GE focuses on the basics

31 January 2012

HONG KONG: General Electric, the conglomerate, is focusing on providing the "basics" in categories like healthcare and energy to fuel its progress in emerging markets.

Speaking to USA Today, John Rice, president, global growth and operations at GE, reported it was aiming to tackle major problems in developing nations, yielding both social and revenue benefits.

"If you look at today's world, there's 1.5bn to 2bn people that lack very basic things: access to clean water; affordable, reliable power; basic healthcare; and any form of transportation, be it rail or air. And that situation is going to have to change," he said.

The organisation believes that China presents the biggest single opportunity at the moment, a fact proved by the "terrific results" its healthcare, energy and aviation units have yielded in the country.

Currently, GE runs around 30 joint ventures in the Asian market, despite concerns among many observers regarding the need to share information with local partners.

"The reason is because we understand that operating successfully in China in some cases requires a different model," said Rice. "There are some people who say that in doing, we are selling out. We say, 'Absolutely not.'"

"People want to talk about companies' risk of doing business in China … about intellectual property protection, this concept called indigenous innovation. And the question they don't ask that they should is, 'What's the risk of not doing business in China?'"

GE has also moved several leading members of its management team, including Rice, from the US to Hong Kong, as it seeks to ensure that growth is sustainable for the long term.

"If you pick a market to expand into and you don't put big enough people in the jobs, then you're bound by the law of small numbers," said Rice. "We've been slow to do that up until now. That is one of the things we're trying to change."

"Doing business is very hard in some of these emerging markets, and you need big people to … find the growth."

More specifically, the organisation is attempting to pursue policies like delivering low-cost, innovative products – such as a portable electrocardiogram in India available for just $1,000 – which can be rolled out in developed and developing countries.

"This opportunity is about helping us become the very best global company that we can be. The art and science of that is having these big, broad, global businesses ... and making them local. It's about finding that balance," said Rice.

Data sourced from USA Today; additional content by Warc staff