Finding ideas in a developing market

I’ve spent many years running innovation projects in developed markets, so I’m all too familiar with the need to look outside for innovation inspiration. It’s great thrusting yourself into a different culture especially an emerging or developing market to pick up new ideas, you see them everywhere especially when you are fresh off the boat and starry eyed.

Here are a few I’ve spotted while I’m over here:

Of course everyone in the developed world is obsessed with veganism and meat free Monday’s, and quite rightly, but if you are eating meat still (and it was only the other year that the American BBQ trend was in full swing) then at the very least you want some transparency. I came across a place near work here that while not as cool looking as a UK fresh fast food outlet, had an interesting idea – pick your own meat for the BBQ. The meat was in a fridge much as you get at the grocers, but you could pick what you wanted and how you wanted it done. I imagine this as an expanded concept for supermarkets that already have a rotisserie, maybe something you could do front of store a kind of ‘farmers market’ meets BBQ grill concept.

There are people on the streets here who trundle around the residential streets with a cart filling re-used plastic bottles with cleaning fluids of your choice, for anyone who hasn’t been here – cleaning is a national pass-time so its a good business to be in. I wonder if there is something in this idea for us – maybe a ‘top up van’ like the fish van which used to stop on the green near my home in Wivenhoe, you bring your empties and get a top up of what you need commodity wise.

We are in a clean eating and cleansing phase in developed markets whether its cleaning your house, pairing down on stuff or eating only fresh food. So I think that the Moroccan ritual of scrubbing could become popular if introduced elsewhere. Why? Well if you scrub everyday as I do now with a glove, to get rid of old skin you genuinely feel cleaner than you ever have, smooth and you look better (especially if you then apply Bio Argan oil before bed). Surely it’s time for personal care brands to own the ultra clean beauty routine.

Rather than filling a bowl up with water here to do the dishes, they have a small pot next to the sink with warm water, washing up liquid and a sponge. So you sponge down your dishes and rinse them briefly in cold water saving washing up liquid and water. My friend Lila told me when she visits her family in Algeria they ask her why she doesn’t take her toothbrush to the shower – they make use of every drop of water!

Why do we drink dry tea? Its so much tastier and better for the health to add in fresh herbs, some of my favourites are thyme and rosemary, in addition or instead of mint and all with a base of healthy green tea. Thyme in particular is said to have many health benefits including being really good for a delicate tummy.

If you’re interested, I’m working with a local luxury travel provider here to offer ‘creative camps’ for companies interested in inspiring teams by taking them out of the everyday and into a different culture.

Millennials boycott brands fuelled by facebook

Facebook is incredibly powerful in Morocco, with no other online market places – its home to most buying and selling public activity. It’s also very easy to rally millennials around a cause, in the last few months price hikes by; Sidi Ali (bottled water), Afriquia (gasoline) and now Centrale Laitière (dairy products), have been dissed with consumers encouraged to vote with their feet and their wallets, supported by Moroccan celebrities.

Young protesters first launched the boycott campaign against Danone’s Centrale milk products on April 20 under the slogans “Say No to High Prices,” and “Let it Spoil.” and the boycott is still ongoing. It has come to embody unified Moroccan citizenship speaking out against rising commodity prices.

Centrale Danone Purchasing Director Adil Benkirane has apologized to consumers for characterizing participants in the online boycott as betraying the country and its products. Adil Benkirane shared a video on Facebook, expressing his regret when Danone claimed his view was not a company one: “I have read the reactions about my statement, and I know I made a mistake,” he said. Benkirane expressed his remorse for hurting the Moroccan citizens: “It was not my intention. What I meant was that the farmers needed all of us and our support,”.

It shows how sensitive price is here in a poor country where every dirham counts, and the power of the public vote in taking down what is perceived as bad corporate behaviour. The after effects for Danone will be severe here – although the brand has lowered prices again, switching will already have happened, plus consumers are rumour-mongering about all of Danone’s dairy products – ‘don’t eat that yogurt’ I heard someone say the other day, ‘they use pig in the processing’, no quicker way to put a muslim off a product than fake news which makes the product something that can’t be consumed.

So how should brands handle this kind of risk – be open and transparent, engage the consumer in the reasons why the change has come about, or give them a choice for instance raise the price or change the pack/size and packaging to keep the price the same. Gone are the days of top down manufacturing decisions, structures are flat now and that includes talking with the people, your shareholders who buy your product and pay your wages.

The Future of Work?

Work is a funny thing – housework, homework, office work, working from home and now working remotely (meaning really you could be anywhere).

At an ‘Internations’ event here in Marrakech the other day I met some expats who had joined a programme paying $2K a month for a year to travel to a different place in the world every month while they worked remotely. ‘It’s the future of work‘ said Sangeeta, an Australian Strategist from the Banking sector who signed up to the programme to take a ‘year out’ from her home and her marriage.

I guess in many ways it is the future for professionals and much more progressed in the US, UK etc as a modus operandi. The release of a workforce from a ‘place’ creates cost savings and enables a kind of freedom in work and life we’ve not experienced before – particularly appealing to those with travel in their DNA, or busy parents who need to juggle the demands of work with raising a family.

