hile driving through Matobo, a small village in the North of Botswana, a sign advertising a fully equipped gym caught my eye. A colleague who was in the car with me was then quick to exclaim, “Ke ipotsa gore ha batho ba bula dikgwebo, jaaka gym ko gae, a ba a tle ba dire tshekatsheko go re ba bone gore kgwebo eo e ya go nna le bareki kana ba dira fela?” (When people start businesses, I wonder if they actually do their research to find out if the business will have patrons or if they just go for it without any questions asked?) It is perhaps the most relevant question that a surprising number of would be entrepreneurs sometimes overlook.
We at times think our ideas are fool-proof, possibly because the people we seek guidance from (often our nearest and dearest) also think it will work. We are quick to assume our product or service is something that people will want, and sometimes find out the hard way that actually too few people want it, and ultimately are not enough to sustain or grow the business.
When Hotwire set up shop in Mozambique, we were always prepared to face what we thought was the biggest challenge – the language issue. What we soon learnt in the early stages is that we had to significantly adjust our strategy for that market. We had to stop thinking in English, and start thinking in Portuguese, but specifically getting into the mindset of the Mozambicans. We had to make sure that we remained relevant to the businesses we were servicing and those that we wanted to service. I can think of countless examples of how a perfectly good strategy to sell the same product in,say just next door in, South Africa, would not work at all for the Mozambican market. One size truly does not fit all.
Hotwire has run The LilacMedia perception survey since 2009 so as to find out what consumers actually thought of the media that they engage with. The Survey also served to ensure that we were focusing on the right media for our clients. We have now rolled out the Lilac Survey in Mozambique and Tanzania so as to ensure that we continue to provide informed counsel to our clients. Relevance is after all part of the whole “shebang” in the space in which we work. There is no point coming up with a mind blowing innovation if nobody has no use for it.
Business intelligence is everything. When going into business, or when in business, we need to always ask ourselves the relevant questions as well as how that affects the bottom line.
So going back to the investment in Matobo – is the sign of the gym relevant? Does it give the desired returns? Does it have the potential to grow? Where will it be 5 years from now? I do not have the answers to those questions but I hope the investors did their due diligence, and continue to find out from their clients and customers whether they truly are getting value and indeed whether the gym is relevant to its consumers. At the end of the day, it is not really only about our perceptions as investors, marketing and Public Relations people, but what the market also thinks and wants.
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