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Dos Aguas Team

Switzerland is also in Latin America

By | Economic Analysis, International Relations

By Eduardo Fort

Located east of Argentina and south of Brazil, unknown to the vast majority of European citizens, Uruguay is undoubtedly a pearl to discover for foreign investors. With a fascinating history, the former Spanish colony, which became independent in 1828 from its two huge neighbors, is considered, since the end of the 19th century, the “Switzerland of Latin America”: it was one of the first countries in the world to establish a public, free educational system, compulsory and lay (1877) and pioneer in passing a divorce law (1917). The State guarantees free access to education, from preschool to university and 4.5% of GDP is invested in education. To this must be added the political stability that has been its trademark for decades. With the pragmatism and tenacity of the children, the Oriental Republic of Uruguay became, in its own right, a very attractive horizon for the most diverse companies.

This is a country with a broad trajectory of political, democratic and social stability and a strong macroeconomic solidity, which creates the right environment to develop successful investments. It is also a stable and predictable country, qualities that are taken as a differential by investors. Several international organizations place Uruguay among the top positions for transparency, respect for democratic values ​​and human development.

Its strategic location – as a gateway to the region – offers the perfect springboard to Latin America.

The advantages of settling in Uruguay

As previously stated, the small South American has a strong sociopolitical stability. Uruguay’s trade and investment regime is one of the most open in the world. Uruguay’s main trade strategy is to continue liberalizing trade and investment, both multilaterally and regionally. Being an economy of small dimensions, it requires markets free of restrictions and distortions to trade, especially in the agricultural sector, which generates most of Uruguay’s exports. As a financial and monetary tactic, Uruguay actively seeks to improve its business environment to continue bringing direct foreign investment and thus support economic growth, employment and promote technology transfer, with very successful results.

On the other hand, Uruguay had an average annual growth of 6% between 2004 and 2011, which has allowed it to consolidate the structural improvements achieved after the economic crisis of 2002. These improvements helped the country to be more resistant to external shocks, like the international crisis of 2008-2009. At the tax level, Uruguay presents extensive tax exemptions (20-100%) on investment, as well as attractive regimes of free zones, ports, and airports of free circulation (exports of services are exempt from VAT payment).

Investment in Uruguay, both national and foreign, is declared of national interest. The foreign investor and the locals are treated equally, having a wide range of incentives that are adapted to the different types of activities, both industrial, commercial or services that want to be carried out in the country.

MERCOSUR

It is important to remember that Uruguay is a founding member of MERCOSUR, the booming free trade area between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and the currently suspended Venezuela. Uruguay has signed free trade agreements with Israel and Mexico, as well as a macro trade and investment agreement with the United States.

Through Uruguay, you can access a market of 400 million people, which accounts for 68% of Latin America’s GDP and represents a flow of foreign trade of almost 74% of Latin America’s total.

The infrastructure

Unlike other Latin American countries, Uruguay has a first level infrastructure in Montevideo (its capital and most important city), being already a regional hub par excellence for the Southern Cone of Latin America. 50% of the merchandise entering the port of Montevideo is in transit. In addition, Uruguay has the densest road network in Latin America. It is ranked number 1 in the region with respect to Internet penetration, PC and telephone lines. It benefits from a very reliable electrical supply, mostly from renewable sources.

In short, Uruguay has become the destination par excellence for international companies seeking quality, efficiency, experience and new opportunities in the most stable and reliable business environment in Latin America.

About the author:

Eduardo Fort holds a degree in Political Science from Complutense University of Madrid. He has participated in academic projects related to History of Ideas and Political Theory. He has collaborated with various media – newspapers and television- as an international analyst and specialist in Latin America.
Brexit- Dos Aguas Blog

A new chapter in the Brexit process, a new history of uncertainty

By | International Relations, Trade News

In recent weeks Brexit have been back in the news. Since the referendum on the permanence of the United Kingdom in the European Union, Europe has been plunged into uncertainty due to the future relationships between both parties. It is well known that uncertainty is not good for business and economy. At Dos Aguas Consulting we are making a list of those risks that importers and exporters may face in the new scenario, as well as we explain how Dos Aguas Consulting can help making safe business in Spain.

What are the risks for importers and exporters?

We are not facing an easy issue, considering the growing fear among businessmen about this new situation in which tariffs in the trade between the UK and EU may be raised.

First of all, it must be borne in mind that the situation will depend on the political sphere and the negotiations between the EU and the UK. These negotiations began in March 2017 and some experts see the final agreement far away, especially after the latest statements by Theresa May in the European Parliament, opening the possibility to extend the transition period of the Brexit beyond December of 2020.[1]

In the event that both parties do not reach an agreement, the basic rules of the World Trade Organization (hereinafter, WTO) are applied, which implies the existence of various tariffs for both imports and exports. In this scenario, tariffs will reduce competitiveness and benefits for Spanish and European exporters, as well as for British importers.

However, we must take into account that since the UK is a member of the WTO (prior to its membership in the EU), the most favored nation (MFN) treatment must exist between the EU and the UK. In this way, the British exporters would face the EU Common Customs Tariff, while the EU exporters would face the tariffs that the UK freely chose to apply. In addition to the already mentioned tariffs, the exporters of both parties would face other non-tariff barriers when exporting to the other party because the compliance of the regulations in force would not be automatically secured any longer.[2]

Secondly, within the scope of the WTO the customs tariffs set by the WTO will apply to British exports (10% to the automotive sector and 36% to agricultural products in 2014). This fact will put British companies at a competitive disadvantage, even more because there is no room to negotiate other rates within the organization. In this regard, main product groups will be affected by this alleged situation:

Dos Aguas Blog- United Kingdom exports from Spain 2017

Source: Elaborated by Dos Aguas Consulting

Dos Aguas Blog- United Kingdom imports from Spain 2017

Source: Elaborated by Dos Aguas Consulting

On the one hand, the EU is one of the main export partners of the UK, since 47.43% of British exports are destined to a member state of the EU. In fact, 3.05% go to Spain, being the main groups of products: vehicles, machinery, pharmaceutical products, mineral fuels and electrical machinery.

