New consumers from emerging markets are redefining all aspects of business, and CEOs of the world's top companies cannot afford to neglect them, concluded business leaders at the World Economic Forum annual meeting on Wednesday.
"In the next 10 years, billions of new customers from the emerging economies will enter the market as a result of their increasing wealth," said Muhtar A. Kent, president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Company.
At a session on new factors driving business decision-making, Kent said that the large number of new consumers from emerging markets represents "a huge shift of power."
"CEOs must understand not only their preferences, but their concerns as well. They must be seen as accessible and present by all stakeholders," he said.
According to participants of the session, world CEOs must also pay more attention to other factors in their future decision-making.
"CEOs must learn to take into account a wider range of issues than they have in the past," said Rakesh Khurana, professor of Harvard Business School.
He said the biggest challenge of big companies "is to regain and sustain their legitimacy in society as a whole."
"Too many corporations have succumbed to hubris, acting as if they are autonomous from the communities in which they operate.... That is the way that they lose society's trust," he argued.
Thomas A. Stewart, editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review, observed that there are shifts in power from both inside and outside the corporation.
He cited the rising of CEOs' salaries, the increasing power of stakeholders, the new links between customers, suppliers and activists as new factors that are influencing corporation performance.
Cristobal Conde, president and chief executive officer of Sungard, the US, reckoned the most important task facing CEOs is to "create, maintain and enhance opportunities for collaboration."
"In a networked economy, the CEO is no longer master of the universe, but must set up processes to use the best information and expertise available," he said.
This process, he concluded, "is fundamentally driven by technology."
(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2007)