You work for a consumer products company that is proud of its global footprint. The company, for instance, has established a strong presence in São Paulo. What about Curitiba, the largest city in southern Brazil? Your company has Mumbai and Shanghai covered. How about Ahmedabad, a dynamic metropolis of 4.5 million in India's Gujarat state? Or Wenling, a rapidly growing Chinese city of more than half a million in Zhejiang province?
If the answer is "not yet but someday," your company isn't nearly as global as it thinks it is—or probably needs to be. In fact, it is likely missing out on the greatest growth opportunity in the global economy. Just as the most important strategic battles for the world’s rising consumer class are being waged in hundreds of burgeoning emerging market cities that rarely command world headlines, most multinationals aren’t even in the fight. That is because they still equate going global with being in certain countries and megacities with populations of 10 million or more.
The next stage of global growth is playing out in 717 cities with populations that exceed 500,000. These cities are spread across the developing world. They hold one-third of the world’s population and are growing explosively, according to a Boston Consulting Group analysis. They boast a middle class that will swell by 70 percent in five years, accounting for 30 percent of global private consumption, and they will require up to $40 trillion worth of infrastructure by 2030.
The fastest growth and biggest untapped markets are in cities with populations of 5 million or less, where 83 percent of urban dwellers reside. There will be an additional 371 such cities by 2030. They will add 1.3 billion inhabitants—compared with an increase of just 100 million city dwellers in developed nations.