On the other hand, Spain also finds in the British market sales opportunities for its products. In the period between 2013 and 2017, Spanish imports increased by 20.56%. Among the groups of imported products include: vehicles, machinery and food products.

In short, the increase in business costs between the UK and the EU after Brexit can be divided into three parts:

  1. Higher tariffs on imports;
  2. Greater non-tariff barriers to trade (derived from different regulations, border controls, etc.);
  3. The UK can not be part of future EU actions to achieve a deeper integration and the reduction of non-tariff barriers in the EU.

Recommendation for the British in the event of a non-agreement:

The British Government has prepared a series of guides and informative material in case the agreement between both parties cannot be reached. Information can be obtained on different aspects such as agriculture, export and import, money and taxes, health issues, study in the UK or the EU and rights in the workplace.

Conclusion

Given the situation of uncertainty surrounding the negotiations, we recommend to pay special attention to the drafting of contracts when exporting or importing, as well as to choice the most advantageous INCOTERMS, the currency to carry out the transaction, the insurance contracting, etc. At Dos Aguas Consulting we can help companies with these issues and others business problems in the Spanish market. Remember our motto: “Information is Safe Business”.

Methodological Note:

Information trade between the United Kingdom and Spain from International Trade Center.

Sources:

[1] EC/Agencies (22th October, 2018) May abre la puerta a extender el periodo de transición del Brexit. El Confidencial website.Available online (link). Last accessed: 25.10.2018.

[2]  Spanish Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment in London (2015) Implicaciones de la salida británica de la UE
para el sector agro-alimentario. Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food website. Available online (link). Last accessed: 25.10.2018.

Starbuscks-Marketing

Starbucks and its strategic marketing proposal

By | Marketing

Starbucks is a franchise of coffee shops founded in Seattle in 1971, which currently operates in America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China and Asia Pacific. It has 277,000 employees, with a sales volume of 23.5 billion dollars in 2018[1] and 27,339 stores worldwide in 2017[2].

What makes Starbucks different from the marketing mix perception?

The marketing proposal that Starbucks has made in its expansion process has a global nature. This article analyzes this marketing strategy in relation to four different elements: product, price, advertising, and distribution channels.

  1. Product approach

1.1. An easily recognizable product

If we carry out an analysis of the product we see how essential the logo is for this brand. Wherever there is a Starbucks in the world, it identifies with the same logo, that is, the green double-tail siren.

1.2. Personalization of the product

The possibility to choose and customize the coffee is a key attribute that is increasingly appreciated by consumers. In addition to writing the name of each consumer in the plastic cups, they can choose from a large number of options to buy their coffee[3]. In this way, they are no longer limited to classic coffee, but have created new presentations and flavors looking for please the customer and satisfy different tastes. With all this, Starbucks has achieved that the consumer feels that he has control over what he consumes.

Starbucks-Marketing-Dos AguasSource: elaborated by Dos Aguas Consulting

1.3. Quality of the product

Starbucks sells high quality products and their price is high compared to coffee places. They have used a high value-added approach that is valued by high-middle class customers but also invites clients with low purchasing power (especially teenagers)[4].

1.4 An emotional connection with customers

They have created what they call “the third place”. If the first place is home and the second place is work, the third place is where everyone goes after home and work. To achieve that third place, they have generated an atmosphere of relaxation that takes customers to a unique experience[5]. In this way, the company offers a connection between the store and the feeling of drinking coffee in a familiar place that makes the costumer feel as if he were at home. Thus, their product is not limited to coffee, but goes beyond and includes a comfortable environment, where one can study, work, read, chat, etc. The strategy therefore is based on converting coffee shops in places that attract customers for the service of excellence, the aroma of coffee, the comfortable open spaces and armchairs, free wifi, and continuos cleaning[6]. All in all, the ideal environment.

1.5. Success

Drinking Starbucks coffee is associated with a modern and successful life. In many TV series and films, principal actors and actresses drink their coffee and they usually have something in common; being young, attractive, and successful. So when the costumer buys a coffee from Starbucks, he is buying more than just a coffee. He is imitating the role set by the movies he watches.

Starbucks-Marketing-Dos Aguas

Source: elaborated by Dos Aguas Consulting. From left to right: Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal” (2009), Sara Jessica Parker in “Sex and the City” (2008), Anne Hathaway in “Devil wears Prada” 2006), Christopher John Grace in “In Good Company” (2004), Alicia Silvestone in “Clueless” (1995), and Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail” (1998). 

2. Price approach

Starbucks products are in a higher range than the rest of its competitors because Starbucks uses a fixing strategy of premium prices. This strategy takes advantage of the trend of consumer behavior to buy more expensive products, based on the perception that high price means high value. Through this strategy of high prices, the company maintains its upmarket image[7].

  1. Advertising approach

Starbucks’ main promotion is spread by their customers. Although the company carries out campaigns when introducing new products or flavors into the market, their advertising expenses only represent around 1% of their income. This strategy goes in connection with the fact that Starbucks does not need advertising because the cinema, tv series, and celebrities already carry out promotional tasks. It is common to see photos in the tabloid journalism of a famous person with a coffee cup from Starbucks.

