from the editor

JANA MARAIS

Finweek English Edition - - CONTENTS -

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.

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