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Gemic goes the extra mile in customers’ shoes

Gemic’s cofounder Sakari Tamminen doing ethnographic field work in India.Credits: : Gemic

It’s not business, money and profit that determine where society is headed – it’s people. This Finnish consulting company refuses to focus on the best practices of today; instead, it looks at what will work best tomorrow.

What does the value of a product or a brand boil down to? Is it the most advanced technology in the market or the most appealing design?

No, says consulting company Gemic. The strategic consultancy company explores ways in which value is created in the ordinary, everyday life.

“There are strong forces that move the world, and a lot of them have nothing to do with economics,” notes co-founder Sakari Tamminen.

Gemic’s consultants, very literally, walk in the footsteps of potential customers seeing, hearing and experiencing their needs, wants and wishes. If their customer wants to know what it is like to be a middle-class Chinese mother, Gemic will go find out.

That’s the idea Gemic is based on. The word emic itself refers to something specific to a certain culture, such as a belief or a practice, seen from the perspective of someone from within that cultural system. The company takes an emic approach to business and compresses it into a gem – and this emic gem is what Gemic sells to companies the likes of Procter&Gamble, Braun, Fiskars and Audi.

Added value beats price

The company was founded in 2008 by Tamminen and Johannes Suikkanen. The duo realised that not only Finland but the whole world was lacking a consulting company that could offer in-depth expertise on cultural aspects. A lot of companies, no matter how big, haven’t incorporated these elements in their business strategies.

“It’s no longer about who does things most efficiently or for the lowest price – there’s always someone who can beat your price,” Tamminen points out. “There are other things that add value and experience.”

In addition to its staff in Helsinki and New York, Gemic has a global network of freelancers. Image: Gemic

Gemic doesn’t go after short-term business opportunities; rather, it seeks disruptive ideas. The goal is to figure out ways to make a product or a service genuinely wanted and valued. In the customer’s eyes, the product isn’t a sum of its components.

“For example, owning an iPhone can link a person to the creative class sipping lattes in Brooklyn,” describes one of Gemic’s partners, Otto Utti. “Or even better – to the thought of a new and better future. What people want from it is culture-specific.”

Gemic hires top talent

One thing that distinguishes Gemic from its competitors is that they are present in the market but can sell knowledge from anywhere. In the US, where Gemic also has an office, a lot of consulting companies focus their expertise on the huge domestic market, whereas Gemic can go meet customers and talk about China, Brazil or India.

Mikko Leskelä, a Gemic partner, points out that Gemic has been able to harness top-notch talent from all over the world and even managed to convince some of them to move to Helsinki. The two-man company has grown into a team of 20, and few are of the same nationality.

A lot of ‘Gemics’ have multidisciplinary backgrounds, Leskelä himself being an excellent example, as he’s studied both theology and finance. Most of the team has studied social sciences, which makes it easier to shift the focus away from mere money.

“The most important characteristic is the ability to think,” Leskelä says. “You need to be a creative thinker and able to convey your thoughts.”

Gemic’s customers are global organisations. The biggest market exists in the US, but in the near future the company plans to cross a smaller sea and head to Sweden.

“So far we’ve ignored our neighbour, but there are plenty of firms that could benefit immensely from our help,” Leskelä tells. “That’s what we’re fixing now.”

A lot of multinationals are asking Gemic’s help with China. The growing Chinese middle class is of interest to numerous big companies, but due to cultural differences strategies need to be thought out carefully. To answer the demand, Gemic is planning to open an office in Shanghai at some point.

Gemic’s help is requested all over the globe.

“Where we go next depends mainly on us deciding where to focus our efforts on,” Leskelä notes. “Our approach is so new that we just need to choose where we want to grow.”

Gemic’s reference list includes multinational corporations, and also fellow Finns such as Fazer and Fiskars. Image: Fazer
By: Anne Salomäki