  1. Distribution channels approach

Starbucks offers most of its products through the company’s coffee shops. However, they also sell on-line store and in the Starbucks app. This means that the company is in tune with the new technologies and market conditions[8].

Conclusion

In short, the feature that differentiates Starbucks the most is that they sell the experience of -emotions while drinking coffee- to customers of upper-middle class that live in the city.

What can Dos Aguas Consulting do for you?

Dos Aguas Consulting can contribute with our knowledge of the Spanish market and the profile of the Spanish consumer. In our work as a company specialized in advising and supporting international companies that want to invest in Spain, we can help you find clients and make a profitable business in the country. We can design your marketing strategy or adapt it to this market particularities. Get in touch with us, our trade and marketing advisors will help you!

Sources:

[1] Forbes (2018) Forbes Companies list. Available online (link). Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

[2] Statista (2018) Number of Starbucks stores worldwide from 2003 to 2017. Available online (link). Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

[3] Entrepreneur (February 19th, 2011) El secreto del éxito de Starbucks, Entrepreneur. Available online (link). Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

[4] César Piqueras (September 12th, 2014) La clave del Exito de Starbucks no es el café. Available online (link). Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

[5] Franquicias de café (November 5th, 2013) Estrategias de Mercado de Starbucks. Available online (link). Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

[6] Luis Mauricio Mija (March 4th, 2016) Starbucks: 5 estrategias de negocio – Análisis del modelo de la compañía de café más grande del mundo. Available online (link).Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

[7] Roberta Greenspan (January 31th, 2017) Starbucks Coffee’s Marketing Mix (4Ps), Panmore Institute website. Available online (link). Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

[8] Roberta Greenspan (January 31th, 2017) Starbucks Coffee’s Marketing Mix (4Ps), Panmore Institute website. Available online (link). Last accessed: 18.10.2018.

Blog Dos Aguas-Smart Cities Barcelona

Barcelona: The Smart(est) City of Spain

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
In the past decade and with increasing quantities, smart cities arose all over the world. A city is defined as ‘smart’ when it “uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare” [7]. The key aspects of a smart city are smart technology and data analysis. You can think of, for example, emerging trends as automation, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). When these technologies are applied in a city, one can find features as smart traffic lights that respond to current traffic situations, autonomous buses, bike sharing services, and smart parking meters that indicate where parking lots are available via an app – and these are just examples in the city transportation sector [7]. For an overview of smart city features, take a look at the image below.

Blog Dos Aguas- Smart CitiesHerman van den Bosch [8]

Drivers behind smart city developments

Worldwide, several cities have the reputation of being ‘smarter’ than the rest. Of course, some of these cities have an environment or characteristic that makes them particularly suitable for developments in the smart technology area. For example, cities that are developing very fast in the past years and years to come can adopt smart city traits in their development plans and consequently create the optimal infrastructure for smart technologies to be applied to. These cities include many Asian cities such as Singapore, which the number one smart city in the world [2]. On the other hand, some cities in the Western world have consciously chosen to invest heavily in smart technology and data analysis in order to gain a competitive advantage over other Western cities and attract businesses. All over Europe, selected cities apply an above average number of smart technologies in their municipality and thereby set themselves high above the rest of the European cities. Barcelona is one of them. In 2016, the Catalan capital was voted the second smart city in the world, behind Singapore (Juniper Research [2]). It is therefore not a surprise that the Smart City Expo World Congress is held in Barcelona this year, after its previous edition took place in Singapore last year.

The Smart City Expo World Congress of 2018

The SCEWC (Smart City Expo World Congress) is the leading global encounter on current urban issues and the smart technological revolution. It was first held in 2011, and it has managed to become the global benchmark event on developments in smart cities ever since [2]. It facilitates a platform for networking, experiences and international business agreements, and it brings together the world’s top decision makers, professionals, and institutions in the context of urban development. This year, the SCEWC is held from 13th November to the 15th November 2018 at the Gran Via Exhibition Centre in Barcelona [1,3]. For more information, take a look on the event’s website (link). This year, the Catalan Government promotes the participation of regional companies in the Smart City Expo: a total of 20 Catalan companies and entities will be present in the Government stand, and over 150 other local companies will participate in the expo [2]. Needless to say that the fact that the international expo is held in Barcelona, combined with the smart tech expertise that can be found in the city, offers many investment opportunities in Spain and boosts the Spanish economy.

Barcelona’s ‘smart’ traits

What is this ‘smart technology expertise’ that makes Barcelona one of the smartest cities of the world, and where does it come from? The development of Barcelona as a smart city started in 2012, when economic challenges were large, caused by the crisis of 2008. Upon taking office, the Mayor of Barcelona from 2011 to 2015 Xavier Trias formed a new team: ‘Smart City Barcelona’, tasked with integrating existing projects and identifying new opportunities to enhance services for all of the city’s people and businesses [6]. The city originally deployed responsive technologies across twelve urban systems, including public transit, parking, street lighting, and waste management [6]. These innovations provided significant cost savings, turned the city into a center for the (then emerging) IoT industry, and simultaneously improved the quality of life for residents.
Today, the city’s smart city plan is called ‘Roadmap to 2020’, and focuses on using open-source technology for a platform that is “more democratic and accessible” to find solutions for “long-term social and wage inequality, climate change, scarcity of natural resources, and employment” [5]. In this roadmap, Barcelona recognizes the value of the large amount of data it possesses. Thus, the plan mentions that the municipality of Barcelona wants to be the sole owner of the network, platform, and data – in order to protect the data and consequently its residents [4]. Yet, the city wants to ensure that people and companies can access information that belongs in the public realm, to improve overall efficiency [5]. For an overview of Barcelona’s smart city traits, take a look at the Govtech article that summarizes all of the city’s activities with smart technologies (link). It is clear that Barcelona pioneers in the field of smart tech. If it maintains its position as innovator, this smart city will remain to be a large factor of the country’s overall good economic conditions.
 
