The world’s fastest growing emerging mobile start-up markets

These are promising times for entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Mobile device penetration in emerging markets continues to rise, thanks to falling handset prices and the increased utility of mobile platforms. Application development is expanding and accelerating. From Dhaka to Dakar, coders with a fast Internet connection and good ideas are responding to market pain points and driving innovation with new mobile apps. Start-ups located in advanced economies, in mobile hubs backed by Silicon Valley or London corporate finance, are beginning to target emerging users. Here are three markets with strong mobile prospects.


Demographic factors and a strong demand for technology products have made Turkey a mobile-concentrated market with the second-fastest growth in m-commerce retail value globally in 2015. While home to one of the largest and most youthful populations in Europe, Turkey is also one of the least developed in digital terms, meaning mobile connectivity is often the only way of accessing the web outside of major urban centres. Meanwhile, smartphone penetration is rising rapidly and is expected to replace almost all feature phones over the next few years. Consumer engagement with mobile services is extremely high, and a February 2015 report by payment operators PayPal and Ipsos placed Turkey as the third most advanced market globally for mobile shopping, with 19.0% of online shoppers directing transactions through smartphones.

A potential challenge to the market could be the country’s trigger-happy censorship policies. With social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook gradually embracing social commerce tools, Turkey’s frequent bans (most recently at the start of 2015) on social media and other digital outlets could block off this emerging m-commerce segment.


Poland is another promising market in Europe. Historically low Internet banking penetration drove consumers to use mobile phones as payment tools, either via SMS or by charging phone credit. This friendliness with mobile transactions is allowing for the rapid adoption of m-commerce processes, especially via retailer’s and m-wallet apps. Local consumers have displayed particular interest in utilising their mobiles when purchasing goods close to their residence or work space. After purchase, they simply visit the local store to pick up the item in question. Both banks and retailers are now focusing on rolling out a greater variety of mobile services to take advantage of the growing number of smartphone users.

One of the major obstacles to the growth of the market is the slow adoption of mobile-optimised processes by the businesses themselves. Many remain hesitant investing in apps and partnering with m-commerce operators, especially if their client base is made up of older consumers (aged above 30 years old), which tend to be more aloof towards mobile operations.


Vietnam’s predominant cash economy is gradually turning to the ease and security offered by m-commerce transactions, in particular money transfer services. The booming smartphone market is the primary driver behind this trend. The primary challenge has been marketing the services to the country’s mobile users, as awareness can still be low outside of major urban zones. mService, which operates the country’s largest pre-paid talktime distribution network, is developing a fully-fledged m-commerce ecosystem in cooperation with seven mobile operators that is expected to drive rapid uptake of m-wallet services. Vietnam’s huge online gaming community offers a major market for mobile-based money-transfer services, especially since many players are youths without access to conventional banking tools.



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