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Mobile banking – and its threats – on the rise

Simeon ConeyThe unprecedented growth in mobile banking in Africa comes as welcome news to investors, telecoms providers, financial institutions and consumers. However, warns SIMEON CONEY, VP of Strategic Development, at AdaptiveMobile, the potential for fraud and abuse requires user education and operator engagement.

South Africa stands to emerge as the leader in mobile banking on the continent of Africa.

A recent United Nations Trade and Development Conference singled out how mobile technology can help trade and commerce, specifically benefiting the growth and sustainability of small vendors in South Africa.

Mobile is a natural medium for banking services such as money transfers, and the ubiquity of the mobile phone makes it easier to reach consumers, overcoming the challenges of limited ATM and bank property infrastructure in particular regions.

With this opportunity comes the challenge to protect users and the system from fraud and abuse.

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Posted in the category: Economy, Technology, Trends

Study reveals multinational's broad economic footprint

Every one person employed by multinational giant Unilever is responsible for the support of a further 22 individuals, according to a critical study of the company’s economic footprint in South Africa. The findings are expected to create the impetus for other multinationals and large businesses to re-look how they create and share wealth.

The “Footprint” study, a critical research project carried out by Professor Ethan Kapstein of INSEAD, a leading European business school, has found that every person employed by Unilever South Africa supported another 22 up and down the supply chain. This impact on jobs is regarded as significant in South Africa, with its extremely high unemployment.Gail Klintworth and Ethan Kapstein

Unilever SA’s Gail Klintworth with Professor Ethan Kapstein

The study also found that, for every R100 of sales by the company, a further R145 of value-added is created in the wider South African economy. The associated economic activity also generated nearly one percent of South Africa’s tax revenue.

The role of multinationals, especially in developing countries, has been the subject of debate for many years. Some governments and campaigning organisations have questioned whether multinationals do more good than harm in emerging markets.

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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

Kalahari voted best in e-shopping

For the second year running, has been named South Africa’s Best e-Commerce Store of 2007.

The South African E-Commerce Awards are coordinated by the shopping search site Jump Shopping, and take into account range, price, design, ease of use and quality of service. was also named Best Online Bookstore, and Best Online Jewellery and Watch Store.

The 2007 awards saw a large number of new entries nominated by the public. “It is a clear indication that the standard of local e-commerce stores has vastly improved from the previous year,” says Albert Bredenhann, managing director of Jump Shopping.

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Posted in the category: Economy, News, Technology

Skills shortage a calamity

Gusti CoetzerThe shortage of skilled executives in South Africa was nothing short of a calamity, a leading recruiter warned this week. And, she added, the belief that expatriates who had left the country would return to reverse the situation was an illusion.

Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer, founding partner with leading executive recruitment firm Leaders Unlimited – Korn/Ferry International, said there was a world-wide shortage of talented people, and South African recruiters were fishing in the same global pool as their competitors elsewhere in the world.

Speaking at the Labour Market 2008 conference in Midrand, Coetzer said the workforce had become globally integrated and executives were now selling their services to the highest bidder on an international basis. Keep reading →


Posted in the category: Economy, News, Trends

Brand management lessons from South African cricket

by Janice Spark

Cricket South AfricaAs Makhaya Ntini failed to fend Shane Warne off on a gloomy Durban evening, most South African cricket fans would have been desperately trying to transport themselves back a few weeks, to the Wanderers, to the one day record and the dream that finally beating the Australians at test cricket was about to become a reality.

Smart business people will, however, have been taking notes throughout the Protea’s extended home and away battle with the Aussies – and will have learned important lessons from South African cricket’s ultimately brave failure to re-vitalise the power of the Proteas brand.

Lesson #1 – Dealing with the past

South African cricket was the first white orientated sporting code to face up to the reality of apartheid. After the infamous rebel tours of the eighties finally dissolved into farce, South African cricket made moves to liberate itself from the past, well before Mandela was released. The result of this early action was that, unlike rugby, cricket recently announced a self declared end to the quota system at national level – this move received a political rubber stamp, thanks to a sound track record and good equity numbers across the sport as a whole.

The parallels with brand management in 21st century South African business are obvious. The far sighted players are already enjoying the benefits of early transformation, while the rest are trying to catch up.

Unfortunately for the Protea’s, their brand has been unable to capitalise on a very promising start…

Lesson #2 – The leadership imperative

Hansie Cronje’s shadow looms large over the Proteas brand, and continues to define the sport’s troublesome leadership challenge. Any truly successful brand requires strong and committed leadership (backed by a stable and well recognised succession plan) across the full scope of the organisation. Unfortunately, South African cricket has been unable to achieve this since re-admission to the international game.