 

Sources:

[1] Smart City Expo World Congress 2018 website (link)
[2] Generalitat de Catalunya: The Smart City sector takes root in Catalonia (link)
[3] 10 Times Trade Show information: Smart City Expo World Congress (link)
[4] Ross Tieman (26 October 2017), Barcelona: Smart city revolution in progress, Financial Times. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 26.09.2018]
[5] Jenny McGrath (24 July 2017), Tech is making life in Barcelona better, even if you don’t know it’s there, Digital Trends. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 26.09.2018]
[6] Laura Adler (19 February 2016), Is Barcelona the smartest city in the world?, GovTech. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 27.09.2018]
[7] Internet of Things (IoT) Agenda: Definition Smart Cities (link)
[8] Herman van den Bosch: Smart Cities: Slim, slimmer slimst (link)
Optical sector-Spain-Dos Aguas-Blog

Optical sector, a sector that is growing every year

By | Economic Activities, Trade News

The optical sector suffered, like many others, a big recession during the generalized economic crisis in 2008 and the years after. However, this is a thing of the past. Currently, it is in a moment of continuous growth and the most evident proof of this is that 2017 ended as the fourth consecutive year of growth.

According to data from the consulting firm GfK, the optics sector closed 2017 with a turnover of 0.5% higher than the previous year, which is 2,080 million euros. This figure gathers the sales of ophthalmic lenses, frames, contact lenses, sunglasses and maintenance products.[1]

Analyzing the demand. How is the Spanish consumer?

According to the report El Observatorio Cetelem Consumo España 2017, regarding optical products, the Spanish consumer is nowadays demanding these products. In fact, “39% of the Spanish respondents have purchased a product related to optics in the last 12 months”.[2]Likewise, in 2017 the Spanish consumer has increased by 48, 72% the expenditure destined for optical products, reaching an average cost of 231 euros.

Regarding the purchase channels, the Spanish buyer shows a more conservative attitude, preferring the physical store to online commerce[3], due to the fact that in Spain the treatment and personal advice of professionals are highly valued.

Foreign Trade

Moving to a more global vision, we now analyze the evolution of the other three main optical markets in the European Union: Italy, France, and Germany. In the four-country comparison, Spain was the second that has grown the most after Germany, a country that has registered an upturn of 3.2% in its turnover. Italy and France, however, have suffered from a negative evolution with falls of 1.4% and 1.6%, respectively by the end of 2017. Particularly striking is the case of France, where the market reflects changes in its legislation that limit the reimbursement to the user in the visual equipment of 150 euros.[4]

On the other hand, the impact on the market of imports and exports that Spain makes in this sector is as important as direct sales within the national territory. The value of imports made in 2017 triples that of exports, which means that the balance of the trade balance in the optical sector is negative. This fact highlights the competition that exists in Spain within this sector, where not only national companies stand out, but also international companies have a vital importance that is increasing every year. In this way, the imports in the year 2017 have grown by 10.18% with respect to the previous year.

Exports optical sector in Spain-Dos Aguas BlogFigure elaborated by Dos Aguas Consulting

In terms of imports, the Italian and Chinese markets dominate the optics distribution. Italy is a leading country in the optical industry and China bases its power on an extremely attractive price. As for the exports, if we set aside Italy that leads the ranking by far, the distribution is much more homogeneous.

Imports of optical sector in Spain-Dos Aguas BlogFigure elaborated by Dos Aguas Consulting

The growing trend of the market reflects that opportunities will continue increasing in the optical sector in Spain. A very needed industry for every society and that needs to be covered. This is to only way to help people alleviate the visual deficits, which are increasing among the population of Western countries.

Dos Aguas Consulting can contribute with our knowledge of the optical sector in many ways: from the particularities of the market and its regulations to outlining the profile of the Spanish consumer. In our work as a company specialized in advising and supporting international companies that want to invest in Spain, we can help you find clients and make a profitable business in the country. Get in touch with us, our trade advisors will help you!

Methodological note:

Charts made from import and export data of the International Trade Center.

Sources:

[1] Europa Press (April 13th, 2018) El mercado español de la óptica cerró 2017 con unas ventas de 2.080 millones, un 0,5% más. Available online (link) Last accessed: 02.10.2018

[2] El Observatorio Cetelem (2017)El Observatorio Cetelem Consumo España 2017.Sector Óptica/Audiología. Page: 3. Available online (link) Last accessed: 02.10.2018

[3] El Observatorio Cetelem (2017)El Observatorio Cetelem Consumo España 2017.Sector Óptica/Audiología. Page: 17. Available online (link) Last accessed: 02.10.2018

[4] Gfk (April 12th, 2018) Estudio: El mercado español de la Óptica facturó 2.080 millones de euros en 2017 (press release). Available online (link) Last accessed: 02.10.2018

Sustainability,

The Netherlands and Sustainability: Leader or Laggard?

