever they can; the acquisition of SAAB by the not so Swedish ‘National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB’ is the most recent and obvious example. They will be looking to Europe and possibly the United Kingdom for direction and to add credence to their omnipotent manufacturing industry. Manufacturing is important, but remaining at the forefront of design and technology also has its place. With production on the increase and Jaguar Land Rover enjoying a fantastic resurgence (under Indian firm Tata Motors) maybe we need to be realistic about our place within manufacturing and the world. Dr Karl Kohler, Head of Tata Steel in Europe, told the BBC on Thursday ‘there is a desperate need for a growth strategy in the UK, to deal with problems in the industry’. What exactly are we doing about this and is our stiff upper lip blinding our vision of common sense? Rather than try to be what we once were, or what we hoped to be, instead why don’t we try to concentrate on what we have the capabilities to become!