However, like many societal innovations in our modern world there is a gaping chasm between developed and developing markets which is still quite marked. And its hard to live in an economy like this knowing that I make more in a couple of weeks tapping away at a keyboard and drinking coffee, than the locals would in 6 months – it feels fake, and I feel guilty. It’s also very hard to explain what you do, and locals tend to see it as not real work, therefore less worthwhile.

However while some here feel ‘enslaved’ by the need to work in quite physically demanding jobs, there is also a refreshing attitude to work as part of life but not life itself. Work is cleaning the house, cleaning yourself several times a day, cooking and making a living – it’s an honourable and accepted part of life ‘work is good‘ defines you as a good person for those who choose that path.

So don’t feel like you need to barter too hard in the Souks, or bulk at giving a few Dirham to a guy whose photo you want to take because it’s kind of picturesque for a Westerner to photograph poverty (they hate that by the way) – he may have waited all day to sell something to feed his family, his world is defined by gritty toil for not much reward.

We are the lucky internationals maybe we are are tied to our laptops with burgeoning back and neck problems, but we have a freedom few over here could even dream of – no wonder they see Europe and the US as a promised land.

Running Amok in the Mosque

Having a dog in Morocco has quite a few challenges, the biggest of which is the religious belief about dogs; that they are impure – or at least their Saliva is.

This apparently comes from a passage in the Koran that describes a situation where the angel Gabriel interrupts a meeting with the Prophet Muhammad because a dog has wandered into the prophet’s home.

“We angels do not enter a home in which there is a dog or a picture,” Gabriel tells the prophet.

One of the hadiths (teachings, deeds and sayings of the prophet Muhammad) used by Muslims to explain their antipathy towards dogs also reads: “If a dog licks the vessel of any one of you, let him throw away whatever was in it and wash it seven times.” – probably a very sensible thing to do at the time in a hot country where dogs ran wild, today this has bred a nation of clean at the point of almost OCD fanatics.

So Ruby although cute is not always welcome, especially before prayers, if she touches the clothing of any of my Muslim friends who want to pray they have to literally shower and scrub all over before praying.

Imagine my embarrassment therefore when taking Ruby around the block before bed and into the gardens of the Mosque, when she breaks free and skips inside at prayer time.  I watched on in horror as my eyes met those of a male usher who was trying to capture the happily panting and skipping dog as she was weaving in and out of the djallabah clad faithful prostrated on their knees. Eventually she came out on her own terms, after wreaking havoc (we hadn’t managed to catch her).

Ruby makes an unwelcome appearance…

Once the panic was over and apologies were made I sat for a moment of calm in the gardens, luckily finding a bench between two ladies from Tangiers. Talking in French I explained the situation and my embarrassment we laughed together ‘Quel Horror!’

Luckily most of the time Ruby is a welcome sight on the streets especially for the kids who mostly want to rustle her away with them, cute she is – but respectful of Islam – maybe not!



I love the concept of neighbourhood, I had it in Wivenhoe – a bounty of great neighbours who generally cared. I’m so lucky to find the same thing over here, having a very smiley friend Fatima across the way, who invited me in for delicious Dutch coffee which she brought with her when she and her husband came back to Morocco after 40 years in Holland.

Its funny but you can always find a way to communicate even when your host speaks only Moroccan arabic and dutch. We spent our time looking at the numerous photos she had of her 3 son’s their partners and grand children. She worked as a house keeper in a hotel and her husband as a bus driver, they have now retired and have a flat in Marrakech and one in Essouira.

Her generosity didn’t stop there when she brought us a plate of Cous-Cous on Friday the holy day over here. Delicious and authentically Moroccan.

I find the family values and warm heartedness of Moroccan people very welcoming. Being a bit worried about my ability to take on Fatima with Moroccan dishes, I bought her some Moroccan Roses from the stall’s behind Carre Eden in Guerliz which had the most hedonistic aroma, and beautiful colours of yellow tinged with orange, for 10 blooms they were only £2 – Blooming marvellous!

Life is sweet – you can find good people all over the world, just bring your smile and an open mind.

A New Chapter

I have always found old people interesting, when you talk to them the years on their face slip away and the magic of the person inside shines through.

One older friend Pat (87) who lived opposite me in Wivenhoe, when talking about life at a time when mine had turned upside down said, ‘it comes in many chapters‘. If that’s true then I think I’m on Chapter 6 ‘realising your dreams, and being happy with who you are‘ and I’m hoping it will be an interesting one.

And so to Morocco where a chance holiday a year ago has turned into a new cultural adventure. I’ve packed my bags, rented my house and I’m now living (and working) in Marrakech with Ruby the Schnoodle in tow.

My aim while I’m here  is to build on my interests in food, drink, culture and design by viewing things through a different lens – a must if you’re a born creative and innovator. So I’ll be blogging about things which catch my eye and the connections I can see between the North African Islamic world and my world in the UK.  I have already noticed a few opportunities!

We live in exciting times where you can work from anywhere armed with, wifi and laptop – so I’m freelancing too.  I’ll be happy to pick up work remotely while I’m here whether its an insight report, innovation brief, or creating a workshop with a difference inspired by a vibrant culture in a beautiful setting. I’m also pursuing my interest in photography so look out for my Instagram feed.

I hope you enjoy this blog – any feedback is welcome!