Covid-19 has brought together 7 elements that Pavlo Phitidis says create the perfect opportunity for mid-size South African businesses to take advantage of, to service markets beyond our borders.
Listen to his discussion about this on The Money Show on 702 & CapeTalk:
We have a resilience in South Africa that comes from years of operating in a no growth economy, and living with constant political and energy uncertainty. It’s been a business-unfriendly environment, yet the business owners we work with aren’t even aware of it! It has become normal and we overcome these challenges without even thinking about it. When Pavlo compares South African business owners with those he has worked with in the UK, USA and Europe through Covid, he’s noticed a stark difference. There, they are waiting for economic policies and remedial plans to roll out, here we are battle ready, fit and capable both mentally and emotionally to cope with an uncertain environment.
The Covid crisis is not personal! Pre-Covid South Africa’s crises hit one after the next, from all the scandals of the Zuma administration, to load shedding, to downgrades – they all felt personal as other economies were growing, and even booming in some places.
Covid is universal. Every country has suffered under lockdown. It has forced change in the way people behave and businesses engage. It’s creates a whole new set of problems and whoever served those customers before, needs to change the way they serve them now, or they won’t be relevant. People are primed for change.
South Africa has both a well-developed and informal economy. In our developed economy we have the ability build products and services suited to other developed economies, and we can do it in the tall grass of SA, where no-one is paying us any attention, so we can test it and get it right. This is in contrast to high profile economies where competition springs up overnight to compete with any new offering.
The weak currency at the moment means we can export very cost effectively.
We have global standard technology skills, which means we can build out global standard tech solutions. Why this is so important now? Because crises always accelerate digitisation, and Covid has been no different. We have had to work remotely, which has shown us we can work from anywhere in the world, with anyone in the world. And we have the added bonus of speaking English, which is the language of international business conversations.
Pavlo compared businesses he’s working with in South Africa with those in the UK, EU and USA, where he has also been active through lockdown. The amount of economic support offered to SMEs in the UK in particular is eyewatering. For example, furlough in the UK allows businesses to put their staff on ‘leave’ during lockdown and the government pays 80% of salaries up to a certain threshold. And they mandated that landlords could not evict tenants for 3 months.
This meant the business owners had little motivation to do anything but take some time off during lockdown.
In South Africa, because we have no social net and SMEs bore the brunt of the economic shutdown – we had to keep going, we had to re-strategise, and find new opportunities, and these businesses are emerging now with different capabilities and opportunities to take advantage of. We haven’t been slowed down by the comfort of social support.
The Kubler Ross grief curve is still relevant – and it shows that you need to ACT to get through the depression stage. You will never see opportunities in this stage. Most business owners in South Africa have had to just get on with it. That action has forced them through the grief curve, to a point where we are able to see possibilities that those who were furloughed, could not.
If you’re looking to grow your business across our borders, get in touch.