Appointing Graeme Smith as a quasi ‘captain for life’ was a brave move – but when you’re trying to recover from a nuclear-level identity crisis bravery is required; Like him or not, everyone recognises Smith for who and what he is, which provides very necessary stability for the Protea’s brand. Conversely, however, South African cricket’s issues with ‘coach-churn’ have undone this good intent. Vacillations at board level, resulting in the appointment of a string of coaches, have hurt the Protea’s brand on and off the field. Anyone who watches South African cricket on a regular basis will surely concur that the outfit remains a young team seemingly still seeking to discover its character, its personality and its voice. This is the second time the team has had to go through this painful leadership growth phase in a little over a decade. And it shows.

There are signs that South African cricket has realised how its lack of leadership intent, communication and stability is hurting the brand’s overall performance. The appointment of Vince van Der Bijl as General Manager of Professional Cricket, and a stated intent to stick with ‘man-manager’ Micky Arthur as coach are positive signs that actual leadership stability could be on the horizon.

Lesson #3 – Aligning intent, values and reality

The Protea’s sailed forth into their tour to Australia waving the flag of ‘brave cricket’. Having had recent success against minor nations, this ‘new’ approach, without explicitly saying so, was clearly an attempt to engender a healthy sense of self and to push towards an aggressive style of play that delivers results. However, the ‘brave cricket’ approach also looked and felt eerily like a copy of the attitude that has served Australia so well over the last few decades.

What the Protea’s failed to do, critically, was to ensure that this visionary intent matched the reality on the ground – that the philosophy with which the unit went to work on its goals was actually sound, relevant to the organisation’s history and current structure and, critically, able to deliver strategic value over the long term.

Australian society is littered with sporting academies and is remarkably unfettered by social complications. In Australia, the most dangerous thing around – save for the odd rabid Kangaroo – is a Brett Lee fast delivery. Cricket in Australia has been a massive success story over a long period of time and the sport has not suffered through anything like the organisational ups and downs South African cricket has gone through over the last three decades. The Aussies have swept all before them with their coy – yet savvy – use of the media and their brutal on-field presence – all underpinned by a stable society able to focus a significant majority of its energy on sport and leisure activities.

Conversely, the Protea’s come from a deeply complex political and social context – a context where sport is as rooted in conflict and confusion as other aspects of South African life. And if the Protea’s brains trust needed harder proof of the fact that we are not Australia, all they need have done was look at the test cricket world rankings, where South Africa lurked (at the start of the Australia tour) at number 6. More empirical evidence was also to be gained by simply looking at the personalities of the two sides. The South Africans are, by nature, nervous – although seeking to grow their aggressive side. The Australians, on the other hand, have the manipulative confidence of a team that is good enough to almost always get its own way, on and off the field.

The Protea’s attempt to beat Australia by becoming like Australia was thus strategically more than a little naïve. In branding terms, it was imperative that the Protea’s developed their own, relevant, positioning and values, and did not seek to simply mimic the competition.

Lesson #4 – The dangers of media manipulation

Behind South Africa’s brave cricket flag was a clear strategy, part of which included fronting up to the Aussies in their own media pond and taking a few power jabs at perceived weak spots. Very bravely, South Africa tried out the Australian tactic of ‘divide and conquer’ via media manipulation.

Sadly, the Proteas had mis-calculated their ability to deliver on the field – exposing them, and in particular Graham Smith, to a range of punishing media body blows over a six month period.

By now, the lesson will have sunk in for Graham Smith and Micky Arthur. Attempting to manipulate the media is a high risk strategy – especially when you are unsure of your ability to deliver operationally on the strategy. Shane Warne can mouth off highly effectively in the media because he has been the best bowler in the world for the last decade. He knows that, no matter what he says in the press, he can back it up on the field. The Protea’s operate within a very different context.

So, with the clarity of hindsight, it is obvious that the Protea’s would have done far better to weather the Australian media storm than to expose their brand to a terrible chasm between hype and reality. It will be a long while before the global cricket media takes the Proteas, or Graham Smith, seriously again.

Lesson #5 – Focus on core strengths

Thankfully, there’s always the Wanderers, and a world record. The speed with which South African cricket released the DVD of that game, coupled with the commercial momentum provided by publications such as the Sunday Times and the Independent (with their medallions, mementos and other ‘collectables’) show that the local administrators know a good thing when they see it, and that the Proteas brand retains the power to deliver serious clout, when it’s on top of – and not underneath – its game.

After the resounding losses to Australia in the tests, we can expect the Proteas brand to focus on its core achievement of recent times and position itself as a one day power player, and a five day re-builder. This approach will mitigate against over inflated expectations and channel effort towards the stronger component of the brand’s on-the-ground ability.

While the focus on core strength is necessary for the immediate health of the brand as a whole, the Proteas would do well to under-promise and over-deliver with regards to both aspects of the game for the foreseeable future. Indeed, if they had taken this approach at the beginning of the Australia clash, there would be a lot less brand repair work to do now.

