Last week, I attended an event where I learned about the new approaches some African entrepreneurs are taking towards innovation. Some of us have not been able to start out in business because we feel that such a venture will not be worth our time unless we can come up with something completely new, something that no one has ever thought of or done before.
Innovation, however, is not just about dreaming up ground-breaking ideas. The entrepreneurs I was privileged to meet last week have all found new ways of delivering old services to their clientele. Can you think of a new way to deliver an existing product or service?
Ms Juliet Asante, Ghana - Mobile Fliks
A film-maker, Juliet Asante has found a way to create and sell 10 minute long movies for mobile telephones. She is not trying to compete with 90 minute long feature films or your favourite television shows.
Mobile Fliks offers short movies to people on-the-go. Ghanaians commuting to work on a bus or standing in line at the bank can now entertain themselves by watching a short movie on their phone while they wait. Movies have been around for a long time.
Mobile telephones are not new either. Juliet has found a way to bring the two together. She offers entertainment to people “on-the-go” who happily pay for the movie downloads with units of airtime.
Dr Victoria Kisyombe, Tanzania – Sero Lease and Finance Limited (SELFINA)
Seeking to provide a way for women who were ineligible for traditional commercial loans to obtain access to credit, Dr Kisyombe launched a company that loans and leases productive assets. SELFINA leases a variety of products ranging from photocopiers, ovens and tractors to livestock!
The clientele served are primarily rural. They will never qualify for any kind of bank services on their own. With SELFINA’s support, over the years these non-traditional leasing clients develop a borrowing history. SELFINA keeps detailed records of each client’s lease payments.
By the time they finally own the asset they were leasing, SELFINA customers have a history that makes them an attractive prospect for the traditional banks. At that point, SELFINA customers also own an asset in their own names; an asset that traditional banks are willing to accept as collateral.
Leasing is nothing new. Dr Kisyombe simply found a new way to offer an old service to a group that was never eligible for leasing before. Since 2002, SELFINA has served more than 200,000 people with Sh41.5 billion ($16 million) in credit.
Think about the goods or services that the business you own offers, or even the goods or services that you and your family regularly consume. Can you think of a new ways for them to be offered to customers who will actually pay? Challenge your staff, friends and/or family members to help you come up with new ideas.
Dorothy M. Tuma