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
 
A country with more than a thousand windmills. A very eco-friendly way of transportation deeply embedded in its culture: travelling by bike, which leads to an average of 1.3 bikes per inhabitant. Three million solar panels on roofs of buildings and houses and increasing usage and developments of solar bike paths. Next to that, ample recycling initiatives and a strong reputation in the area of innovation [1,4]. However, a very low ranking as 26th compared to fellow EU member states when it comes to the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix. What is more, a 50% higher average of CO2 emissions per capita than the average of EU countries. Exotic fruits in supermarkets in every season and worldwide the 10th biggest importer, which, considering the country’s size of roughly 40 thousand square kilometers, is extremely high [3,4]. The Netherlands: sustainability leader or laggard?
 

Shortcomings of the Netherlands

The numbers and statistics of several researches agree: the Netherlands is not exactly first in class in terms of sustainable performances compared to other European countries, and even the world in general. Looking at the developments of the carbon emissions per capita over the past decades, the Netherlands has always had a higher CO2 emission per capita than the average of the entire EU [4]. Moreover, this gap does not seem to be declining any time soon, as the carbon footprint of the EU appears to lessen even more than the one of the Netherlands (see graph below). Of course, the high population density of the country makes it hard to plant renewable energy sources, and the lack of variety of the available countryside diminishes the options of renewable resources for the Netherlands to choose from. There are for example no hills and mountains, which means that hydropower and other options of renewable energy sources cannot be considered [4].
CO2 emissions per capita (source: CleanTechnica [4])
Why does the Netherlands, with its reputation of being “green”, have this relatively high CO2 emission level? The reason for this is driven by three factors. First, as already mentioned, the country has an extremely large population density which leads to a high percentage of the population living in urban areas (a total of 90%) [3]. Urbanization of a country threatens its sustainable development due to rising demand for food production and services based on any sort of energy [5]. Second, the Netherlands hosts Europe’s largest port (Rotterdam) and third largest airport (Schiphol Airport of Amsterdam) – both with large carbon footprints on its own, and an even larger impact on the environment when taking the industry that is built around it into account [3]. This brings me to the third factor, the Dutch industry: as previously stated, the Netherlands is listed 10th as the world’s largest importer. However, when it comes to exports, the Dutch are ranked even higher with, a for its size rather impressive, 8th ranking worldwide [3]. All in all, the country – as small as it is – clearly contributes heavily to usage of fossil fuels and thereby negatively impacts the environment.
 

Fields in which the Netherlands leads

Thankfully, the Netherlands is aware of its shortcomings. Acknowledging its high usage of energy and its large carbon footprint, the government has committed to improving the countries environmental and climate protection performances whilst working towards the Sustainable Developments goals [2]. The first results are visible: this year, the Netherlands has dropped out of the EU’s “group for greenhouse gas intensity concerns” – a very positive development [2]. Small adjustments are also made. Last year, for example, a new law was implemented that states that plastic bags are no longer allowed to be handed out for free in shops [3]. However, several adaptations take more time. If the Netherlands were to immediately decrease its international trade quantity and businesses operations to diminish its environmental impact, the country would lose its economic welfare. In order to have proceeds to invest in innovations and renewable energy, the Netherlands has to maintain its international position and foster its economic growth. This paradox forces the country to consider other, longer-term options, to slowly transform its industry into a more environmentally sustainable one. Therefore, the Dutch government invests heavily in innovative initiatives from citizens and entrepreneurs, as well as technical innovation studies at universities [4].
A typical view in Amsterdam: a large number of bikes next to the canals.
Though the results of these transformations are not yet noticeable, many transformations are being made. Schiphol airport, for example, has partnered with energy company Eneco to convert the airport to 100% wind energy by the end of this year [1]. The port of Rotterdam is in the process of building a waste-to-chemistry plant that will transform up to 360,000 tons of waste into 220,000 tons of green methanol. The facility is the first of its kind in Europe, and will eliminate over 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions [1]. The public transportation sector also contributes to these innovations: it has committed to “providing 100% emissions-free busses by 2025 and removing all gas and diesel vehicles from the road by 2030, positioning the country as a leader in sustainable regional and urban ground transport” [1]. Even in the biking sector, which seemed eco-friendly to start with, positive developments are made. The startup “SwapFiets” offers recycled, good-as-new bikes including a 24/7 reparation services for an attractive monthly fee, incentivizing people to join this circular economy initiative instead of simply buying a new bike once their old bike no longer works or is lost. Lastly, in the solar sector, the Netherlands installed 853 megawatts of solar in 2017, which was an increase of 60% in one year. That year, more than half a million homes ran on solar power – 40% more than in the previous year [1].
 

Leader or laggard?

When looking at the facts, it is obvious that the Netherlands has yet to lower its carbon footprint significantly and many improvements have to be made. However, this does not mean that the country is lagging in terms of sustainability. Quite the contrary: when it comes to sustainable developments and innovation, the Netherlands is a clear leader.
 
 

Sources:

[1] Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (20 April 2018), “How the Dutch lead in Sustainability”, Invest in Holland. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 19.09.2018]
[2] CBS (9 March 2018), “Netherlands closer to achieving Sustainability Goals”, Central Bureau for Statistics. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 20.09.2018]
[3] Marianne Chagnon (18 December 2016), “The Netherlands and Sustainability: Suprisingly not that good”, Dutchreview. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 19.09.2018]
[4] Rogier van Rooij (12 July 2017), “Netherlands One Of Least Sustainable EU Countries. How Did The Dutch Get Their Green Image?”, CleanTechnica. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 20.09.2018]
[5] Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2 July 2013), “Rapid urbanization threatens sustainable development”, United Nations. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 18.09.2018]

Ecommerce & retail in Spain

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis, Trade News
Vivian Hendrikse
With online sales in Western Europe having increased by 15.6% from 2015 to 2016, and by another 14.2% in 2017, ecommerce is the fastest growing retail market of our time [3]. What is more, this growth, corresponding to online spending for retail, is not expected to cease to exist. Retail is defined as sales of merchandise to the final consumer, excluding cooked food, restaurants, automobiles and vehicle fuel. Ecommerce therefore captures all online purchases within the retail sector, meaning purchases that included a transaction made using the internet or at distance [3]. Being not just the fastest growing, but also the largest retail market makes ecommerce an important market to acknowledge and explore. In this blog, the Spanish online retail market is investigated and current trends and developments within the sector are identified.
 

