The Internet and flight have increasingly shrunk the boundaries of countries. While one hundred years ago travelling abroad would have been a major ordeal, today it is much easier. Similarly, the Internet has allowed virtually instantaneous global communication and commerce to become the daily norm. Whereas in the past, expertise was limited to countries or geographic regions—and only the people with ‘trade routes’ to those areas could benefit—, nowadays ideas flow pretty freely across countries around the globe, and I would argue we are better for it.
A quick example:
This is not meant to be an exhaustive, or even thorough, study, but merely some observations from about 10 years of following a specific industry. As anyone who has known me personally can attest, I have had a keen interest in the sporting cutlery market—especially pocket knives—for quite some time. As such, I have followed trends, sometimes closely, sometimes not, but it has interested me to see the way the market has changed over the past decade.
A couple key factors that I value when looking at an industry are richness and innovation.
‘Richness’ can be a tricky term whenever talking about a specific market. There are two main factors that I would consider to contribute to this:
a. Diversity in Cultural Heritage—This part is pretty self-explanatory, and is relevant to the following point as well. Part of what makes knives such an interesting market to me is the variety of history. Culture plays a huge part in some designs—the Nepalese have the ‘kukri,’ the Philippines has the ‘Balisong,’ the Japanese the ‘tanto,’ and the Scots the ‘Sgian-dubh.’ Each knife bears a distinct heritage that is fascinating in and of itself.
b. Unique Design—The history and culture cannot be mentioned without it necessarily cascading into the point of design. Every knife is built differently: different blade shapes, lengths, grinds, materials, finishes, garnishings, etc., all of which stem from the creator’s cultural influences.
Whenever looking at the modern knife market, there is a definite richness brought by the diversity of cultural backgrounds represented. Whether looking at the aerospace grade precision of some Japanese and American manufacturers, the material innovation present in Europe and the U.S., and the design influences from all over the globe, the complexity and growth of the industry can be directly linked to the widespread diversity represented by the men and women who make it up and the cultures they represent.
Each continent really brings its own influences and contributions to the table, but one that I would like to specifically mention given recent events is China. Not so many years ago, China was known as the center of the ‘budget’ knife world—the place where the cheap and low-end blades came from. However, this trend has been gradually changing. Bringing sophisticated machining skills and design chops, at a fraction of the price that American and European makers are capable of, many new Chinese companies have been pushing the envelope in what consumers can expect in terms of quality for the price. Without a global economy, it would be easy for innovation and cost cutting measures to be localized, but with the widespread availability of products, the best man can now offer his products to the world and challenge the status quo.
Global markets enhance the offerings available to consumers, and this is always a good thing. While ten years ago I never would have thought that Chinese companies would be giving American/European/Japanese producers a run for there money, that is certainly happening in the present. Better products, at more affordable prices, with an even greater breadth and representation for different cultures, give consumers an ever better option for their needs.