From The Jakarta Post

The insatiable hunger for gizmos continues unabated

Debnath Guharoy, Consultant

Most people everywhere want a better quality of life. In affluent countries, basic products and services are taken for granted by all -- rich and poor alike. In developing countries, the big disparities in income create differences not only in people's expectations, but also their understanding of what is basic and what is indeed a luxury.

Perhaps the most graphic representation of those differences is seen in the way life is led in Indonesia's two neighbors, Singapore and Australia. Computers, for example, are a part of just about everybody's everyday life in those two countries across the waters, while Intel remains unknown to millions in rural Indonesia.

Most people who want a cellular connection in those two countries already have one. In Indonesia, millions of new subscribers will continue to join the fold making it a growth market for decades to come.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of that growth will come from rural Indonesia. Similarly, the desire for a computer at home will continue to run in the millions for many more years till those aspirations are met in Indonesia also.

Only 7 million Indonesian people have a computer in their homes today. Almost another five million would like to buy one in the next 12 months. The lack of disposable income is the only constraint on growth in the realm of technology, not interest or desire.

People want to learn what they don't know, and levels of knowledge vary. Familiarity breeds contempt, as that old saying goes. One in two Indonesians would "go out of my way to learn everything I can about new technology". Only one in three people in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and UK agree.

These observations are based on a 5-nation survey, released by Roy Morgan Research. In Indonesia, it is the country's largest syndicated survey, now expanding to include over 27,000 respondents annually, projected to reflect 90 percent of the population over the age of 14.

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But regardless of their affluence, education, aspirations or desire, the people in all of these five countries surveyed "find technology is changing so fast it's difficult to keep up with it." In no other industry is change more of a constant reality.

From a marketing perspective, what will remain critical is the need to understand needs and wants and then communicate product benefits clearly. The fact that 3G technology continues to struggle in most telecommunications markets around the world is perhaps a case of both understanding and communications failing to do the job adequately.

Only one in three Indonesians are "worried about invasion of my privacy through new technology". That's because most of them have little everyday experience of the Internet, of call centers or unwanted text messages.

Not surprisingly, two out of three people in the four affluent countries measured worry about the invasive nature of these new technologies.

Attitudes change with experience. As more and more Indonesians join the ever-changing world of new technologies, so will their perceptions and opinions.

For now, marketers in Indonesia can confidently look at the potential that millions of new entrants will continue to generate for years to come. Meeting those needs with offerings that consumers actually want, and at prices they can afford, will be the obvious keys to success.

The writer can be reached at Debnath.Guharoy@roymorgan.com
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