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Entrepreneur and The Global Village: Lagos as a Case Study

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Sitting behind his balance-sheet in Lagos, Rufus sighs gently as he surveys his environment.

His mind frittered away like the profit he would have made if not for a certain Xiao Jing that opened a new shop in Thailand doing the same thing he does. He had never met Xiao before, nor have his customers. But they supply the same services and his customers now prefer to buy from the man they had never seen, to him who lived in their neighbourhood. That would not have been possible only several years ago; but things are changing now. He, Rufus, had managed to put the tailor in the next street, Calistos out of business with the way he managed the competition between them. He cupped his hands below his chin. His grandmother would have said he was being battled by certain spiritual forces. But he knew better; the world was now a global village. As much as he now had American friends at the tips of his fingers, the competitor in Thailand was now stoking the fire in the kitchen, and that fire could suffocate him in Nigeria. If there was a wizard he should fear, it was the one in Thailand.

It used to take people over a year to travel to distant places, like from West Africa to the Middle East. We now travel in less than a day. Which means whatever the traveller from the 20s would do in five years, we can now comfortably do in five days, meaning some people could finish their life work in 30 years and die instead of using over a 100 years to do so before.
I know it’s a nice introduction, but it’s only the bit from what the world now means to us. The network of communication across the world has brought every nook and cranny of the world into focus and has successfully made the world smaller and connected than it formerly was. America is now a phone call away, and Tokyo, just a click away. We now know what’s going on in the different homes in Indonesia and what’s cooking in China. The world is to us, now a village, where we seem to know everything that is going on around us.

For the businessman, it is a different ball game. The world had now put different people from different backgrounds with different abilities and disabilities on the same platform to contest. Take for example, putting Usain Bolt on the same track with Oscar Pistorious and expecting similar results. Life is unfair, we know but it is its unfairness that brings out the best in us. Your competitor no longer lives in your backyard. You may live in Lagos and have a constant competitor in Brazil. And if this is not taken into consideration, you may soon be closing up.
The danger of having competitors who may not be operating in similar conditions as you are is quite enormous. The gradual disappearance of Dunlop Nigeria several years ago as well as the death of the textile industries are good examples of what international competition may cause. With such big brands, the consequence is delicate but it may even be more damaging for developing brands.

Thus, as an entrepreneur, you can no longer be short-sighted with market demands and the potential supply to such demands whether home or abroad. And then you must go on to decide how you are going to beat that competition or at least create a new market where you may be the only player for a good time. New market charges such as the online markets have broken the barrier that deals with intercommunity markets. With as much Nigerians or Africans going on Alibaba to order for goods that are mostly made in China, your humble beginnings does not matter to the customer who wants to fulfil his demands. The extra charges you have to pay for fuelling your generator or moving your products from Zone A to B and increases your overhead costs are of less concern to the consumer. All the consumer wants is to get the best deals for their money. If waiting for a shipment for a few days is all he has sacrifice, consumers have their benefit per naira intrinsically calculated.

How then do you beat such competition, especially when government policies are not totally favourable to local businesses? This is where innovation comes in. Innovation within existing companies is not too rampant amongst African companies. Most times, when the company has reached a level of comfort in the market, it stays there reinventing the wheel with little or no progress in the quality of the product except that the company continue to look at how to cut quantity supplied at certain prices so as to maximize profits.
Competition should push you to innovate and not to quit. The ability to consistently overcome challenges attached to sustaining your business is what makes successful companies. With the bar now raised beyond local and visible competition, you must now strive to keep up with the latest methods of providing solutions to sustain the profitability of your business. Now, more than ever, the will to innovate will come as need rather than an edified luxury.

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