Niche Markets for Service Exports

Article excerpt

Service exports offer opportunities for suppliers in many developing countries. Profiles of three niche sectors.

The service sector of world trade offers a broad range of opportunities for exporters in developing countries. Because such opportunities are not widely known among potential service suppliers, ITC has produced profiles of service categories with good export prospects for these countries. Three of these profiles, dealing with industrial design services, accounting services and back office operations, are presented here. Others will be carried in future issues of the magazine.

Profile: Industrial design services

Global picture:

While the global market for industrial design is conservatively estimated at US$5 billion, in contrast to many other professional services, industrial design is still in a maturation stage in developed countries. While industrial design and associated materials development will play critical roles in whether or not industrial products remain competitive in a globalized economy, the business case for industrial design has not been clearly enough articulated to generate sufficient business consumer demand (and particularly demand of small and medium-size enterprises, or SMEs). Although the discipline is emerging as a recognized profession, professional certification is relatively recent.

Industrial designers contribute to product and company performance in a range of ways, including:

* Enhancing the functionality of a product.

* Increasing the efficiency or ease of manufacture of a product (for example, using lower cost materials or reducing the number of product components).

* Improving the ergonomic features of a product (i.e. offering a product that is safe, reliable, intuitive, and easy to use and maintain).

* Contributing to the aesthetic appeal, style and overall image of the product.

* Differentiating the product from its competitors so that it appears unique.

Increasingly, industrial design is playing an important role in establishing a company's corporate identity and, as such, influencing how a company (and its products) are perceived by the customer, the supplier and the (potential) employee.

Major players:

The major industrial design firms at the present time are in the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Japan, France and Spain.

Major competitive trends:

One of the driving forces in industrial design is the increased importance of USER (Universal, Socially and Environmentally Responsible) design. Universal design is an approach that acknowledges the changes experienced by everyone in our society. It considers children, "senior" citizens, people with different physical characteristics and those with varying abilities. By transcending disability with innovation, universal design is design that works for everyone. Concern about political correctness and increased diversity has focused attention on socially responsible design, whose focus is "inclusivity".

Environmental awareness and the establishment of higher standards for industrial development and consumer behaviour have created unprecedented opportunities for designers. Designers have an influence over the selection, specification, application and disposal of a variety of raw and processed materials. Designing products and services so that the company meets requirements for environmental excellence negates the need to comply with ever changing regulations and public disclosure of new environmental awareness. Effective industrial design can help companies avoid the high costs of having to recall, redesign and remanufacture a product because of a change in regulations. Such costs can best be described through the Rule of Tens: If it costs $10 to create a design criterion, it costs $100 to change the design, $1,000 to change the prototype, $10,000 to make a change in pre-production, $100,000 to make a change in production, and $1,000,000 to recall a product from the field. …