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Many successful businesses enjoy longevity because they periodically conduct and invest in market research. That way they stay tuned to changing market trends, are able to size up business opportunities and to improve on competitive nature of their businesses.  Whether you are a startup or looking at expanding an existing business, understanding the critical characteristics of your target market creates potential for increase in sales revenue, your profit, and return on investment (ROI). In essence, data and market research is vital for smart decision-making, business planning and overall success of your business.  How this critical aspect of the business is often overlooked, yet far too many business ventures fail as a result of poor market research, or lack thereof!

What is market research?

In its basic definition, market research is merely an information gathering exercise to determine the viability of something.
But more importantly, market research is a continuous process of collecting data, investigating and interpreting information about a particular market your company operates in, a product or service you offer for selling in that market, other companies competing with you in your market space and current and potential customers who purchase and consume the product or service you offer.
Analysing all of the above means continously investigating possible ways for the company to successfully operate in the market, sell producs and services, attract and retain the target audience, as well as gain competitive advantages.
Market research is therefore an invaluable business tool that helps you reduce the risk that a business idea will fail, essencially reducing the risk of being in business.
Types of market research
The scope of the market research you’ll undertake is influenced by your research objectives, i.e. what you want to learn about your market and factors influencing it.
Your objectives will also determine the types of market research that you need to undertake in order to be successful.
There are two main categories of market research:

The first one is primary research, which typically covers monitoring the effectiveness of sales, ascertaining the quality of services provided by competitors, understanding the channels of communication used by competitors, and assessing active competition within the market.
An example of conducting this type of research is to talk to customers, suppliers or competitors in the market.
The second one is secondary research, usually conducted by other people or organisations, but whose results you may be able to use yourself.
Secondary research typically covers published company reports data, existing surveys and studies, newspaper reports and Government data.
In turn, the nature of research is, broadly speaking, either qualitative  (as a result of  actually talking to people, asking for feedback and/or opinions) or quantitative (sourced through surveys from which figures and numbers are generated, analysed and presented in the form of meaningful charts, statistics, graphs and tables).
So what are some of the main business areas that data and market research have major influence on?

l Business model design & strategy
Having a greater understanding of your marketplace will enable you to create a sound business model and strategy to establish and grow your brand into one surpasses competition.
Through research a business is able to spot or anticipate market trends or changes, test viability of a business idea. More significantly, market data will help drive the development of sound a business model and strategy for product or service design, pricing, distribution and logistics, advertising media usage, amongst others.

l Competitors
Keeping one step ahead of your competitors is essential for business survival. Research can provide you with valuable information about existing competitors, their adopted strategies, and how those strategies impact on target consumers.  Such insights reveal existing gaps in terms of untapped or underserviced markets, threats and new opportunities in the market place, facilitating smarter decision-making.

l Customers
It is often said that “being a customer-centric organization is the Holy Grail towards unlocking the true potential of customer value”. Today’s best performing organisations are those that are customer-centric, meaning that their strategy and culture is based on putting customers’ needs first, and at the core of the business (Deloitte and Touche conducted a study recently and found that customer-centric companies were 60 percent more profitable when compared to companies that were not focused on the customer).Their way of doing business is such that it provides a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, customer loyalty and profits.  These companies do not just provide great customer service; they are deliberate about creating a great experience throughout the customer journey — from the awareness stage, purchasing process and finally through the post-purchase process. To succeed in being a customer-centric company, your can use market research as a tool to gain insight into your customers thinking; understanding your target customers’ buying behavior, interests, satisfaction levels with your products and services and how they prefer to be engaged. Through market research you also get to understand changing market trends such as population shifts, education levels of your target market, their social status, buying power and more.

