This article was originally written by Strive Masiyiwa on his Facebook page on the topic, “using the internet to drive your business growth: the most valuable real estate in the world”… and its related topics.
A few months ago, I was talking with a leading entrepreneur who has made billions in the media business. Our discussion centered on how an entrepreneur can use the Internet to make billions of dollars. We called it the most “valuable REAL ESTATE in the world… more valuable than land.”
Every entrepreneur needs to “see” the Internet as “valuable real estate,” in much the same way you would see a piece of land for building something like a hotel.
From now on, when you go onto the Internet for anything, I want you to “see” as an entrepreneur, and not just as a consumer of a service. Challenge yourself to ask the hard questions:
1. “This website I’m visiting — how do these guys actually make money?”
2. “How does this App make money?”
3. “What is their business model?”
4. “Why can’t I build something using the same concept?”
If you were discussing with a billionaire potential investor, would you, as an entrepreneur, be able to answer the questions I’ve posed above, based on observations from these platforms?
Remember a key lesson I’ve shared before: Every business today must do everything possible to drive its growth using the Internet.
See Also: Problems Facing Start Ups In Africa
This means (I’ve said it before and will do so again)…Every business must have a website!
These days when someone wants to learn something about your business, your brand, your product, or your services, the first thing they do is study your website:
• Remember, people are able to look at your website from anywhere in the world. So make it world-class.
• A website must be clean, and clear about what you’re selling. In our case, we sell television programming, which includes movies, series, documentaries, news and sports.
• The website must show a customer where and how to get the products or services on offer.
At Kwesé, for instance, we have established one key website: Kwese.Com. This website is not only our key window to the world; it’s also, most importantly, the place where we want our customers to go first when they want to learn about our services, and how to get them.
Where do I go if I want to know about your own business? How do you draw my attention to it? In China, they believe in being “fast followers.” That’s why they have their own versions of Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, and Twitter…
Why the Internet is the key to expanding a business across Africa and the world
By now you know that one of my burning passions was always to set up a business that expanded outside my own country. I remember traveling to Namibia in 1990 with a plan to set up a business there. By then I’d been in business for less than five years, and already I was thinking of international expansion. Unfortunately, it was a total fiasco!
I didn’t yet have the capital or the skills to do something like that, and Africa really wasn’t yet ready to receive investors from other African countries. I went back home disappointed but not dispirited. I knew that one day I would do it… and seven years later, I set up Mascom in Botswana!
The rest is history, as they say. I’ve now developed the capacity to set up businesses almost anywhere in the world, and it just seems to get easier and easier.
You can do it, too!
Now let me share with you another secret: You can set up a cross-border or multinational business almost overnight these days and you don’t have to have years of international experience.
How is that?! It’s the Internet!
You can create a pan-African or even a global business overnight because of the smartphone (handheld computer) which gives you access to the Internet. Today there are already 250m people with smartphones in Africa that you can use to connect you and your business to the world, instantly.
All you need to do is to develop products and services for them!
In recent months, I have allowed you a front row seat to see how this is done through the Kwesé TV project. First, we put our programming on the Kwesé App, which allows anyone to watch TV on their mobile phone from anywhere in Africa. Right now, entrepreneurs are launching products for distribution in this way from all corners of the world.
Let me give you another amazing example: We always knew we could beam by satellite to every African country at the same time. That technology has been around for a long time. So then we started thinking of how to tackle an old challenge in a new way: How do you sell satellite TV decoders to people in every African country?
The traditional solution? Set up offices and shops, country by country which could take years…
Our solution? E-COMMERCE!
We have now set up an ONLINE platform that is selling decoder packages in the 13 countries where we already have authorization to operate!
Yes, we can now sell our products and services online… and recruit dealers online, too!
Just last week we launched Kwesé’s Online Shop … as well as an online “recruitment center” to help us find the best dealers on the African continent.
Imagine if I could have done that in 1990 when I went to Namibia; in fact, I would have spared myself the trip!
This is what the likes of Google, Facebook, Netflix, Alibaba and others have done… Now we in Africa can (and MUST) do it, too.
The bottom line is this: it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you can expand it, not just across Africa but the world.
I’m sure your e-magination is working overtime by now!
Building an Internet business
Looking back 150 years ago, if a young man wanted to make a fortune, he had to go to the goldfields of California or Johannesburg. It was called the “gold rush.” About 100 years ago, it was all about being in the oil sector somewhere. And 25 years ago (my time), it was about getting into telecoms (GSM).
Now there’s a new “gold rush” which started since the telecoms revolution gave birth to the rapid expansion of the Internet. Every single day, entrepreneurs across the world, including Africa, are launching tens of thousands of businesses on the Internet!
When you think about building a business on the Internet, there are five things you should be thinking about:
1. How can I use the Internet to help grow the business we already have? There is no entrepreneurial activity that cannot benefit from the Internet. Websites, social media platforms, are all platforms that can be used to grow your business in terms of its sales and profitability by reaching more customers, quickly and cheaply.
It will quicken your growth. It is key to getting to the global marketplace.
2. How can I use the Internet to spur innovation?
3. How can I use the Internet to lower barriers of entry, including capital and cost?
4. How can I use the Internet to access skills, expertise, and partnerships?
5. How can I build actual Internet businesses?
This last question takes the game to a completely new level altogether. You and I are now on a platform called Facebook. Most people who use Facebook don’t even stop to think that it’s a business. I have even had people write me through Facebook and say they would like to be on the Internet!
You probably use WhatsApp, another Internet-based business. Perhaps you have used Uber, or bought things on Jumia and Konga, and you used a search engine from Google or Yahoo. All these businesses rely on the Internet.
Facebook first launched in 2004. It’s now worth $430+bn, close to the GDP of two of Africa’s biggest economies like Nigeria at $486.8bn (2015- World Bank) and South Africa at $317.6bn (2015- StatsSA). Google (Alphabet) is even bigger at about $645bn, last time I looked.
The titans of the Internet — Alibaba, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Tencent — are all bigger than nearly all mining, manufacturing, telecoms, and natural resource companies in the world today! Even the likes of Apple and Microsoft are only able to compete with them because they manufacture phones or provide software used to access the Internet.
Almost all these companies were started by young people, often whilst still at college. Many aren’t even 40 years old. These guys never knew there was such a thing as tenders on government contracts. They knew no ministers of government, and had never met a President!
You do not need powerful friends and relatives in high places to get access to the most valuable piece of “real estate” in the history of the world. What you DO need is access to the Internet!