Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Quick test: which country is going to be even hotter in 2005? If you answered China, you won. If you answered India, you won, too! Thus, expect all things Chinese and Indian, from funky design to haute fashion and cuisine, to sell like iPods this year. Inspiring example? Indiabike.nl, who sell cool bikes from India to the cycle-crazy Dutch. The various models, with names like Sahib, Sahina Lady and Sahib Super Shakti, combine Indian/British style with functionality and sturdiness, and retail for EUR 300+ (USD 407/ GBP 218). After highlighting cool pink Star-Girl bikes from Mumbai in a previous edition, this is yet another biking venture from India ready to be picked up by entrepreneurs who want to sell trendy stuff from the hottest capitals of our Eastward shifting MASS CLASS world, from Mumbai to Shanghai to Tokyo! Indiabike.nl, in the meantime, is adding other funky gear to its collection, from traditional, stackable lunchboxes to handmade shopping bags!

Opportunities

Indian bikes, Chinese fashion, Brazilian music, Japanese cell phone jewelry: the world has become a giant smorgasbord of high quality, fun products and services that (for now) stand out amidst the current sea of sameness. Which means consumers, always on the look out for something exclusive or limited, will snap these goodies up as fast as you can provide them. May we begin by advising our Danish readers to set up Indianbike.dk tomorrow? The more ‘stuff’ consumers own, the more they’re prone to lose. Lose as in dislocate that is. Think mobile phones, keys, cameras, PDAs, laptops, binoculars, backpacks, passports, briefcases, wallets and purses, golf clubs, power tools, textbooks… you get the picture. But every consumer’s loss can be an entrepreneur’s gain, as proven by an interesting emerging business sector: tech-savvy lost and found services. These services let consumers label their valuables with clearly marked tags informing the finder how to return the item to the owner, and how to get rewarded for his or her help. By phone, via email or any other means available. A good example is US-based StuffBak, who has been in this space for a few years now: finders of StuffBak-labeled items can call a toll-free number or consult the StuffBak website. Finders can then drop off the item at the nearest UPS Store (formerly Mail Boxes, Etc.) or arrange for Airborne Express to pick it up directly. Owners of lost items are immediately notified when their item has been reported found. StuffBak offers all finders a basic reward of a USD 20 gift of STUFFBAK ID labels. Customers may also choose to offer a cash reward, this could be a Blanket Cash Reward, which gets paid when ANY of their labeled items are returned or a Per Item Custom Reward, which entails a specific cash reward for any individual item after customers have reported that item lost. StuffBak customers are only charged: • When they purchase labels. Label packs range from US$9.95 to US$39.95 • If lost property is returned. Customers pay a USD 14.95 transaction fee plus shipping charges • If they request payment of an extra cash reward to the finder Stuffbak claims that to date, 90% of items reported lost have been returned to owners. Stuffbak is not the only company operating in this fast growing field: for more info and inspiration, check out Canadian TrackitBack and Australian Postbak. (more…) After decades of living and breathing the consumption society, consumers are experienced and opinionated to a degree that should scare the *&^% out of every business professional. We actually dubbed this mass-phenomenon “GENERATION R”: R for Revenge, if you, as a company, choose not to listen to your customers. GENERATION R has the means to fight back, from websites like planetfeedback.com to their own blogs and viral videos, potentially reaching global audiences in a heartbeat. In fact, expect the GENERATION R eco-system to evolve rapidly, with clever entrepreneurs becoming information brokers between hapless organizations and right-here, right-now customers. Case in point: South African 34007, an ‘instant, direct, reward-based and anonymous channel of communication enabling every single consumer to interact with suppliers, government and civil society, whenever they want and where ever they want’. As it rhetorically asks consumers on its website: “How often are we satisfied with what we pay for? Is the service up to scratch? Is the product what the suppliers promised it would be? Does the attitude of the staff make you want to scream? Is the advertising offensive or misleading? Do people really care what you think? When you have gripe, who can you call?” (more…) It’s been almost two years since we alerted you to a brewing tea revolution! And sure enough, many ‘Teabucks’ chains have expanded around the world, creating Starbucks-like lifestyle services with tea replacing coffee as the beverage of choice, from traditional teas to increasingly popular bubble/boba teas (tea served with chewy tapioca pearls, a craze that started in Taiwan in the early ’80s). At the same time, new tea-infused beverages and premium teas for home use mean big bucks for brands like Tazo (owned by Starbucks), the Republic of Tea, Bigelow, Premier Tea, Mighty Leaf Tea (whose tea comes in silk sewn pouches!), Honest Tea and Adagio. Luckily for you, this ‘trend’ has not gone totally global yet, so many tasty opportunities remain. Here are some random though tealicious updates to keep you in the know and get you going:

Bubble tea chains

In the US, major chains offering pearl milk tea include Tapioca Express and Cha for Tea; the latter being a subsidiary of Ten Ren Tea Company, a Taiwanese tea grower and distributor which has more than 400 Ten Ren tea stores throughout Taiwan, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Canada and the US. The Cha for Tea outlets offer various kinds of tea-based drinks: traditional tea (Oolong, Jasmine, etc.), or cold and hot milk tea, fruit tea, frappe ice, health tea, plum tea and even oil tea. (more…) Our sister-publication trendwatching.com coined MASTERS OF THE YOUNIVERSE, an extreme-individuality trend that goes a long way in explaining the ever greater focus on targeted services that are all about a certain preference, demographic or personal lifestyle. The world of fitness until recently seemed to ignore this trend by offering broad services to literally everyone, but the nichefication of gyms is now in full swing, with the US leading the pack: witness the success of Curves, the chain of gyms geared to women that boasts 4 million members and 8,000 locations worldwide. Curves Clubs can be found in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, The Caribbean, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. And yes, if gyms for women-only can build a multi-million business in only a few years, so can gyms aimed exclusively at men. Think fitness programs for the average guy (up to 80% of the US male population doesn’t work out on a regular basis, and that number won’t be much different for Europe or Asia-Pacific). No wonder then that Cuts Fitness for Men, is now making waves, competing in popularity with the other new kid on the block, The Blitz. Cuts offers a 30-minute cardiovascular and strength training workout exclusively for men. The workout promotes weight loss, enhances lean muscle tissue and reduces body fat through the use of specialized hydraulic equipment. Participants spend just 30 minutes per workout session, making their way through a 16-station resistance circuit. Cuts members pay USD 39 (EUR 31 / GBP21) per month, based on annual membership. The formula has proven so popular that Cuts has seen the number of franchises grow from scratch to about 160 in only 1.5 year’s time, with another 500(!) in the pipeline for this year. The concept is now moving abroad with locations in Central America and Ireland. The latter should see 35 Cuts Fitness For Men franchise locations over the next two years. The Blitz was founded in January 2002: the company currently has franchises in 19 states in the USA, 4 states in Canada and other international franchises in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Bahrein, and Taiwan. The setup is similar to that of Cuts. And to go full circle, a Cuts Fitness for Women has just been announced, headquartered in South Beach, Florida. Expect this blitz for curves and cuts to continue for quite a while. (more…) Mood swings. Anxieties. Anger. Fatigue. No wonder aromatherapy has become such a massive success. However, until now, it was definitely something that was enjoyed (or should we say applied) in the confinements of consumers’ homes or in expensive spas. New Zealand ‘s AromaPod has come up with a mobile solution: twist and sniff inhalers in four functional ‘flavors’: Awake, Calm, Energize, and Focus. AromaPod was developed by senLab, which itself is part of the Healthcare Manufacturing Group. Dubbed ‘mood-management devices’, the AromaPods are being distributed via large New Zealand retailers, supermarkets and BP gas stations. They sell for NZD 9.95 (USD 6.95 / EUR 5.25) per pod, and last for about a month if used regularly. And no, they don’t contain calories, caffeine, alcohol or other fun stimulants.

Opportunities

This being something we’ve not spotted outside New Zealand yet, AromaPods make us want to jump on a plane to down under and see if we can secure the rights for Europe. Or for South America. Or for North America. But we’re too busy, so we’ll have to leave that to you. Japanese Manboo is where the Gaming & Manga Generation meets TRENDWATCHING.COM’s being space trend: a sleek, branded chain of ‘cafes’ that offer a luxurious living room (well, multiple mini living rooms in the form of private, carpeted cubicles with separate personal computer and television monitors) setting for playing games, watching DVDs, reading comics and surfing the web. Reclining chairs and oceans of free coffee, teas and soft drinks included, 24/7. There’s even a nail salon and shower facilities. All this for only a few bucks an hour. Manboo currently has 45 cafes; four of them within blocks of Tokyo’s Ikebukuro train station alone!

Opportunities

With gaming, surfing and IM-ing taking up the majority of eyeball-time of virtually every 16-year-old kid from Sao Paulo to Seoul (forget TV!), who’s going to set up the new Starbucks for the PS2/Xbox 360 generation outside Japan? Avid readers of our trendwatching.com newsletter may recognize this one: YOTEL, a NO FRILLS CHIC hotel to be opened in London soon, brought to you by the people behind YO! Sushi and other YO! concepts. YOTEL will be a chain of funky NO-FRILLS CHIC hotels offering small but highly designed rooms (resembling sleeping pods now found in some first class airline cabins), featuring Sony flat screen TVs with surround sound speaker systems, WiFi access, a choice of hundreds of downloadable movies and CDs, double rotating beds, aircraft cabin mood lighting, and rain showers. Check in/out will be automated. However, the most interesting element of YOTEL is its windows, which are internal rather than external – they look into the corridors, which are in turn naturally lit through reflective mechanisms and channeling of light. This allows YOTEL to boldly go where other hotels simply can’t – tricky central city locations, airports, even underground. Reduced property costs and savings can then be passed on to consumers, resulting in a NO-FRILLS CHIC experience at NO-FRILLS CHIC prices: about GBP 70 (USD 135 / EUR 105) per night.

Opportunities

Affordable yet stylish hotels are the missing link in a world thriving on PLANNED SPONTANEITY: with low fare airlines and no frills rental car companies now spanning the globe, the only thing missing is new-style accommodation. YOTEL is already thinking big: starting in London this year, the company is inviting property owners in cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bucharest, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Singapore, Madrid, Paris, Rome and Sydney to give them a heads-up about suitable buildings. One to watch closely, and not just if you’re in hospitality!