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Are we innovative enough?



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“ It’s tough when markets change and your people within the company 1Red and WhiteGIF Filedon’t.”- [Harvard Business Review]




One of the lowest priced cooking oils in Zimbabwean supermarkets in the past few weeks is Pure Drop. It is of good quality and is cheaper than the popular South African brands that have flooded the market for years now. And it is manufactured in Chitungwiza by Surface Industries.

On the other hand we have Olivine, which is producing probably one of the most expensive cooking oils on the market. The company is reportedly seeking US$32 million to retool its plant. That is a lot of money. For comparison, it was reported that the Zimplants mining plant cost US$200 million. This is a huge project and Olivine needs a sixth of that for upgrading its relatively small plant!

On my recent article on lean strategy, a Harare Business Club member on LinkedIn, Innocent Machabe, commented that most Zimbabwean entrepreneurs are failing to grow because they do not have different approaches to business. They continue to follow the traditional methods instead of thinking of new ones. In other words there is not much innovation in this country. Look at how many businesses are selling exactly the same things at the same prices, be they clothing, shoes, DVDs etc. Very few people are doing things differently.

Innovation is defined as the introduction of something new. It could be a new idea, method or device. Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, services, technologies, or ideas.

Old models should be allowed to die. No-one really cares if you started in 1931 if your product is not competitive in the modern market. Fast failure enables new ideas to come faster.

One way to innovate: Push to learn in the market. The epigraph in Steve Blank’s latest book (with Bob Dorf), The Startup Owner’s Manual, says it all: “Get out of the building!” Large companies are used to relying on desk research and consultants to size markets and sharpen strategy, but the search for tomorrow’s business has to be conducted in or close to the market. Remember, markets that don’t yet exist are notoriously difficult to measure and analyze, so the team should spend as much time as possible with prospective customers, partners, and suppliers. Even richer lessons come when a team goes beyond talking, to actually attempting to produce, sell, and support its offering, even if it is that offering has some limitations.

As a small business owner, you need to learn to continuously innovate in order to grow in a competitive market.

Do you think as Zimbabwean entrepreneurs  we  are innovating enough? Let me know your thoughts.


Phillip Chichoni is the founder of Admiral Business Systems, a firm which provides business development consultancy and training. He is the author of books that include Business Planning Simplified and High Impact Low Cost Marketing Strategies for SMEsand publisherof BusinessLink Magazine. You can contact him for all your business plans, company and PBC registration, marketing advice, tax consultancy and accounting, his email is chichonip@smebusinesslink.com or visit http://smebusinesslink.com.

If you liked this article, please forward it to your friends and contacts that may benefit from it. To join the mailing list, just send an email with SUBSCRIBE on the subject line to chichonip@gmail.com.


NB1: Zimra is charging US$30 per day as penalty if you have not submitted your ITF16 by the deadline of 30 January, 2014. Follow this link for more details, http://smebusinesslink.com/2014/03/03/penalty-late-submission-of-tax-returns-statutory-instrument-97-of-2013/

NB2: We are holding the following business workshops in March: Step by Step Guide to Starting a Business in Zimbabwe -12 March, Writing an Effective Business Plan-13 March &Marketing and Selling Strategy for Solid Results- 14 March. For detailed information, please visit http://smebusinesslink.com/2014/03/03/6738/

 NB3: Business guide books available, go to http://smebusinesslink.com/businesslink-resources/


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