The developments in the digital space has brought in benefits and challenges for upcoming entrepreneurs. The digital divide between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not, has almost been closed with the explosive increase in the penetration of smartphones as a result of cheaper phones and easier access to broadband connectivity. This development has brought about an impressive growth in internet users.
This surge in internet usage has completely transformed the world of marketing, the way business is conducted and has opened up great doors for young entrepreneurs to leverage their businesses using e-commerce solutions. Research has shown that E-commerce, the marketing, promotion, buying and selling of goods and services over the internet, is experiencing unprecedented growth and is expected to continue to grow into the future. Hamadoun Toure Secretary General of ITU said “Broadband gives small businesses the opportunity to broaden their customer base and reduce their overheads through e-commerce platforms.”
E-commerce comes in a number of forms: business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and e-procurement. An entrepreneur can adopt any of these forms.
Despite the limited resources available to start-ups, the young entrepreneurs have the advantage that they are endowed with IT knowledge, expertise and know how to experiment with technology and therefore should benefit from e-commerce. Being techno savvy gives the young entrepreneur an advantage when doing business on the internet.
Online business is now easy to start because the reduction in prices of software and hosting services has reduced the barriers to entry in the online business. You don’t need necessarily have to buy the software. You can lease the software from companies offering these services. Businesses have three options either to host their own web site; host their site with a web hosting service provider or host their site with a portal such as Yahoo or other service providers for a small monthly fee.
Online business offers many advantages for the start-up. Traditional business requires the brick-and-mortar set-up which is very restrictive on growth because of the prohibitive costs in setting up such facilities. The most efficient, quick and cost effective alternative for entrepreneurs to start operations is by opting for the online route to run a business.
Young entrepreneurs can leverage on the internet to expand their markets, improve efficiencies, attract and retain customers, and exploit other e-commerce opportunities which include customer service, technical support, data retrieval, public and investor relations, security and payment issues, cutting costs, and obtaining advice or information.
Trading goods or services online gives the entrepreneur ability to reach out to a wider global audience without investing heavily in the physical infrastructure, the brick-and-mortar required under traditional businesses. You don’t need to invest in huge facilities to start a business. Your major cost will be that of setting up a website that will give your company a foothold in the market by using this to stimulate public interest through social media, e-mails, videos and online advertisements, You can therefore run your business remotely from any location. Companies carrying their business online will benefit through the reduction of costs associated with finding new customers.
E-commerce provides a variety of options to communicate with potential customers. You can tailor-make communication to a particular group of customers depending on their needs. This can be done at least cost. You can customise the way the organisation exhibits it products.
Payments can be done online. However security is one of the challenges and so should be addressed to avoid hacking into the site for credit card. Entrepreneurs need to assure their customers that they take adequate security precautions. There have been substantial improvements in security on payments. Most of the payment systems are fairly secure and therefore should not pose any problems to customers. Shipment of products can be done using the experienced international couriers.
Business can be carried out round the clock. The company is therefore able to provide 24/7 online support all over the globe. Customer service is enhanced as a result. There is no longer much difference in exposure to customers between a small company and a big one. Both are exposed the same way because of internet coverage.
E-commerce offers efficiencies that give a business the ability to reduce the costs of billing, payment, customer service and distribution costs. It also helps reduce supply chain management, procurement, and other management costs. This is because the internet, once set up, can operate at minimal costs.
The internet enables small businesses to access information about goods especially prices and availability of goods from different suppliers which gives the entrepreneur ability to source from cheaper sources and to effectively and efficiently manage stock levels. Customer service can be improved by letting customers use frequently asked questions(FAQs). This will free up valuable time for the selling staff to do other activities for customers.
By using the internet companies are able to improve their value chain by cutting out the middleman. Normally in the traditional value chain the transaction flows from the manufacturer, then to the wholesaler/distributor, retailer, and finally to the consumer. With the advent of the internet, entrepreneurs can develop relationships with the manufacturers and sell directly to the consumer without having to deal with the middlemen.