Spanish retail market in past decade and the rise of ecommerce

As Spain was hit by the financial crisis in 2008 and had to deal with a tremendous unemployment wave in the years thereafter, the Spanish retail industry suffered from a large drop in both value and volume (see graph). Though an improvement of the market slowly appeared again in 2012/2013, value and volume of the Spanish retail industry have not reached the same levels as before the crisis [5]. Of course, the Spanish economy is still growing. However, analyses show that the improvement of the market as it is observed in the graph is mainly caused by the rise of ecommerce. In fact, the ecommerce industry was one of the few Spanish sectors that reflected a double digit-growth in 2011 and 2012 [1]. What is more, the impact of the growth of the ecommerce sector on the retail industry in general is magnified by a rise in the size of ecommerce relative to retail in general. The percentage of ecommerce of the total retail industry in Spain doubled in the period 2013 to 2018 (from 3.5% to more than 7%) [3].

Retail sales in Spain [5]

Spain’s current ecommerce environment

There are currently three main trends that drive the Spanish ecommerce market [4]: first, logistics are massively enhanced by offering products online, which increase (worldwide) sales for many Spanish sellers. Second, when it comes to the usage of smartphones, Spain is considered to have one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in Europe, enabling further ecommerce growth [4]. Third, the final trend that arises due to market progression is the integration of (big) data analytics, artificial intelligence, and chatterbots. This is now the most relevant trend for industry participants, as it is the most recent one and consequently leads to many innovative developments and jobs within the sector. In terms of market environment, there are about 23.6 million ecommerce users in Spain, approximately half of its population, and this number is expected to grow to 29.2 million in 2021 [1]. Of the online transactions, more than a third are made by using Credit cards (34%), followed by cash (32%), electronic bank transfer (20%) and eWallet (14%). The most significant payment option in Spain is 4B, which has 20 million cards circulating in the country. After that, credit and debit cards of Euro6000 are also commonly in use [1]. Of the online purchases, the majority is done via the most popular websites of Amazon, Carrefour, eBay, El Corte Ingles, Mediamarkt, PC Componentes, Vente-Privee.com, Zalando, and Zara [2,3].
 

Future outlook and possible investment opportunities

As a market is rising, investment opportunities rise with it. In the retail sector in general, more and more investments are made: the Spanish retail market alone received 3.9 billion euros of investments in 2017, which was the largest investment volume in any sector of that year and a rise of 31% of investments in the sector compared to the year before [2]. As for the ecommerce sector specifically, it is hard to assess the total investment made as investments in online payment, websites and online stores all fall within its scope. The opportunities per sector within ecommerce are summarized on several websites (one example: link), confirming the wide variety of options to invest in (B2B, ecommerce services, ecommerce intellectual property rights, cross-border ecommerce, etcetera) [4]. Next to that, 75% of all investors in the Spanish retail and ecommerce sector are international investors [2]. Thus, when considering ecommerce in Spain as a next investment move, many opportunities can be considered.
 
 

Sources:

[1] Ecommerce in Spain. Ecommerce news. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 11.09.2018]
[2] Retail: What does the future hold for a sector in transformation – Spain February 2018. JJL Spain. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 13.09.2018]
[3] Online Retailing: Britain, Europe, US and Canada 2017. Centre for retail research. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 12.09.2018]
[4] Spain – Ecommerce, update 12.07.2018. Export.gov. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 12.09.2018]
[5] Tobias Buck (May 16, 2016), Spanish Retail: Deep Cuts in Stores, Financial Times. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 13.09.2018]
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Looking East: Innovation and Business in Singapore

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis, International Relations
Vivian Hendrikse
 
Of the 20 best global innovations of the year 2017, 3 initiatives originated from Singapore [6]. According to the Bloomberg Innovation Index, Singapore is ranked 3rd globally when it comes to innovation [7]. Next to that, Singapore is ranked as the number one smart city according to ABI’s and Juniper’s researches in 2018 [7]. If that is not enough, the world bank names Singapore as the “easiest place in the world to do business”, and Singapore was the main subject of a Michael Porter Harvard Business Innovation case study [3]. If there is one thing that these facts bear in common, it is their message that Singapore, as a city and country in one, is a successful hub for doing innovative business. What is the cause that led Singapore to be this successful when it comes to innovations?

Singapore’s “Home” strategy

 
According to Damian Chan, international director at the Singapore Economic Development Board – the leading governmental agency that decides on the nation’s strategy for innovation – the “success” of Singapore is not caused by just one factor, rather it is driven by a general “welcoming approach to business” as a basis for everything that Singapore does [3]. Singapore was formed a little more than 50 years ago, when it became independent from Malaysia. At the start of being a new nation, the Economic Development Board (EDB) was formed in order to create new jobs, attract international companies and enhance the development of export-oriented industries to lead Singapore, as small as it was and with the few resources it had, towards becoming an independent nation. In this process, the focus of the EDB slowly started to include a focus on innovation, motivated by the need to stay ahead of global competition [7]. The result: Singapore’s “Home” strategy: “Home for Business. Home for Innovation. Home for Talent” [3].

