International Business Media: The BRIC cities

Lucy Aitken reports on media in the burgeoning commercial cities of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

New York, London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt are homes from home for today's international business community. But as the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called "Bric" economies, assume more importance, their commercial centres - Sao Paulo, Moscow, Mumbai and Shanghai - are set to be powerbases of the future. Merrill Lynch reports that the number of millionaires in China and India has risen by 12 and 22 per cent respectively, while Brazil, whose economy used to fluctuate wildly, is now stable thanks to controlled inflation. And Russia enjoyed its sixth consecutive year of growth last year, with 6.9 per cent. Analysts agree that all four countries are destined for further growth.

These four cities have expanding business communities with large expat contingents, so their business media are busy keeping up. However, it's not all plain-sailing.

Mumbai is taking off as India's economic centre. It's the heart of India's Bollywood scene and has recently been dubbed "India's Shanghai". But with growth come practical challenges. Shubha George, the managing director of MEC India, believes Mumbai's infrastructure desperately needs attention.

"The floods in June raised serious questions about how much we need to do to keep infrastructure in line with growth," she says.

Media-wise, CNBC has just started a Hindi feed and Zee TV has launched a dedicated business channel. Fortune is hunting for a local partner, while a sudden rash of local English-language print launches has spread throughout the city. What's more, as Mumbai has expanded as a corporate hub, the city's property prices have shot up.

It's a similar story in Shanghai, where MindShare China's managing partner, Quinn Taw, regrets not following the counsel of his financial adviser, who urged him to buy property three years ago.

Some media owners are also starting to regret not moving faster; no more licences for foreign satellite channels are being issued in China. What's more, BBC World and CNN are only allowed to broadcast in hotels and other foreigner-dominated environments.

Among the business community at large, however, Taw describes the atmosphere in the city as "giddy", adding: "Finance directors who, on graduating, dreamt of earning $100 a month, are now worth their weight in gold."

Restaurateurs have been quick off the mark. "A lot of really cool bars and restaurants are opening in Shanghai," Taw says. "Everyone wanders around the city in a drunken haze."

In Sao Paulo, business is conducted in a rather more sober fashion. A European influence is evident in high-class haunts such as Parigi and La Tambouille, while top-end German cars such as Mercedes are the business community's must-have marques.

Considering that 197 members of the US Fortune 500 have a presence in Brazil, it's somewhat surprising that business coverage on TV remains limited. On the print side, though, local news magazines such as Istoe Dinheiro, published by Editora Tres, co-exist with titles such as Forbes Brasil.

Forbes also launched in Russia last year, despite learning firsthand about the tensions between the country's media and government. Last year, Forbes' editor-in-chief was shot dead after disclosing information the authorities didn't want published.

But, thanks to foreign influences, Moscow's corporate life is changing, Anna Yakovleva, Initiative's media director, insists. "We're trying to adopt an international model of business rather than an ex-Soviet style," she says.

It used to be only the likes of Unilever and Procter & Gamble that truly understood the need for marketing, she says. Yet today, "Russian companies are realising that they need international agencies for advice."

Just make sure that the advice does not involve criticising the Kremlin. Even in jest.

THE POWERBASES OF THE BRIC ECONOMIES MOSCOW Population: 10.4 million GDP growth (Russia): 5.8 per cent GDP per head (Russia): $4,330 Top business TV show: No dedicated business show, although RosBusiness Consulting launched as a cable and satellite channel Top business magazine: Itogi Top business newspaper: Kommersant Top business website: www.vedomosti.ru Hottest business media launch: Harvard Business Review Biggest recent business story: Roman Abramovich's sale of his stake in the oil company Sibneft to the Kremlin for £7.4 billion City-slicker profile: The young and trendy Muscovite executive can be spotted at the Tinkoff microbrewery and restaurant. MUMBAI Population: 15 million GDP growth (India): 7.5 per cent GDP per head (India): $640 Top business TV show: CNBC's afternoon stockmarket show Top business magazines: Business Today, Business India and Business World Top business newspaper: The Times of India business section Top business website: Economic Times (www.economictimes.com) Hottest business media launch: NDTV Profit Biggest recent business story: The expansion of private airlines City-slicker profile: A smart-casual dress code characterises the gadget-obsessed Mumbai executive, who hangs out in lounge bars when informally entertaining clients. SAO PAULO Population: 10.3 million GDP growth (Brazil): 3.6 per cent GDP per head (Brazil): $3,200 Top business TV show: Bom Dia Brasil Top business magazine: Exame Top business newspaper: Gazeta Mercantil Top business website: UOL (portal) business news Hottest business media launch: Foco magazine Biggest recent business story: Banks making record profits City-slicker profile: Dressed in a dark tailored suit and crisp white shirt, the Sao Paulo city slicker keeps fit playing tennis or golf. Mobiles, BlackBerrys and laptops are de rigeur. SHANGHAI Population: 16 million GDP growth (China): 8.1 per cent GDP per head (China): $1,360 Top business TV show: Harvard Business Case Studies Top business magazine: Business Weekly Top business newspaper: Economic Observer Top business website: Sina.com business section Hottest business media launch: Multimedia platform China Business News Biggest recent business story: Real estate has tripled in value in the past few years and the government is trying to slow it down City-slicker profile: An emerging yuppie class in Shanghai has embraced classic nouveau-riche behaviour, such as houses with faux Greek columns. Shanghai's expat community is now starting to rival Hong Kong's. NOTE: GDP figures are 2005 forecasts from The Economist.

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