The ability to spot future business trends puts you ahead in your industry.
A young economist stopped at a traffic light in a not-so-safe neighbourhood in a city in the U.S. A seemingly homeless man pushing a cart fitting the profile of a mugger started crossing the road in what seemed to take forever. The young economist tacitly aware he was in a not-so-safe part of town, however, observed that the homeless guy had nice headphones. The young economist, Steven Levitt’s thoughts are catalogued in different books but this particular narrative is from his best seller, Freakonomics.
Like Levitt, I pause to make sense of the impact of activities happening around me, not necessarily to observe who has nice headphones but to understand the space where I play, to understand its history, its present makeup and to attempt to predict its future – business trends.
A legendary hockey player, asked for the secret of his success said you don’t skate where the puck is, you skate where it is going. In other words, entrepreneurship, which is the game I play, isn’t about today’s opportunities. If you are starting to take advantage of today’s opportunities today, you are late to the party. You are scrapping crumbs from the loaf already eaten by others. Tomorrow’s opportunities belong to those who see it and prepare for it. As an entrepreneur, you should be looking for business trends.
The laggards and complainers in tomorrow’s economy would be like a car driver on a road he’s unfamiliar with and also fails to observe traffic signs and stops. As long as a driver observes road signs and directions, he will arrive at his desired destination. Observing road signs is looking out for business trends.
Tomorrow’s economy is being shaped today. To help you appreciate the credibility and authenticity of these road signs (business trends), let us take an overview at how opportunities were grabbed yesterday by people who still wield influence today. The shapers of tomorrow’s economy are at work already and the intent of this article is to influence your thinking enough to push you into taking action or accelerating your progress if you are already positioned for tomorrow.
A long time ago, there lived a generation of people who had just got independence from their British colonial masters. This lot needed people that could manage government at different levels, so some among them went into politics, some into administration and others the military. They passed the task of running the country amongst themselves for close to four decades before the civilians were tasked with the responsibility indefinitely. In the meantime, this class of people attracted the best and most educated minds and their ranks swelled with them.
Outside their circles, another class existed but engaged in commerce. Commerce was for the uneducated and unexposed, however, it brought returns in large amounts. With time, this second class grew in wealth and confidence. The unexposed became exposed and the uneducated became educated, albeit outside the four walls of a school. They could keep their own and became popular in society too. They achieved tremendous success. Some of them were able to make their wealth transcend generations and stand to this day, managed by descendants lucky enough to be born into such fortune.
But that was yesterday and today is 2017. A lot has changed. The terminologies have changed. Business men are now called entrepreneurs and this league is now open to women. Trade barriers and location restrictions are no more and the world is referred to as a global village. It is as easy for me to buy something from New Zealand as it is for me to buy from Nnewi. Who knows? Buying from New Zealand might actually be easier than buying from Nnewi!
What will business look like in tomorrow’s economy?
I will give five business trends that each holds massive opportunities. They can be made into multi-million naira businesses.
1 Professionalised artisans
Tomorrow’s economy will be beyond the knowledge range of today’s artisans. Tomorrow’s artisan is a well-educated person with international exposure and several hours of training which equips them for the profession they have chosen.
Today’s mechanic can’t even fix today’s cars talk more of tomorrow’s cars. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, vulcanizers, car mechanics and traders need new knowledge to tackle tomorrow’s challenges as technology keeps reshaping the industries where they play in.
Today’s artisan CANNOT deliver on this new knowledge requirement. Observing business trends and positioning yourself as an expert today immediately puts you in a position to profit from tomorrow’s economy. Get your hands dirty and learn from today’s artisan, research best global practices and adapt your service to the local market. Of course, don’t forget to package yourself. You are an expert, we need you.
2 Niche-based web businesses
A time comes not too far from now when just a little shy of 100% of everything we do will be via the internet. In Nigeria today, the positions for number one and two general online retailers have gone to Jumia and Konga. Unless you have “Dangote” money and are prepared to fight for market share, leave these positionings alone.
There are currently more profitable positions to take up with less competition and higher margins. Hotels.ng, ToLet.com.ng and notjustok.com are all niche players. They focus on serving a small part of the massive population and delivering one service superiorly. One thing starting a web-based business does is it allows you sell all the time beyond boundaries.
3 Platform aggregators
Tomorrow’s leading businesses won’t be one-man shows but platform aggregators. These platforms help other businesses or people achieve their objectives. While being a platform aggregator is easier achieved via the internet, there are several businesses offline that are also platform aggregators. Konga.com, Jobberman.com, etc. are examples of online platform aggregators while Shoprite and Spar are examples of offline platform aggregators. You would be surprised Shoprite doesn’t invest a dime of its money in inventory.
BellaNaija, Linda Ikeji and ReDahlia (this website) are content aggregators, though the content each delivers differs. They simply collect, refine (sometimes), vet products and services and make them readily available and accessible to the user.
4 2nd-tier city businesses
I travelled to Ilorin, Kwara State about 12 years ago and I walked into an eatery that was highly recommended for selling quality snacks. The manager was Chinese, the kitchen staff were Chinese and the only Nigerians there were the doorman and one of the guys behind the cash machine. I obviously have not forgotten the incident. These guys left China, didn’t settle in Lagos or Abuja but came to Ilorin to build a thriving business.
Tomorrow’s fast growth opportunities may not be in playing globally, it is in moving into 2nd-tier cities. These cities include Ibadan, Owerri, Kaduna, Ilorin, Calabar, etc. Shoprite obviously has seen this and cannot even open outlets fast enough. Look at your current business and see how a physical presence in any of these cities would impact growth or start whole new businesses for these locations. Sometimes a service we take for granted in a 1st-tier city such as Abuja or Port-Harcourt may be a big deal in a 2nd-tier city.
5 Made in Nigeria
Made in Nigeria will get increasingly popular in the coming years. Some industries have been wholly Nigerianised –music, movies, fashion, etc.The trend will catch up with other sectors and in a time not too far from now, nearly everything you use from mobile phones to cars, clothes, and TVs will be made in Nigeria. Four factors will drive this – shifting consumer preferences, consumer advocacy, government policies, and limited and high cost of securing foreign exchange to fund imports which have local substitutes.
So here you have them; the clear road signs to tomorrow’s economy. Knowledge is power, right? Wrong. Applied knowledge is power.
Here is an interesting read.