With that information, you can segment your customers and identify opportunities to create products and services that match their needs.
You and I have seen too many products die a slow market death due to the lack of customer understanding and, quite frankly, market arrogance. Philip Kotler, the father of Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to Human Spirit, rightly advocates for putting the customer on a pedestal. He argues that the days of customers being treated like mere consumers are over, but should be treated as complex, multi-dimensional human beings that they are. Their level of sophistication and assertiveness has increased exponentially over years and they are able to choose companies and products that satisfy deeper needs. As the year draws to a close and you put business activity on pause or slow motion, reflect on your business — your successes, challenges, and next steps in your business growth. Be remindend that the business evironment is ever evolving internally, at competition level and broadly at a macro level, and that market research is critical in closing information gabs to enable sound business decision making.

Ensure that your  business processes and disciplines (from marketing, logistis to supply chain management) are all geared towards responding to this new generation of customers, which is not waiting to be told by sales and marketing people about their needs. The development of technology, access to internet and social media, amongst others, have empowered your customers to make sound comparisons of products and services and eventualy make prudent buying decisions based on options at their disposal. Research can help eliminate business complecancy by anchoring the business offering on expectations and peculiar needs of customers that you serve.
l Fundisile Serame is the owner of TechnoFundis, a research and innovation consultancy

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Short courses for ex-mineworkers



THE Lesotho Diamond Academy has introduced mining short courses, particularly to ex-mineworkers, to help them re-enter the mining sector.
The Essential Introductory Courses, which will run for two weeks, will start from June this year. The courses are meant particularly for people who worked in mines in South Africa.

The Academy’s CEO, Relebohile Molefe, unveiled the new courses during the graduation of 18 students last week, four of whom are now armed with Cutting and Polishing certificates while 14 graduated with Rough Diamond Evaluation certificates.

The new courses include the Essential Certificate in Diamond Grading and the Essential Certificate in Diamond Evaluation.

“The decision to offer these courses aligns with the Academy’s dedication to bridge the gap and ensure that individuals with valuable experience can seamlessly reintegrate into the diamond and jewelry industry,” Molefe said.

“By providing short courses, the academy does not only impart essential skills but also contributes to the sector’s growth by reactivating experienced individuals who had lost access to the industry due to no formal documents showing their experience in the industry,’’ she said.

During the graduation celebration, Molefe also unveiled a new sponsorship programme for various courses.

One outstanding student previously sponsored, who demonstrated exceptional proficiency in Rough Diamond Evaluation, was granted a fully funded bursary to further his studies into Advanced Certificate in Round Diamond Brilliantering.

In pursuit of its multifaceted objectives, one of which is to serve as a catalyst for employers in the diamond and jewelry sector to devise skills development strategies, the Academy is set to sponsor four additional students in the upcoming intake starting from February 15.

Two of these bursaries will afford a 30 percent discount on overall fees for two students progressing from Cutting and Polishing to advanced studies in Rough Diamond Evaluation.

Two will be fully funded bursaries to study for a Certificate in Diamond Cutting and Polishing.

Additionally, the institution will extend two fully funded bursaries to the public, fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities.

The Academy says it plans to announce the search for two deserving Basotho individuals on its social media pages and website.

“Importantly, the bursary programme bears no age restrictions, reflecting a commitment to fairness and inclusiveness, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all, irrespective of age,” it says in a statement.

The Academy says it seeks “to be a dynamic force in shaping the industry, not just within national borders, but also on regional and international platforms”.

“The emphasis on competitiveness within these markets underscores the institution’s commitment to producing graduates who are not only proficient but also globally competitive,” the statement reads.

“The recent graduation ceremony symbolises a milestone in the Academy’s journey. The success of its students is a testament to the quality of education and the foresight embedded in the curriculum.”

The Academy says its decision to sponsor further education for outstanding performers reflects a belief in nurturing talent and contributing to the continuous improvement of the diamond industry.

The Lesotho Diamond Academy was founded by the late Mpalipali Molefe, a prominent educator, diamond trader and an MP, who recognised the imperative to elevate professionalism in the diamond industry.

Staff Reporter

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Bank hands over uniforms to students



THE Lesotho Post Bank donated uniforms to students at Leqele High School worth a staggering M60 000 as part of its Back-To-School campaign.
The bank said it did this “to keep needy children in school and to promote their education”.

