Cisco looks to emerging markets for future growth

Cisco Systems, which dominates global markets for switching and routing, has increased its focus on selling products and services to 129 countries it sees as emerging markets.

Paul Mountford, Cisco senior vice president for emerging markets, called all 129 of those countries the highest priority for Cisco in an interview Wednesday after an address at the 11th annual Cisco Worldwide Analyst Conference in Santa Clara, California.

Mountford, formerly head of global channel operations at Cisco, was named to his new post in August, when top Cisco executives launched a campaign to put greater emphasis on emerging markets. The company drew up a three-to-five-year plan for each market, looking at what Cisco has already done in a particular country or the region, and tracking economic, political and social trends.

"Education, as you might expect, is the biggest issue in nearly every case," Mountford said. Cisco's Networking Academies, designed to provide technical training in network operations, have certified an estimated 500,000 students in emerging markets in recent years.

While a certification sometimes takes only a few weeks to get, it can have a quick impact on a worker's ability to get a job working with Cisco's gear. "They have instant employability," Mountford said.

Many of Cisco's emerging markets projects involve negotiations with governments controlling state-run telephone systems that are looking to expand to IP systems supporting data, voice and video, he said. In one example, an Internet-based registry in Saudi Arabia has been established that helps religious pilgrims plan annual treks. That registry grew from 300,000 names in 2003 to 2.5 million people last year, Mountford said.

In Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, conditions are ripe for "amazing" growth in networking, given that 400 hotels are being built and local leaders expect the nation's economy to one day shift to tourism, Mountford said. "Cisco wants to be there," he said.

Mountford sees Cisco's involvement abroad as a way to spur technology development in emerging countries and help Cisco at the same time. "With our country models, we are judging, 'What's the value of this country in the long run?' "

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