About the author
Stewart Jakarasi is a business & financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy and performance management. He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations. For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org or +266 58881062 or on WhatsApp +266 62110062
Why invest for the future
AN investment plan forms a critical pillar of a financial plan, says Tokiso Nthebe, a local author and financial services adviser.
Nthebe, the founder of TKO Financial Wellness and Advisory, says when people invest, they can use their money to buy assets that will increase in value over the long term.
He says these assets can help them build wealth.
“When you invest, your money starts to work for you by providing returns that will beat inflation,’’ Nthebe says.
Nthebe says there is a huge difference between saving and investing.
He says investing requires that you take some level of risk in exchange for an expected return or growth.
Nthebe says Basotho should consider many factors before they decide to start investing.
“It is important to have a clear strategy that guides your investment decisions and to work with qualified professionals,” he says.
Nthebe says one should consider their growth mind-set, investment goals, and their risk tolerance.
In addition, one should consider what kind of growth or return they expect.
He says one should find out whether the institution they invest in is licensed or regulated and how long one should invest.
Nthebe says one should further consider what risks are associated with the investment option and whether there are any associated costs.
He says it is also important to remember that investments take time.
“There are no short cuts to building wealth. Do not fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes,” he says.
Moreover, Nthebe says the investment landscape comprises commercial banks, asset management companies, and insurance companies.
He says each provides different financial products and services.
Nthebe says the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) also offers investment solutions such as treasury bills and treasury bonds that Basotho can consider.
Depending on your investment goals, he says financial service providers have a wide range of investment solutions to choose from that cater for short, medium, and long-term goals.
“I encourage Basotho to do thorough research and seek professional advice before making financial decisions,” he says.
Vince Shorb, the United States National Financial Educators Council CEO, writes that “many of the financial problems people face today started when they were young and making their first financial decisions”.
Shorb further says taking on too much debt, not investing early, and failing to plan can take one decades to recover from such.
However, it takes financial literacy to make good decisions, he says.
Financial literacy has been perceived as a tool that gives you the opportunity to be confident and empowered to live the quality of life you have worked hard for.
Shorb says one of the wisest decisions one can make to prepare for the future is to invest.
Investment has been defined as the commitment of funds with a view to minimising risk and safeguarding capital while earning a return.
When Covid-19 hit and the government shut down all gatherings in April 2020, there seemed no way out for ICONICS (Pty) Ltd, a budding events management company based in Leribe district.
They had two options: shut down or innovate to keep the business going.
They chose the latter.
Three years down the line, ICONICS (Pty) Ltd has completely transformed itself from an events management and public relations company into a manufacturing company that is now the envy of Lesotho.
“The closing of events translated into the closing of our business,” Rapitso Mosebetsi, one of the co-founders of ICONICS (Pty) Ltd told thepost this week.
Mosebetsi established ICONICS in partnership with Tumo Mahapa.
Faced with collapse, Mosebetsi say they began buying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as surgical gowns, disposal coveralls and safety apparel for resale.
Eventually they decided to manufacture the PPEs and safety clothing. That was the turning point.
But since the company was already down, Mosebetsi says diversification was a hard nut to crack.
“It became quite a long journey (for us),” he says. “We had to come up with something new for the industry.”
He says they had to overcome stiff competition from giant companies and come up with something unique that would set them apart.
“That was how thermal heating apparel was born,” he says.
“We are the first company to produce thermal heating apparel,” he says.
The company manufactures thermal clothing, which is electric clothing, using power banks of five voltages.
“The voltage is so low to electrocute a person,” he says.
The clothing also has a power button to turn it on and off.
Mosebetsi says the thermal heating apparel is on corporate clothing as well as high-visibility clothing.
Mosebetsi says they started the journey with the support of several organisations, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO), to build their capacity.
Mosebetsi says they also got mentorship support from organisations such as the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The results of years of hard work are now all out for everyone to see.
In 2022, ICONICS won the M100 000 Business Plan Competition hosted by BEDCO.
