The rate at which new trends appear and influence the way we live has become astounding. The last decade, with its countless technological advances, has signalled a move into the internet shop, a faster pace in most spheres of day-to-day life and the importance placed on providing more convenient, time-efficient solutions. And according to Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, the acceleration in the pace of change can be evidenced by start-ups that are able to turn over millions in profits within a year or two of operation.
This outlook is shared by Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS says that the only constant in 2018 is change. He refers to the fourth industrial revolution which is categorised by the boom in innovation across various industries and disciplines. And advises that this rapid rate of change in the business sector presents a plentiful opportunity for business growth.
Engelbrecht says there are a few key trends that can fast track small business in 2018:
Smart technology for deep consumer insight
Smart technology enables companies to anticipate and adapt to user (and consumer) behaviours and preferences so that they can provide relevant products and services. This technology can be employed through interactive websites and smart devices such as cell phones, computers and even televisions and other home appliances.
Engelbrecht says that this technology allows business owners to study and understand their consumers’ behaviour and, in so doing, tap into new markets.
Shared spaces to foster innovation
Not unique to South Africa, shared spaces have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Engelbrecht says that according to reports, an estimated 37 000 co-working spaces will exist globally by the end of 2018. He explains that as more people look to work independently and the use of crowd-sourcing garners traction – even large corporates are expected to follow the trend, using shared working spaces and hot-desking instead of traditional office set-ups.
He says that for entrepreneurs especially, co-working offers a number of opportunities from people interaction, to a creative environment ideal for brainstorming and idea generation.
Social connectedness a requirement for many investors
“With a growing global focus on issues such as climate change and socio-political issues, consumers and companies are recognising the need for social awareness and connectedness with the communities in which they operate,” Engelbrecht says.
He adds that in addition to the pressure from consumers for ethical goods and services, this is an increasingly important consideration for venture capitalists and investors whose investment mandates for Environmental, Social and Governance Principles (ESG) are growing. “Business owners need to be cognisant of this if they wish to attract the attention of an investor,” says Engelbrecht.
Think global company
Engelbrecht says that South African entrepreneurs need to think big. He explains that companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and Netflix owe a lot of their success to the global stretch of their product offering. “These are companies responding to global needs, instead of more localised demands”. He adds that social media has brought the world closer together, and because of this, there is an opportunity to create products and services that respond to the needs of consumers beyond specific locations”.
In South Africa, this presents myriad opportunities for small business owners. Engelbrecht points to the PayPal and Ipsos third annual cross-border commerce report, which states that the country’s online cross-border spend is expected to exceed R53 billion by the end of the year.
Additionally, he adds that the African Union’s mandate of Pan-Africanist economic growth provides opportunity for small businesses in the African continent to expand their service locations into Africa – and contribute toward the region’s overall growth.
Engelbrecht concludes that 2018 will continue to see a boom in innovation across different sectors and entrepreneur’s need to embrace this. “Flexibility and a willingness to try new technologies or processes will ensure entrepreneurs stay relevant in our ever-changing environment.”