The attractiveness of doing business in Singapore

 
When it comes to attractiveness for businesses, Singapore already has the advantage of its unique characteristics: being a small, Western and developed country in Asia. These characteristics matter: new regulations can quickly be set and applied in a small country and offer, in combination with business efficiency and knowledge, a fast-growing, future-minded business environment [8]. What is more, Singapore is often seen as the gateway for the Western world to Southeast Asia, a region where resources are ample yet corruption reigns. Singapore is the rare exception of a non-corrupt nation in the region. Add English as the country’s official language to that and it quickly becomes clear that Singapore is an attractive investment for businesses that want to reach out to Southeast Asia [8].

Source: NCC Group [9]

The “Home” strategy applied

 
However favourable these business conditions of Singapore are, they would not sustain if the EDB had not recognised them and created the “Home” strategy. The strategy enables these conditions to further develop and even strengthen, placing Singapore far above other Southeast Asian countries when it comes to foreign investments [7]. The “Home” strategy is applied to all sectors related to innovation and business, for example the start-up scene, (digital) technologies, and education. This entails that Singapore is investing enormous budgets in these sectors, for the development of both enabling regulations as well as a stimulating environment. By creating laws that are favourable and even financially incentivising for start-ups or technology related firms, and developing multiple incubators, hubs, and open workspaces across the city, Singapore successfully pushes for innovation. Moreover, Singapore keeps investing in these sectors, even when results have already been seen: the nation recently created a new innovation fund of 1 billion Singaporean Dollars to drive enterprise growth [2]. The results are astonishing: Singapore doubled its number of start-ups from 22,000 in 2003 to 43,000 in 2016, and in the same time-span, the number of tech start-ups also roughly doubled (from 2,800 to 4,300) [1]. Next to that, it obtained the reputation of the number one smart city, a highly ranked innovation hub and the go-to place for start-ups, as mentioned in the introduction. All in all, it indeed seems as if the “Home” strategy works. Therefore, when it comes to innovation and business, it is of importance to keep Singapore high on the radar.
 

Sources:

[1] Enterprise Singapore (link)
[2] Rumi Hardasmalani (April 26, 2017), New S$1 billion Innovation Fund to Drive Enterprise Growth, TODAYonline. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 04.09.2018]
[3] Dominic Basulto (May 26, 2015), The Secrets to Singapore’s Track Record of Innovation Excellence, The Washington Post. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 06.09.2018]
[4] Monetary Authority of Singapore (link)
[5] Economic Development Board: Industries and Key Activities (link)
[6] Ministry of Finance: Innovation Initiatives (link)
[7] Economic Development Board: Innovation (link)
[8] Singapore Expats: A Brief History of Singapore (link)
[9] NCC Group: Infographic Facts about Singapore (link)

Spain’s wind energy success story

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
In 2013, Spain became the first country in the world to have a renewable power as its primary source of energy. This renewable source was wind power, and provided 20.9 percent of the country’s energy needs of that year. Moreover, a total of 42.4 percent of all energy used originated from renewable sources, which includes wind, solar, and combined-cycle plant power [6]. Why was Spain one of the first European countries to successfully adapt its energy production to the threat of global warming, and therewith stimulate its renewable energy development? How has Spain’s wind energy developed ever since? In this blog, we will dive into the topic of wind energy in Spain, and provide answers to these questions.
 

The rise of renewable energy in Spain

Due to a general push for the use of renewable energy sources in the EU in 2009 [6], the Spanish energy organisation IDEA (Instituto para la Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía) installed the National Renewable Energy Action Plan 2011-2020 (link) in 2010. In this plan, the organisation set goals for Spain with regard to overall energy usage, heating and cooling, electricity, and transport, which included a minimum percentage of energy generated from renewable sources for each category. Ever since, Spain has invested largely in renewable energy development. Of all renewable energy sources, both the development and success of one source in particular were increasing rapidly. This sources is wind energy. The potential of wind energy in Spain was discovered after one specific, particularly windy day in November 2011, when 59 percent of the nation’s power was produced by wind energy [4]. As this proved that Spain is not only sunny, but also windy, the developments of wind farms in the country were strongly stimulated by the national energy organization which led Spain to be the first nation ever to have wind energy, or any renewable energy, as its primary energy source in 2013 [6].
 

Current developments of wind energy

Since then, Spain has continued to develop its wind energy production and consequently maintained its position amongst the top four countries in the world (after China, USA and Germany) and as the number two in Europe [4] in terms of renewable energy production. Over the past decade, Spain has increased its renewable power by 53 percent which includes the generation of 61,925 gigawatts per hour of wind energy in 2017 (24.3% of the total year-average power usage, 252,755 GWh) [3]. These developments are not expected to slow down, as organisations are looking to invest 30,500 megawatts of new capacity to further support the integration of renewables. Enel Green Power, for example, acquired five wind farms in February 2018 with a total capacity of 132 MW. Moreover, the company identified 29 new wind projects that will allow for an additional capacity of 540 MW once installed, which is scheduled to be in 2019 [1]. Another example is the autonomous community government of Aragón, who authorised 1,778 MW of wind projects that were awarded in the May 2017 energy auction to be installed before the end of 2019 [5].
 

