FUTURE THINKING Opportunity Knocks – Hot business opportunities for the fleet of mind

Tightening environmental constraints, sweeping demographic changes, resource shortages, infrastructural demands, technological advances and changing world order as China and India join the first world: major global shifts are opening up possibilities for new business.
In themselves, these changes will come as no surprise to organisations. What is new is the speed at which these global shifts are taking place. In this article, futurists, strategists and business thinkers pool their ideas to identify 11 areas that offer scope for companies with vision and foresight.

1: Age defiance
Ask futurist Ian Ivey about hot and emerging business opportunities and he responds “anything to do with age-defiance”. The managing partner of Strive reckons aging baby boomers are stubborn lot. They don’t want to die and they’re hell bent on staying as young as possible for as long as they can. Add to that, this generation’s relative wealth: this new breed of oldies likes to luxuriate in spas, health-related resorts and retreats. They salivate over special foods. They opt for organic foods, natural products and health supplements. Ivey says the boomers are looking for holidays with twist – something that has rejuvenation component – and they thirst after new experiences. Opportunities galore.

2: Stay at home baby boomers
Like it or not, boomers can’t take part in triathlons forever. Ivey says businesses need to come up with technology that helps the aging population both to cope and to stay at home.
“Maybe some people will want to go into retirement villages but there will be many boomers who are too stubborn… It’s this young at heart thing.”
Both Ivey and Robin Gunston, chairman of Futures Thinking Aotearoa, reckon the future lies with technological developments such as automated self-diagnosis at home. Here, devices measure person’s physical state (take blood pressure and cholesterol levels) and send the results through to the physician.
Gunston describes this as the “home-hospital” and points to opportunities for business with medical and other devices that allow people to stay in their home. He mentions specialised beds that tilt in one direction to help people in and out of bed, tools to open jars, all-in-one cooking devices.
And someone will have to care for the increasingly infirm generation.
Ivey notes the average age of nurses today is more than 47 years and ongoing difficulties in getting young people to move into the health profession.
For those intent on staying at home, whole raft of new technology is emerging globally.
Just one among many developments is the robotic technology for vacuuming carpets. American futurist Robert Herman says that since Roomba was first introduced, 1.3 million units have been manufactured by iRobot in the United States. His newsletter says iRobot engineers have now designed new version to clean floors that need wet wash.

3: Global baby boomers
When it comes to aging, New Zealand’s population isn’t alone. David Skilling, chief executive of policy think tank The New Zealand Institute, believes businesses must look at the aging population in global context.
Nowhere is the problem more acute than in Japan and some European countries which suffer the dual stings of low fertility rates and longer life spans.
Skilling cites an OECD report that estimates in the next 25 years the workforce in developed countries will shrink by 65 million workers.
While New Zealand firms have been able to find the workers they want over much of the past decade, this is now becoming increasingly difficult. New Zealand has the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD and the labour market is tight.
“The challenge going forward,” says Skilling, “is that tight labour markets may be permanent as New Zealand struggles to attract and retain people when competing with other developed countries who can offer higher wages. This may demand new ways of doing business such as greater business investment.”
The global shortage, however, also opens up opportunities in retirement care and health tourism for the aging global population.
Gunston also sees an opportunity within the provision of goods and services for the 60-plus age group and mentions “pseudo-educational” services. Perhaps educational tourism – allowing older people to learn while they travel.

4: Buying out boomers’ businesses
Aging baby boomer business owners pose another opportunity. Strategist Rick Boven believes succession issues provide burgeoning business opportunity.
Many of these owners have grown their business to the point where it provides good income for them or, as Boven says, they have the BMW and the bach and are unwilling to grow their businesses further.
Boven says many industries are fragmented with large numbers of smaller players and few companies that can gain economies of scale. He believes there will be opportunities for “roll ups” – buying number of smaller players and rolling them together to create organisations of significant scale.
As these business owners age they will be looking to sell – creating opportunities for people with managerial skills to acquire similar businesses and create economies of scale.

5: Environmental constrictions
Boven and others pinpoint environmental constraints as another major driver of future business opportunities. It is an area that many people have yet to grasp. But Boven expects the constraints to create whole set of business opportunities.
These environmental issues centre on energy and water.
Ivey sees it in terms of infrastructure, noting that today’s infrastructure model will not be the same in the future. Instead he is picking distributed systems or micro-generation for power, gas and water in different parts of city. This could replace existing large central systems.
He says lot of work is being done on these micro-generation systems around the world.
Other energy changes will see more solar energy and more fuel cell technology, which Ivey says is well on the way.
In Gunston’s view, energy is one of the biggest drivers for Futures Thinking Aotearoa.
“That alone is going to drive some innovative work in wide range of things where energy is key input into manufacturing or way of life.”
He also points to micro generation, particularly at the home level.
Gunston says companies need to step back and look at the energy input into all production and how they can redesign product to be simpler and less engineered so it takes less energy to produce.
Energy constraints, the rising price of oil and no sign of slowing in China’s growth, mean too that biofuels and other technologies are gaining renewed interest globally.
Ivey says several technologies in the energy sector have lain dormant until the price equation has started to stack up.
And alternative power seems to have become mainstream. In July, Queen Elizabeth 11 drew praise from environmental campaigners with an announcement that Windsor Castle is to be partially run by hydroelectric power, according to Reuters. Environmental groups saw the move as highlighting the “massive potential for small scale micro-generation systems within the UK”.
Closer to home, Powerco and Ceramic Fuel Cells have appointed Industrial Research to conduct field trials of Australasia’s first fuel cell powered domestic generator.
A press release notes that Industrial Research will provide local support for the installation and operation of CFCL’s fuel cell powered micro-CHP (small combined heat and power) units in New Zealand.
Water, as resource, will also open up business opportunities.
Ivey says water is already becoming important. Sydney has two percent less water than it needs. He believes developments will be in the recycling, reuse and reclaiming of water.

6: The rise of China and India
For David Skilling, the emergence of China and India is major driver of change. This, he says, will have profound implications for New Zealand.
The upside is the growth pot

Visited 4 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window