Ride new waves to stay ahead
I am still in America and I am learning a lot, from the technology to how their systems work. The other day, I had a gig in Seattle and before we headed to the venue, a long term friend, Ngash, asked that we pass through the bank for he had a cheque he wanted to deposit.
When we got to the bank, I was intrigued by their ‘drive thru’ banking system. I am sure many eateries in Nairobi are busy creating room for a ‘drive thru’.
What happens is that you order a meal without getting out of your car and you are instantly served. The same logic applies to bank designs here.
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Another thing I loved is that if you have a cheque, you don’t have to go to the bank to deposit it. All you do is sign the back of the cheque, take a photo of the cheque and email it to the bank. Within 30 minutes you have your money. But we shouldn’t beat ourselves so hard, I met a war veteran aged about 90 who said that the problems we (Kenyans/Africans) are going through right now, America went through the same in the 1900s and earlier.
From bad wages, corruption, industrialisation and the service industry.
Today’s question is how do you get ahead of time and not wait for systems to evolve?
With the story above, does it mean Africa will have to wait for systems to catch up, or does it go out of its way to create opportunities and bridge the gap.
Let me use one scenario of my life as a practical example. After I got an opportunity to work with the phenomenal Dj Loop as a sound engineer in his then 2007 Sneed studio, within six months I had an album.
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But that meant that as a new and upcoming artiste, my product had no market.
It didn’t help that most establshed artistes – who continually discouraged me – had not produced a single album. So I took their advice with a grain of salt and focussed on the mentality that, ‘if they say I can’t do, then learn how to do it and do it. Fail while doing it. Learn from the failure and start all over again, until you win.’
Instead I chose to be inspired by the stories I read on The Vibe and Source magazines.
As entrepreneurs, we need to be careful what reading material we choose to get motivated by.
Remember there are no new inventions, just new executions. From the magazines, I learnt what the American music labels were doing but I knew their strategy wouldn’t work back home, but I had the freedom of adjusting the strategy to suit the Kenyan audience.
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What all the reading materials gave me was inspiring materials. With inspiration, I created new paths. My first market was ‘my phonebook’.
I meet young entrepreneurs and their worry is, “where will I get the market?” Since that was one of my worries too, I called almost everyone on my phonebook and told them that I was now a musician , and since me calling them made them feel special, they bought what I was selling. In two weeks I sold 400cds.
There was, however, need to expand my fanbase, so one day as I was sitted on the city council benches, an idea hit me.
I asked myself a question that led to a great idea. How do I tap into the lifestyle of a kawaida consumer?
I did what researchers call market and consumer analysis.
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Where is this youth who would be interested in such a product and what would make them refer their circles to back to my product? My analysis brought out a pattern.
I noticed that matatus are always full and they have music playing. They ferry over millions of Kenyans everyday, so I strategically placed my music in matatus so that I benefit from this untapped channel.
Months later my music was so big in the streets, the media had to look for me and do my story.
I also learnt that no matter how small your business is, always respect the quality you put out and the work ethic, then most definitely it will reflect In your output.
In summary, the business life should never ‘wait’. Ditch ‘the technology is not yet here’ excuse and instead, improvise.
The early man thought about fire but he didn’t wait for gas for him to cook.
He took two sticks and made fire. We have to improvise so that we may enjoy the evolution of our products and services. Its simple, just start.