Turn your business into a technology company (Part 5)

– Use mobile phones and the Internet to change your business.

Most of the fastest growing businesses in the world are businesses that have “re-imagined” well established business areas by introducing innovations based on the Internet and mobile phone technologies. You don’t have to change the business you’re in to make it a “technology company.” You just have to “re-imagine” it using the Internet and the mobile phone.

Let’s look at some examples:

# From ‘flea markets’ to eCommerce: Africa is full of what we commonly call “flea markets” (informal markets). These are small little businesses selling almost anything that we find in every African city. Some are huge — Mbare Market in Harare, Ikeja Market in Lagos, Kibera in Kenya, to name some of the best known. There you can buy almost anything!

In China some smart young entrepreneurs looked at these informal markets, and re-imagined them on the Internet.

__Out of this came some of the most valuable businesses in the world today… companies like Alibaba and Tencent!

# We all know about companies like Uber and Lyft, and their Chinese counterparts. All these guys did was use mobile technology, and the emergence of smartphones, to bring efficiency to something as old as cars — hailing down a taxi!

# A young entrepreneur in America, who loved reading books, wanted to find a way to get a book. Instead of spending his time going to bookshops and libraries, he thought: “Why not sell books using the Internet?” The company he created is one of the most formidable businesses in the world today. It’s called Amazon.

# A group of entrepreneurs used to sell videos, something we see on the streets of Africa every day. These guys thought to themselves: “Why can’t we do this Online?” First, they started selling on a website, then they thought why sell videos? We can just stream the videos direct! That is Netflix, folks!

# Years ago if you wanted to sell something like your car, you went to the newspaper and bought a column in a “classifieds” column. It was time-consuming and costly. Today there are thousands of businesses that do this Online.

Some of the greatest opportunities today lie in simply taking things we have always done, and applying innovations based on the Internet and mobile phones.

Today I want you to think about the business you’re in, or work for, and ask yourself:

__What have we done to make this a technology business? How much of our income comes from our use of the Internet and mobile phones?

If it’s less than 25%, you’re headed for extinction… and you probably deserve it! If you don’t get your business Online and using mobile technology, someone will “re-imagine” what you do, and take it away from you.

# You have to drive your business through the Internet and Mobile phone technology. There’s no business which is exempt. You saw the article I published recently called “Digital Farmer.” Yes, even smallholder farmers in villages must use mobile phones and the Internet to grow their businesses.

Here’s an interesting prediction: within 10 years there should be no markets found anywhere in Africa, like Siyo So, Mbare, Ikeja, and Kibera. You shouldn’t find anywhere in Africa someone selling wares at a street corner, even vegetables. It will all have gone Online, and ordered using a mobile phone. Now let’s get to work!

To be continued. . .

Image Caption: A farmer uses mobile phone technology to compare prices at various markets within, Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Written by Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman of Econet Group

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