What engineering product would you do in a developing country

Thread Starter


Joined Feb 10, 2012
If you lived in a developing country and had all the knowledge and experience you currently have, and had access to a group of engineering graduates from that country, as well as some limited amount of funding, what type of engineering product would you start with?

A lot of the products we use every day, printers, broadband routers, games consoles, laptops, require really expensive manufacturing equipment and a huge amount of experience required in different areas from power supplies to ASIC design to microelectronics to PCB design and also various programming languages. The system design would be really complex and the mechanical and product design would also be quite complex.

So if you had an engineering company with only engineering grads from the developing world, and perhaps investment numbering in the millions, including wages for your team and any manufacturing equipment and software and components you need, what are some of the best products you would start with?

And also, once you started generating revenue from the more simple products, what type of intermediate level projects would you start to move towards? And which projects do you think you would leave till last?

I am assuming anything safety critical or highly complex like aircraft, automotive vehicles, even boilers etc you would leave till last.


Joined Sep 17, 2013
Simple/cheap water purification devices/systems might be a starting point if safe drinking water is not already available to all inhabitants.

Thread Starter


Joined Feb 10, 2012
I am thinking about somewhere a little more developed than that. Somewhere that has all the basics, like food and water and education, and stable government, but isn't an advanced country. Maybe somewhere like Thailand or Philippines for example or Brazil or Argentina. Not somewhere that is a conflict zone or drought or poverty stricken. Somewhere that does at least have some industry and some exports etc but is not producing their own technology yet. Somewhere that already has pharmacies for basic medicine and not suffering from anything like rampant malaria or cholera. So has the basics in place but wants to break through into the groups of advanced economies that produce technology like south korea, japan, western europe, north america etc
Last edited:


Joined Sep 9, 2010
What you need is called Marketing, with the capital M. You have resources but no market needs to apply them to. Aligning capabilities of the firm to needs in the market is the essence of marketing.

I think you need to narrow down the unique capabilities of your firm (which may depend on the unique skills and passions of your people), and start looking for market needs that might be a good fit. Why exactly are you in business and what can you bring that another firm cannot easily replicate? Do you have a sustainable competitive advantage of some kind? Hiring a marketing consultant for this effort may be a good investment, since they should have access to a lot of market research that would be costly for you to reproduce on your own.

It's unusual to get established and succeed in markets that are unfamiliar to management. Some intuition into your customer is very useful and it's hard to design a new product for someone half way around the world that you've never met. There are plenty of exceptions but the rule remains. So, serving your local market might help keep the lights on and get going while you look for international opportunities.

Contracting yourself out to other companies is probably a good short-term solution also. Across town from you might be a firm with a few great product opportunities, in desperate need of engineering help to get them launched. These win-win relationships can be very helpful to fill in capability gaps in your organization, and that of your partner firm. They can grow into longer term relationships and even mergers.

The downside of contracting is if there is an imbalance in power, for instance if you were to be contracted by GE (just one idea of generic big company). They'd make sure you stay alive but only barely, until they can replace you. That kind of contract work can also keep the lights on but it tends to be a cancer on the future of a firm. It's hard to grow your future while you're busy serving your slave master.


Joined Aug 27, 2009
A large problem with producing advanced technology in those types of country's is not the lack of equipment or engineering expertise, it's the lack of a proper technical infrastructure to support manufacturing when other places like China already have them. Reliable industrial grid power, clean water, ISO quality chemicals and gasses, transportation, parts and technical support for equipment all need a sizable base to be sustained in a developing country. Cheap labor is important but at the advanced edge of manufacturing people costs look tiny when compared to the costs of the required infrastructure.


Joined Jan 17, 2007
In those countries, electricity tends to be expensive (as is down here too) ... I'd start thinking about a device (with an affordable, realistic price) that would either help you save electricity, or at least monitor it on an outlet to outlet basis.
And yeah, there are plenty of devices out there that can do that, but usually not at an affordable price... and the chinese versions suck.