The internet has become the latest frontline for business activity. It is very difficult to run a pure brick and mortar business in the second decade of the twenty-first century without taking into cognizance for a minute some of the advantages the internet has to offer.
Entrepreneurship has become a common buzzword here in Ghana, and it is usually very interesting to note how many businesspeople use that term to define their niche or role in business. In looking at the perfect synergy of technology and business activity, the role of the web therefore has become very influential.
Take for example sourcing of goods and services. Tradeshows require lots of money to organize, with giant cost footprints in terms of advertising, communication, logistics for smooth event management and the gathering of stakeholders of all sorts from financiers to exhibitors. Whats more, such shows are only periodic at best and participants might not be physically able to have the best interactions with prospective partners due to distractions and other attention grabbers. Finding and investigating the right business partners always add an extra workload on an already engaging schedule.
For the modern Ghanaian businessman therefore, the presence of the web introduces a great opportunity to evolve ecosystems of suppliers, distributors and customers for myriad goods and services across different business categories. Whether it is in agriculture, import and export of machinery or food, textiles or services, the internet or the world wide web present a fertile ground for some serious business.
This then leads us to who a webpreneur is. Simply put, a webpreneur is someone who is able to push the boundaries of business from a traditional entrepreneur to that of an internet entrepreneur, where he or she makes use of tools on the internet to access a wider market, gain better leverage and basically craft a brand that is local in context but also global in reach.
Anybody can be a webpreneur. Whether it is in the sales of salt, shoes or secretarial services, the web has given us a new dimension to ply our trade or run our core business without having to use traditional methods. Very important cases in point have been made for companies like Amazon, whose direct competitor was Barnes & Noble. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, used the internet as a sales model and eventually transformed the publishing industry, to the point that Barnes & Noble, which was the premier name in bookshops in America had to eventually change their model to suit the times, while also innovating with tablets like the Kindle, which command a large portion of publishing retail activity worldwide. The dynamics are a different discussion.
You don’t need the next best big idea to become a webpreneur. All you need are tools and how to effectively use the tools. Like I mentioned earlier, any kind of business can thrive on the internet with its possible 2 billion users. Yes, that’s the market you are open to. In addition, Ghana’s internet presence is rapidly expanding with the increase in use of mobility and tools such as SMS messaging. We have all received message blasts telling us about some product or other. In most cases, your ability to innovate and think out of the box is your capital.
Many young Ghanaian businessmen have taken advantage of the internet to develop and market themselves in the tight business space. One of the best channels to do that is with websites like Facebook.com, which has helped Ghanaian brands like InCharge, which is an e-wallet service, Heel The World, which offers good Ghanaian made shoes, and a whole bunch of others.
The modern entrepreneur must be streetwise, and the internet offers the chance to bring those marketing skills to the fore. However, there are other qualities you might need to become a successful webpreneur, and these are:
Resilience: You should be strong, have a thick skin and be ready to withstand initial setbacks,
Determination: Focus on the goals, implement ruthlessly strategies identified while believing in your ability to make it.
Creativity: Of course, without a bit of creativity, nobody will pay attention to you. Grab the attention of your market with very catchy product names and services that will entice them to you.
Market Knowledge: Know your market, know your customers, anticipate their needs, and pre-provide some of those needs with your website or social media channel
Foresight: Identify trends in the market like any savvy entrepreneur and align it with your web strategy.
Judgment: Identifying risks and rewards and having a risk management plan means that your good judgment will give you an upperhand and make you take advantage of opportunities.
That being said, what are the best channels for a webpreneur? Social media, like facebook, twitter, linkedIn are starting points. Joining trade sites and memberships are another, facilities like Google Trader also open up different markets, as well as the use of mobile platforms like Bulk SMS systems are great ways to having a headstart.
Now get to work and good luck in redefining your business!