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The Next European Renaissance (Part 5)

Posted on Saturday, Jul 30th 2011

Developing ideas and insights that create major shifts and trends, solve humanity’s important problems, improve the quality of life for people around the world, lead to prosperity, and result in lasting achievements – this is our quest.

The question we are exploring is whether Europe’s recognized enthusiasm for culture in its various forms – food, music, architecture, literature, and many more – and greater commitment to the preservation and promotion of such expressions of culture would offer a good platform for generating new and important ideas given that the enabling technology may not need to be quite that complex.

My sense is yes, they would.

Among other things, if innovators in Silicon Valley and elsewhere immerse themselves in the cultures in Europe, my hypothesis is that they will gain access to different perspectives and insights with which to approach their own entrepreneurship.

Their tastes will, I imagine, become more mature and sophisticated.

The resulting fusion of cultures – ethnic, interdisciplinary, cross-functional – all of it, my instinct says, will lead to exciting possibilities.

Here are some ideas I would be interested in seeing explored as part of this experiment:

  • French and Italian designers collaborating with Indian artisans to produce global e-commerce brands in fashion, home furnishings, furniture, and so on, thereby lifting large masses of people out of poverty. Those interested can read my book Vision India 2020, especially the following chapters: Urja, Oishi, Gagori, Palanquin, and Patami. The same concept would apply to Africa, East Asia, and Latin America.

  • Innovative chefs from Europe setting up world-class restaurants in Silicon Valley to further develop the palates of the Valley’s affluent. Aided by TV shows like “Top Chef,” there is increasing interest in the culinary arts, and at the higher end of the market this could translate into opportunities for chefs. The question I am interested in is, What innovations await at the cusp of food and information technology? I developed one idea in this domain in Vision India 2020 called Thakur. However, I have several other ideas as well. And concepts like Yelp have already started to revolutionize the marketing of restaurants.

  • Culture enthusiasts, art dealers, and entertainment industry visionaries from Europe investing in and developing a commitment to and passion for arts and culture around the world, both to develop new markets and to explore opportunities for fusion. For example, I would love to have a theater festival akin to the Avignon festival here in Silicon Valley, but for something like that to become commercially viable, the taste of the community as a whole needs to be developed. Online marketing concepts like Groupon and Facebook may well be the secret sauce in building more culture ‘scenes’ around the world.

  • Preservation experts playing a role in restoring historical monuments, architecture, and ways of life around the world such that China doesn’t bulldoze its built heritage and India doesn’t just build poor-quality concrete structures in place of majestic buildings. In Vision India 2020, I have a chapter called Renaissance, and on this blog, a series called As India Builds for those interested in learning more about the subject. Already, we have seen TripAdvisor and AirB&B play a role in marketing hotels and other travel accommodations. Online travel continues to be an active category for innovation.

Some of these experiments have already begun, for example, a collaboration between the French and Cambodian governments has resulted in Artisans d’Angkor, a wonderful lifestyle brand where French designers are working with Cambodian artisans producing beautiful clothes and home furnishings. With time, such experiments will blossom into bigger, more comprehensive industrial phenomena.

So, the role I see for Europe is in reaching out to the rest of the world and taking a leadership stance in developing taste. Whether it is educating the Chinese market about French and Italian wines, or packaging culture for the consumption of Silicon Valley’s geeks, there is a European renaissance possible. But it will likely not be one concentrated in Paris or Florence; rather, it will be an international renaissance whereby Europe exports its strengths in culture, preservation, cuisine, and style to a world growing in wealth and sophistication.

The by-product of that kind of wide-ranging taste-making will also yield gains for Europe on its own soil. Like me, people who are seduced by the European way of life, the cobblestone streets of Toledo, the joys of discovering designers like Sarah Pacini or Alfredo Dominguez before they were well known, and the pleasure of a three-hour lunch in the Provençal village of Vinsobres, will always come to visit.

They will come to Europe to look for the real thing – the je ne sais quoi missing from their everyday lives in Shanghai or San Francisco.

This segment is part 5 in the series : The Next European Renaissance
1 2 3 4 5

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What a lovely article. Thank you for your evolved appreciation of Europe's preservation of the finer things in life. Hope you can be a facilitator in marrying this with technology to enlarge the market.

Georgy Thomas Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 8:07 AM PT

Well done. Excellent and positive outlook. It was needed.

Patrick
(un emigre Provencal, con radici toscane).

Patrick Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 5:16 PM PT

Sramana, Another great post after the initial Renaissance post which we have adopted here, inspiring a new approach to positioning our technology and marketing. I'll update you later on that. I do take exception to the elevation of Silicon Valley to country/region status… The egos from the valley do not need any help elevating their self image. This is in fact what may be the may obstacle you'll face in getting a renaissance to take hold there. Please keep blogging on this thread! Thanks, Tom

Tom Marsh Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:13 AM PT