Effects on economy and future outlook

Recent data shows that in the first half of 2018, 45.8 percent of electricity in Spain came from renewable resources, of which the majority is generated by wind power [3]. Next to the positive impact of this rise of renewable energy sources on the environment, the increase in wind farms and wind energy development have stimulated the Spanish economy by creating more than 22,000 jobs. Considering the characteristics of the sector, and the increasing demand for renewable resources, the number of new jobs is expected to grow [3]. Moreover, Spain has obtained a top five position in worldwide exports of small wind turbines for domestic usage. Small wind turbines can be installed on the roofs of houses and can provide energy for a household [4]. The increasing popularity of these small turbines can boost the Spanish economy future as well, offering a positive outlook in the near future.
 

Sources:

 

[1] Enel Green Power (February 26, 2018), The Spanish Wind Energy Pushing Europe Forward, ENEL. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 30.08.2018]
[2] Tsvetomira Tsanova (December 29, 2017), Renewables Produce 33.7% of Spain’s Power in 2017, Renewables Now. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 28.08.2018]
[3] Bradley Stokes (July 15, 2018), Spain Takes Big Steps Towards Renewable Energy, The Olive Press. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed 29.08.2018]
[4] John Wolfendale (July 30, 2018), Is Wind Power in Spain Practical on a Domestic Scale?, Eco Vida Homes. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 30.08.2018]
[5] Lucas Morais (August 6, 2018), Spain’s Aragon Okays Construction of 1.78 GW of Wind Projects, Renewables Now. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 28.08.2018]
[6] Matthew Humphries (January 16, 2014), Spain Becomes First Country To Use Wind Power As Primary Source Of Energy, GEEK.com. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 30.08.2018]

Blockchain in Spain: how Banco de España is an exception compared to other Central Banks

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis
Vivian Hendrikse
 
Following several news items in the past week concerning Blockchain in Spain, it becomes clear that the Spanish Central Bank has an opposing strategy for the up-and-coming distributed ledger technology (DLT) involving cryptocurrencies than most other Central Banks. In what way does the Banco de España (BDE) differentiate itself? What are the consequences of this for both Spain, as well as the general development of how banks see cryptocurrencies and the blockchain? This article serves to provide answers to these questions.
 
Though believing in the underlying blockchain technology, most Central Banks (including the European Central Bank, ECB) have expressed concerns regarding cryptocurrencies, as a specific part of the blockchain[1]. They argue that, though cryptocurrencies offer a wide range of new opportunities (for example in securities settlements mechanisms) operational challenges and complexity issues are of unknown size and, therefore, highly risky [3]. Consequently, the majority of the Central Banks do not (yet) shape clear regulations and standards that provide an outline for the technology to further develop in the market as much as they ideally should [1].
 
Several Central Banks or governments have initiated research in the field and thereby have undertaken an important first step. These include the Bank of Canada, Bank of Japan, Sveriges Riksbank and the ECB [1]. Only few, however, have openly committed to blockchain and to developing regulations around it. A great example of one of these is the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), who started a blockchain experiment in November 2016 as a “road to regulatory understanding” [4]. Still, the MAS, just as the other “openly committed” central organisations, does support cryptocurrencies. It merely acknowledges and explores its opportunities, while remaining to distrust crypto. And then there is the Banco de España. The BDE recently published a report (link) in favor of both cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, stating that they could have a positive impact on the Spanish economy [2]. The argument in the report is made by Galo Nuño, the Direct General of Economy at the BDE, and poses that the blockchain technology and a hypothetical “Central-Bank-Issued Digital Currency (CBDC)” could help track the country’s money supply. This introduced concept of the CBDC is a new type of cryptocurrency, one that is established by government regulation and controlled by the Central Bank itself. Even though the BDE mentions that further investigations are needed, the statement of a nation-wide organization implying that “Central Banks should consider implementing cryptocurrencies” is exceptional. The next step for Nuño is to further explore the consequences of his ideas and demonstrate that the usage of cryptocurrencies can be positive for a Central Bank [2].
 
What are the outcomes of the support for cryptocurrencies by the BDE? What could be the positive impact of this CBDC in the Spain, and for the blockchain technology in general? The answers to these questions are, of course, speculative. First, the concept of the Central Bank’s digital currency must be further developed and researched, which means that the implementation is not guaranteed. Nonetheless, the improvements for the Spanish economy are expected to include a more stabilised financial infrastructure and an improved management of interest rates [2]. Furthermore, the report of the Spanish Central Bank encourages other organisations in Spain to develop blockchain innovations. Spain is recently moving fast towards cryptocurrency adoption [2], which clearly coheres with the supporting standpoint of the Central Bank. Second, the impact of the BDE’s report for development of cryptocurrency regulations and strategies at other banks in general is also of a positive kind. Spain’s support of cryptocurrencies is inspirational, and can stimulate other central banks (and governments) to reassess their distrust in crypto and more actively pursue cryptocurrency and blockchain opportunities. The results of this refreshing approach by the Banco de España are thus far positive ones.
 

Sources:

[1] Oliver Thew (March 29, 2018), Central Banks Must Adapt to Blockchain, OMFIF. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 21.08.2018]
[2] Ian Tozer (August 9, 2018), Spain’s Central Bank: Cryptocurrency Could Improve Monetary Policy, Bitcoinist. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 22.08.2018]
[3] Annaliese Milano (March 27, 2018), Central Banks Say Blockchain Shake Securities Settlement, Coindesk. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 23.08.2018]
[4] Darryn Pollock (February 20, 2018), Singapore’s Government Blockchain Experiment Is a Road to Regulatory Understanding, Cointelegraph. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed, 22.08.2018]