A teacher at the school, Tšepo Semethe, said the uniforms will likely motivate the students to work harder in their studies.

Semethe insisted on giving the bank the names of the students so that it could check their performance at the end of the year.

“At Leqele High School, we work very hard because what we want is excellence above all. To us, hard work pays,” he said.

The bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Molefi Khama, said they are getting old, they will soon retire and Lesotho Post Bank will be in the hands of these children.

He pleaded with the students to work harder.

“This is why we decided to come here to support the students in their education so that when coming to school, they should be confident,” Khama said.

“We are watching you and waiting on you,” he said.

The school’s head prefect, Tholoana Monatsi, said from now on, “no student will be identified by what they wear”.

“(Lesotho) Post Bank made us one and we thank them for that because what we wear cannot stand before our education. We indeed thank you and forever you will hold special places in our hearts,” she said.

A parent, ’Marorisang Latela, said they were very grateful for the gift from Lesotho Post Bank adding that they must also donate to other schools.

Minister of Trade, Mokethi Shelile, promised to go back to the school to discuss how the children could learn in comfortable surroundings.

Relebohile Tšepe


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Mamello School of Special Needs wins prize



MAMELLO School of Special Needs is the first-place winner of Standard Lesotho Bank’s Scaled-Up Pitching Den held at Maseru Avani on Tuesday.
The school has secured a grand prize for an all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya to participate as a finalist representing Lesotho at the Standard Bank Africa Awards.

The school, pioneered in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic through Zoom classes, deals with children who live with conditions such as autism, attachment disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) dyslexia, Down syndrome and slow learners.

STKTM Solutions claimed the second-place spot, receiving a commendable M10 000, while Masia Farms secured third place and a M5 000 prize.

Pheello Masia of Masia Farms, thanked Standard Lesotho Bank for backing their vision and that of other Basotho entrepreneurs.

He acknowledged that the bank’s faith in their endeavours serves as a source of inspiration, propelling them to work harder and foster growth within the community.

The event, aimed at fortifying support and fostering regional integration for Basotho entrepreneurs across the African continent, showcased the bank’s commitment to driving the growth of Lesotho.

Malatola Phothane, Head of Enterprise Banking at Standard Lesotho Bank, set the tone in his welcoming remarks.

“As Standard Lesotho Bank, through business and commercial banking, we strive to turn possibilities into opportunities,” Phothane said.

“Lesotho is our home, and we drive her growth,” he said.

His words resonated with the bank’s dedication to nurturing local talent and fostering economic development.

Phothane acknowledged the eight finalists, commending them for their resilience and passion for their businesses.

He emphasised how each entrepreneur had stood their ground, displaying knowledge and unwavering commitment.

The recognition not only highlighted the achievements of the finalists but also underscored the bank’s role in recognising and uplifting the entrepreneurial spirit within the community.

Aliciah Motšoane, founder of Prestige Furnitures and Sentebale Gap Funeral Services, played a significant role at the event as a motivational speaker, sharing her entrepreneurial journey filled with challenges and triumphs.

She recounted her humble beginnings when she was selling bread in high school, leading to the establishment of Prestige Furnitures in 1998.

Despite facing a significant setback after her shop was burnt down during the riots and incurring a loss of M5 million, Motšoane never gave up.

She said business is always a demanding endeavour adding that it needs hard work and a unique mindset.

She urged entrepreneurs to embrace their roots, seek inspiration, and persevere through challenges.

The keynote speaker, the bank’s Head of Business and Commercial Clients, Keketso Makara, said the bank is committed to foster a thriving business environment, highlighting the pivotal role of youth collaboration across diverse economic sectors.

Makara said their mandate aims to empower youths in steering the private sector towards growth, contributing to economic diversification.

Makara urged the eight finalists to actively involve bankers in refining their proposals for maximum impact on economic stimulation and sustainable development.

The bank said the Scaled-Up Pitching Den not only served as a stage for entrepreneurs to present their ventures but also acted as a driving force for networking, collaboration, and collective empowerment.

Staff Reporter


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