How South African businesses can embrace the tech revolution

Marwaan Sasman
The Fourth Industrial Revolution was a hot topic at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos and more recently WEF Africa in Durban. But what does a technology-driven revolution mean for local entrepreneurs and the local small business environment?

Marwaan Sasman, founder and creative director of Pigeon Pie: Design Lab, a beneficiary of the Innovator Trust, says it is a window of opportunity for all. He says technology currently drives the industry and the economy and with every new software application, digital platform or piece of hardware, comes a completely new market opportunity.

“The market is changing rapidly. The small innovative companies will be able to out-pace their slow and established contemporaries with their legacy systems. There is massive scope for growth,” Sasman says.

 The Innovator Trust was specifically formed to grow small black- owned businesses in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and to help develop competent SMME’s through training, skills sharing and infrastructure support. Sasman says Pigeon Pie wants to inspire organisations to challenge the status quo. The creative agency focuses on brand development and management.

“A great brand does more than build a business. A great brand can engage an audience, start a movement or inspire a nation. We develop the brand strategies and creative communication that ensures you build a brand people fall in love with; a brand that connects,” he says.

“Great ideas have the power to influence the future. We work with the change-makers, the rule-breakers, the visionaries and those who are creating things that are changing the world. We build their brands and amplify their influence,” he says.

Tashline Jooste, CEO of the Innovator Trust Jooste says that it is this type of mindset that will have a significant impact on how business is conducted in South Africa.

“In a digital age renowned for disrupting industry, it means that creativity will start overshadowing mechanical knowledge and entrepreneurial thinking will be the currency of the new business world, “she says.

“Employers will rely less on traditional knowledge, prioritising innovation and adaptability instead,” she adds.

According to Sasman the key for local enterprise, will be to adopt an innovative mind-set and focus on skills development to ensure that digital transformation opportunities can be filled – and led – by South Africans themselves.

“This type of “out-of-the-box” thinking or mentality should apply if future start-ups want to be competitive and can also assist in finding new and original solutions to the challenges they may encounter,” he says.

“With social media, the internet of things, big data collection, storage and the opportunity to engage directly with consumers; it’s now easier than ever to get a truly granular understanding of who your customer is.

Globalisation however means that it has become more important than ever before for business owners in South Africa to become the creators of solutions and not just the consumers of technology, which is the status quo presently.  “We need to start following international trends to understand where the market is going. We need to look beyond our local environment.” says Jooste

“More practically, this means; companies need to start benchmarking against their international peers and outgrow the local industry standards,” she concludes.