This grant enabled them to acquire land and buy five more industrial machines.
This did not only enable the company to increase their production to 100 worksuits a week, but it further created permanent jobs for five people as well as three temporary workers.
Last year, the company took part in the Exporter of the Year event hosted by the LNDC in partnership with the Lesotho Post Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Mosebetsi says they won the award for Lesotho’s most innovative and versatile exporter.
He says this did not only put them in the spotlight, but it further encouraged them to do more.
ICONICS was announced as the best exporter of the year at an event hosted by the LNDC earlier this month.
Mosebetsi says this made them proud, as the award is aligned with their vision.
The award further gives the company an opportunity to participate in the regional competition.
He says this opportunity will further give the company a competitive edge in terms of production locally and globally.
“It will be an honour if we can win the regional competition,” he says.
In terms of markets, Mosebetsi says the company has had the opportunity to list their products in the African Trade Market since 2020 with the support of USAID.
This is an e-commerce platform that opens up the market for African countries to list their products.
Mosebetsi says the company did not only get publicity, but the client database also increased.
He says they moved from supplying individuals only to big companies, different organisations, and different government departments such as those involved in mining and health.
Considering the decline of the Lesotho textile industry, Mosebetsi says their secret to success has been their being innovative.
“Our sustainability is matched with innovation,” he says.
Mosebetsi says it also requires patience coupled with lots of investment in terms of time.
“Rome was not built in one day,” he says.
He says working as a team also plays a critical role.
Despite their achievements, Mosebetsi says the market for innovative industries is one of the hardest nuts to crack.
He says the company is in the process of not only making their products known but also educating people about their safety.
Mosebetsi says the other challenge is the decline of the South African Rand as compared to the US Dollar.
He says some of their materials are sourced from China.
Therefore, it is more expensive to buy such materials.
ICONICS is not only seeking to make their brand well known globally, but Mosebetsi says they are also seeking to create more jobs for our youths.
LetsGo and Win!
LETSHEGO Financial Service has launched the LetsGo and Win loan consolidation campaign where customers win weekly and monthly cash prizes of up to M150 000.
The campaign, which was launched yesterday, will end on November 8.
The LetsGo and Win campaign rewards customers for consolidating their loans.
It is aligned with Letshego Lesotho’s version to offer competitive products that cater for the evolving needs of its customers.
The financial services company operates in Lesotho, Botswana, ESwatini, and Zambia.
The Marketing Manager and Business Partner, Tšotetsi Seema, said Letshego Lesotho is committed to delivering increasing value and options to customers.
Seema said this programme is a testament to that commitment.
“The campaign invites customers to consolidate their loans into one low and easy repayment with reduced rates and they stand to win weekly and monthly prizes,” Seema said.
“The weekly cash prizes will be won by lucky customers randomly selected and notified through Letshego Radio shows,” he said.
Additionally, he said two lucky customers will be randomly selected each month and given a chance to spin the wheel of fortune with a chance to receive a maximum of M20 000 each.
“The loans consolidation campaign makes it easier for customers to choose Letshego Lesotho as their preferred financial services partner.”
He said this innovative campaign aims to help individuals streamline their debt payment while benefiting from reduced interest rates.
“Debt consolidation can help customers get a lower monthly payment, pay off their debt sooner, increase their credit score and simplify their life.”
Letshego Lesotho’s Head of Sales, Distribution and Marketing, Motebang Moeketsi, said managing multiple loans can often be overwhelming with varying interest loans due dates and terms.
“The campaign addresses this challenge by combining multiple loans into a single, easy to manage repayment plan,” Moeketsi said.
He added that this simplification not only eases the financial burden on borrowers but also potentially leads to significant savings over time.
Moreover the new consolidation campaign invites customers to take advantage of their best-in-class financial services provided through Letshego Lesotho branch network and digital platforms.
“Letshego Lesotho is committed to increasing financial inclusion through its efforts to serve underbanked communities, promoting financial literacy and delivering positive social impacts for its customers and communities.”
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