from the editor
what makes a business successful? As an employee in the print media sector, which seems just about as endangered as Johannesburg’s meter taxis, it is a question I’ve been mulling over for some time. At the core of it, I believe the answer is pretty simple: give the customers what they want. Or, if you’re a genius like Steve Jobs or Henry Ford, give them what they don’t even know yet that they want. This seems obvious, but it is incredible how few businesses manage to get the basics right.
At finweek, for example, distribution is a key pillar of the business. Yet we’re still battling – about three decades since the magazine was first launched – to ensure that all our subscribers get their magazine on time, every week. It’s a no-brainer, then, that even a print-magazine lover would eventually give up and switch to a digital product that is available at the touch of a button, mostly for free, whenever they require it.
Digital disruption is nothing new, but I think we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the impact mobile technology in particular will have on consumer needs and wants – and the businesses that will succeed in servicing those needs.
I’ve spent some time this week listening to a number of fintech start-ups that are launching interesting products around the world, aimed at solving consumer problems. We should start thinking of banks – and probably all other organisations – in a completely new way. The days of the universal banking model, where one organisation offers the full suite of banking products and services as we think of it today, may be numbered.
Capitec, for example, has been hugely successful because it isn’t trying to be all things for all people – it identified its niche, and created a limited number of tailor-made products that serve its customers. While it has been expanding its offerings, the core focus remains providing simple, easy-to-understand, cheap products to consumers.
Some market watchers have been sceptical of Discovery’s plans to launch a new bank in South Africa, where the market is highly competitive, particularly for high-end consumers (also see page 39). But let’s not underestimate Discovery’s ability to innovate and carve out niche markets, using its extensive data sets and unique number-crunching abilities to tailor products for individuals. I think it will become a force to be reckoned with in the banking sector – likely without ever opening a single bank branch.
From a business perspective, figuring out a way to compete with all these nimble, tech-savvy, low-cost competitors is a nightmare. But as a consumer, the fun is only getting started.