Monday, 9 September 2013

The Dragon Awakens

Oh my goodness I am scared of China!

I recently watched Red Obsession at the cinema.

It is a documentary about the desire for sheer luxe that is virally spreading among China’s elite; an exclusive group of billionaires who indulge in adorning themselves with western-style symbols of wealth.

The latest status symbol to be seen with is a multi-million pound bottle of first-growth Chateau Latour or Lafite-Rothschild red. Indeed, whereas Bordeaux chateau owners and western wine drinkers associate wine taste with the terroir, the area in which the grape was grown, aka the LAND, the Chinese are more concerned with the BRAND.

And it doesn’t stop there. Apparently there are now almost 300 recorded billionaires in China, up from 1 a decade ago. And even then, this is said to be the tip of the iceberg, with much ‘hidden wealth’ in China.

They are not only amassing personal collections of (mainly Bordeaux) wines with a value of $60 million per individual, but they are purchasing the actual centuries-old Bordeaux chateaux, or even creating replica chateaux in their homeland complete with extensive vineyards.

Dominic Barton, the Global Head of McKinsey & Co. recently reported that with the rise of Africa and Asia, we are going to have 3 billion new middle class consumers in the world by 2030. He predicts that about 75 new Proctor & Gamble sized corporations will need to be developed just to service their daily needs and wants.

Like Barton, I believe that regardless of the size of the company or clientele that they service, businesses need to retain their social licence to operate. Of course, whilst China’s wealth is growing enormously in some sectors, the net earnings of the vast majority of China’s population remains much, much lower.

The scale of this shocks me. And leads me to believe that we actually need to re-think the entire global consumer system, at both quotidian and luxury level, to meet the needs of all people into the future.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

I am a girl

I am a girl is a documentary really worth watching if you can get to a screening or set up your own.

Made independently in Australia, it follows six girls aged around 16 from very different backgrounds around the world. The documentary is beautifully made and is very powerful as a result.

There are various issues highlighted including family planning, poverty, domestic violence, prostitution, female education, cyber bullying and depression. Of course, these issues are not exclusive to girls, however they are particularly impactful for girls during their transition to adulthood and these girls create a poignant and emotional link to worlds otherwise unbeknown to us.

In addition, various gender and microfinance studies have shown that it is female entrepreneurs in developing countries who can make a positive difference to themselves, their family and communities. If it is the man in the family who earns or is in charge of the money, it is less likely to benefit others in the same way. For this reason it is particularly important that young girls are given the right opportunities to lead them to fulfil their potential.

One thing I picked up was that, up to a point, the level of freedom of choice that you have and the level of control that you have over the situations you are put in is not necessarily correlated with your happiness. Many of the girls had overcome circumstances that many of us would deem as extremely challenging, but had made a choice to come through it and were happy and striving for greater things as a consequence.

I say up to a point because the girl depicted in what is arguably the worst situation probably needs to get out of that situation before she can be truly happy. Kimsey in Cambodia, who sells her body to pay for her mother's medicine and has an abusive partner whom she has a baby with, is sadly just one girl of many thousands in similar situations.

After the first Sydney viewing of I am a girl, I asked the director of the documentary what her hope is for the tangible actions that will come of it. She responded that beyond merely raising awareness which in itself can create change, there is a 'Do Something' tab on the website where you can directly donate to charities related to each issue highlighted, and here it is.