The wheel need not be re-invented, is an adage commonly used in public lingua. Indeed, apart from the discovery of fire, the other notable invention that has powered human development immensely is the wheel. This places it at the core of economic development. But then, do we really have to re-invent the contraption all over again to best serve our interests?
Nokia, a decade ago, was the world's most valuable brand. The company is credited with jumpstarting the cellular telephony industry by manufacturing the first cellular gadget. The company became even more popular among consumers by incorporating advancements like phone games and inventing the mobile phone-based QWERTY keyboard.
The entry of the BlackBerry smartphone changed all that. Blackberry infused instant messaging into their handsets and the convenience of communicating on the go became a favorite amongst mobile phone owners. For a short period in history, Blackberry was the phone to have. Then came in the iconic iPhone. Its strategy was to manufacture easy to use gadgets and provide convenience. As such, they did not put the physical QWERTY keyboard in its handsets. They co-opted the home button and introduced apps on their graphical user interfaces.
Well, did iPhone go to the lengths of inventing anything new? Absolutely not! What they did was evaluate the needs of their target market and reworked the ordinary mobile device to suit these needs. Its ownership was synonymous with prestige. As such, consumers are perceived classy to own an iPhone. How else do you explain, on social media, to see iPhone users take mirror selfies with the iPhone logo on the phone’s backside fully displayed?
Closer home, a classic study is in the telecommunications sector. The front-runner in mobile telephony was Kencell, who metamorphosed into Zain and is nowadays known as Airtel. The firm concentrated its services in urban areas targeting the middle-class population. Heavy capitalization guaranteed Kencell a loyal customer base thanks to its superior service. Safaricom, which started as a department of the Kenya Post and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC), a government parastatal, re-invented mobile telephony by enhancing its reach to the inaccessible rural folks boosted by its game changer – the famous mobile wallet Mpesa service. The rest, as they say, is history. Safaricom now comfortably commands more than 70% of the local telecoms market.
The lesson I am trying to drive home is that it does not matter if the solution has been invented by its discoverer; your role as an entrepreneur is to study the solution provided and tweak it further to enhance its effectiveness in providing a solution. Let innovation be your core value.
Our endeavors to invent at times are a waste of time and resources and in most cases, heartbreaking. The number one reason for business failure is lack of a need. When you start a business and you fail to fulfill the target audience’s needs, it would definitely collapse. To save on cost, it would, therefore, be prudent to study the available solution models and improve on them. This is what would guarantee development – advancements on what is already on the ground.
Do you want to have it easy in the world of entrepreneurship? Appreciate your skills and find ways to employ them to solve a challenge in society. You need not be stressed that there is an existing solution provided – just study and improve on it. The wheel indeed does not need to be re-invented, but improved for efficacy!
Michael Okinda is a former Cytonn eHub Season 2 Trainer. He is also a Business Coach, Author & Founder of PBL Africa