Business in your pocket

Many users lament the state of the internet in South Africa. A recent report by MyBroadband (http://mybroadband.co.za/news/broadband/61094-the-state-of-broadband-in-south-africa.html) shows that the average internet speeds in South Africa have moved to close to the 1.8 Mbps. It is estimated that an additional R 200 billion will be required over the next period in both public and private sector investment to get it to official broadband dimensions – however the 1.8 Mbps threshold is a key indicator that we are on our way. This is up by 0.3 Mbps from a year ago and since 2007 we have moved from 0.5 Mbps showing that investment and growth in this area is pushing the limits of connectivity in this country. South Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world – being ranked 109’th in the world in terms of broadband penetration – but we will start edging up as people understand the significance of the change we are about to experience.

 

While 2 Mbps will officially be broadband as the rest of the world knows it – it has a different significance for students.

 

The average internet connection in South Africa is now ready for business.

 

More importantly – the average cell phone in South Africa is internet enabled and data is a growing area for all cell phone companies. This is boosted with the recent roll-out of 4G or LTE networks which bode well for increasing access to critical services using cell phone and other internet enabled devices.

 

21% of South Africans now us the internet. If you look at this statistics differently it indicates that 50% of all working individuals access the internet and that the opportunity to make an impact on growth and productivity in the country is idea.

 

South Africa’s internet is open for business.

 

The best way to do business is to be open for business. While many will be intimidated by the prospect of starting a business – it may be much easier than you think to sell stuff online.

 

So how do you start ? This guide presents a couple of tools that help you in this process.

 

What do you need ?

 

To start a web business you need five things

 

An audience
A web site
A business model
Something to sell
Some education
This article simply states that the time for internet business models in South Africa is now. It is time to start thinking about news ways in which to achieve business objectives.

 

Getting an audience

 

Okay – so people are using the internet – but where do you get an audience? Audiences need to be built by providing something that is useful. It may be news, content, information or a specific method or tool to do something. People only go to web-sites because they are looking for something, someone or some place. You need to provide information that makes it interesting for people to get to you. A great way to start building an audience is social networking. By building a loyal following on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Circles and Twitter you have someone to talk to. Now – what to say? Email if free and also a great tool to get in touch with people.

 

Tell people that you are selling stuff, how much it costs and send them TwitPics of it. Put your ideas out there. Get them to follow you by making informative or controversial statements. Get out there. Online is the new print advertising.

 

Print advertising is also a great way to get people to notice you. Brands are built in newspapers and products are sold online.

 

A web-site

 

It goes without saying that to sell something on the web – you need a web-site. Don’t despair – if you have a Google account you can start off with a Google site through sites.google.com or through www.wozaonline.co.za – two free web-site services. If you are a Regenesys student you can also do this through a Google service at sites.regenesys.net

 

Most of us think that a web site is expensive. It really does not have to be. Even a hot web-site can be had for as little as R 100 per month. Good hosted solutions of free systems such as WordPress, Drupal etc. allows you to deploy as fast as the speed of thinking.

 

If you move to www.eshop.co.za today you can also sign-up for an ecommerce solution in which you first few products that you sell online is for free. Add a www.payfast.co.za payment gateway and you are selling online like a pro. The amazing thing is that up to now we have not spent a cent and we are trading.

 

Something to sell

 

You are not going to get far without something to sell. Think of things that you can provide. Maybe it is great stories, scanning services or office administration. Anything is possible. Start putting ideas out there of things that you think that you can do, make or sell. It may not be where you end up one day – but the guy that built a $ 24 million dollar business out of providing cupcakes to businesses may also not have thought that this would be the business that he would be in forever (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505143_162-41841298/how-does-a-cupcake-company-rock-the-inc-500-list/)

 

A business model

 

Prof Michael Rappa – the first person to do a systematic study of the business models on the internet classified business models on the web in a range of categories (http://digitalenterprise.org/models/models.html)

 

It really is instructional to review these and to get a sense of some of the ideas he presents here.

 

The basic categories of business models discussed in the table below include:

  • Brokerage
  • Advertising
  • Infomediary
  • Merchant
  • Manufacturer (Direct)
  • Affiliate
  • Community
  • Subscription
  • Utility

 

He explains some of these business models and gives some food for thought in terms of deciding how you are trading on the web.

 

A great tool that we use in class as well is http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com, which gives a business model canvas that asks some of the most important questions in terms of customers, suppliers, revenue generation models etc.

 

A young entrepreneur made a lot of money just reselling travel tickets on behalf of a travel agent. All that he provided was convenience and a practical payment mechanism. He did it all from his Blackberry phone. So you don’t need much to start. But a good business model is critical to sustain a business. So think it through.

 

These ideas together form a traditional business plan and puts you well on your way to becoming the next superstar of the internet.

 

Some education

 

Just as you can make your business portable – so you can make your education portable. The whole idea of an MBA in your pocket comes handy when you are sitting down and planning to take over a new market or country. Regenesys offers a range of its programmes on various devices and we are sure you do not want to make a move without this knowledge by your side.

 

As business grows – the task of the entrepreneur is to balance opportunity with means to achieve these. Education is a great tool to give you that advantage.

 

Conclusion

 

Ten years ago it would have cost you a couple of million rands, a lot of guts and more money and expertise than most of us would have to start and run a business on the internet.

 

Today this process has become a lot easier with offerings that are available that makes it possible to start trading at no cost. There are great and flexible options that allow you to run large and professional web-businesses with very little money down. The limits are gone and it is time to realise that in South Africa specifically we must stop moaning and begrudging the state of the internet and to start doing real business online.

 

For the active entrepreneurs that are testing and trying ideas on many platforms that are emerging, the new way the world works will represent the tools and techniques that they will use to make the next billionaire generation.

 

This notion of being able to run and manage your business from your pocket has become popular and the concept is that the next generation will be a portable generation – carrying empires in their pockets and on tablet devices.

 

Many futurists have predicted that the next generation will work and conduct commerce differently and the people that are currently trading in this arena will be the winners of tomorrow.