A Single-Minded Focus

Today, we intend to pass along a business tip that’s more specific than usual: Create a business that caters to unmarried women in the Middle East.

The reason is that singlehood is on the rise in that part of the world—and, for that matter, much of the rest of the globe, as well. The Economist reported recently that in the United Arab Emirates, for instance, “about 60% of women over 30 are unmarried, up from 20% in 1995.” It added: “Singledom is on the rise almost everywhere. Euromonitor, a research firm, predicts that the world will add 48 million new solo residents by 2020, a jump of 20%.”

A three-fold jump in single women in the space of under 20 years is staggering in social terms. It’s also a business opportunity.

What makes demographics such a rewarding opportunity for the entrepreneur is precisely its neglect by decision makers, whether businessmen, public-service staffs, or governmental policymakers,” Peter Drucker wrote in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Drucker, as we’ve noted, defined demographics as “changes in population, its size, age structure, composition, employment, educational status and income.”

Image source: UN Flickr

Overlapping with demographics was what Drucker called “a change in perception.” That can mean that the color red is no longer popular, or it can mean something deeper—such as women perceiving that career independence is something they value. One institution that recognized the opportunities created by women in the workplace sooner than others was Citibank. “Most large American employers considered these women a ‘problem’ as late as 1980; many still do,” Drucker wrote. “Citibank, almost alone among large employers, saw in them an opportunity. . . . These ambitious young women very largely made Citibank into the nation’s leading, and its first truly ‘national’ bank.”

Do you have to be brilliant to take advantage of a combination of demographic changes and changes in perception?  No. But you do have to remove obstacles to your eyesight, and most businesses cannot do this. “Those who defy the conventional wisdom and accept the facts—indeed, those who go actively looking for them—can therefore expect to be left alone for quite a long time,” Drucker wrote. “The competitors will accept demographic reality, as a rule, only when it is already about to be replaced by a new demographic change and a new demographic reality.”

So, maybe you should open a singles coffee bar in Abu Dhabi. You heard it here first.

How should the rise of singledom around the world most influence business models in the years to come?