Lesson #6 – Don’t panic, listen to your market, keep on innovating

Cricket is one of few sports in the world with the ability to consistently reinvent itself to appeal to its target market. First there was one day cricket, and now there is the Pro20 form of the game – wildly popular with a new cricket audience across the world. Pro20 and the local Standard Bank brand blitz (notable for the way it has directly targeted the SABC 3 TV viewer) offer sound reasons why the Protea brand is in good shape for positive long term growth.

If the powers that be can deliver a consistent leadership structure, and if the team on the field can deliver a good combination of performance, ethics and honest communication, they will grow their support base in years to come – win or lose. For this, the Proteas can thank the people in the sport with the nous to listen to the consuming public, and cater to evolving tastes. The Protea’s can be thankful they operate within a consistently innovative paradigm – one that will allow them to weather temporary storms and come out stronger for it.

After all, Shane Warne can’t bowl forever, can he?

About the author: Janice Spark is a director, and partner of Idea Engineers. She has more than 20 years of marketing, sales and advertising experience across a range of leading global and South African brands.

Spark launched her career at Standard Bank in 1984 where she pioneered specialised banking packages for high-end consumers, before moving on to pioneer the concept of ‘sell thru videos’ for Gallo Home Video.

As Marketing Director of Adcock Ingram in the late eighties, Spark oversaw the introduction of 15 successful new brands in a three-year period and helped achieve market leadership for the company’s hair care, skincare and household product ranges.

Spark went on to serve a the Director of Aramis South Africa where she introduced Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY to South Africa; entrenched Aramis as a market leader; and led Estee Lauder’s most profitable division in the international market.

In 2002, she co-founded Idea Engineers. Her vision was to establish a marketing communications agency that integrates the disciplines of brand strategy, brand communications (above and below the line advertising), reputation management and brand experience (alignment of brand and operations) into a seamless and holistic offering. Idea Engineers helps companies enhance market share, profitability and customer loyalty by managing and protecting an organisations most valuable asset: the brand.

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Posted in the category: Strategy

ICT is alive and well in South Africa

South Africa’s much-maligned information and telecommunication technologies sector emerged from 2002 with not only its reputation intact, but also its bottom line.Despite the high-profile collapse in the share prices of one-time darlings of the stock exchange, most ICT companies weathered what was as much a storm in market sentiment as in industry activity.

Even the disastrous performance of Dimension Data in 2002 held a positive – the company still made a substantial profit, despite the contrary impression given by the media.

Even the disastrous performance of Dimension Data in 2002 held a positive – the company still made a substantial profit, despite the contrary impression given by the media.Of 40 ICT and electronics companies that have reported results for 2002, 77% reflected an operating profit. According to the Map of the Information and Telecommunications Technology Sector in South Africa 2003 (MITTS SA) released this week by World Wide Worx, it is expected that this proportion will be closer to 90% for the current year.

In a market that has seen a global downturn in sales, South Africa‘s top ICT companies have seen a hefty growth in turnover for the past two years running. The 40 companies included in the MITTS SA survey reported R67 billion in sales for 2000, a 31% increase to R88 billion in 2001, and a further 21% jump to R107 billion in 2002.The numbers are not a definitive indicator of growth in ICT, however, as many of the turnover figures reported include the impact of acquisitions and corporate restructuring. Nevertheless, where losses have been reported, they have often been the consequence of the kind of exceptional items excluded from headline earnings.

The numbers are not a definitive indicator of growth in ICT, however, as many of the turnover figures reported include the impact of acquisitions and corporate restructuring. Nevertheless, where losses have been reported, they have often been the consequence of the kind of exceptional items excluded from headline earnings.These numbers are no secret, but market sentiment around ICT has been so negative since the tech stock crash of 2000, everyone has been focusing on the bad news.

The good news is that the mainstream ICT sector is broadly healthy and profitable.

There is no question that it is not as profitable as a few years earlier, but there is no indication of a sector that is collapsing, despite share prices plunging. In other words, market sentiment has killed off IT shares, but not IT companies. A slow-down in growth does mean that growth continues, although at a slower rate.

The MITTS SA 2003 study is one of the most comprehensive reports yet on the South African ICT sector, providing a bird’s-eye view of the South African IT and telecommunications sector. The report was a cooperative effort between:

Various specialist ICT journalists contributed.

The report includes:

  • Economic, government policy, and infrastructural background of the ICT industry
  • Key characteristics, challenges, and potential of the ICT market
  • Analysis of the performance of ICT stocks
  • Profiles of nine ICT sub-sectors
  • In depth profile of the legislative and government ICT policy.

Key conclusions of the survey include the obvious, such as the finding that telecommunications policy and the Telkom monopoly are hindering development of the sector and diffusion of ICT into key economic sectors.

Less obvious are the findings that:

  • Skills continue to be in short supply and skills development has become a priority, particularly in the light of black economic empowerment requirements.
  • In many ICT sub-sectors, the adoption of technology is as sophisticated as that found anywhere in the world.
  • South Africa is becoming the ICT gateway to Africa, with an increasing number of local companies expanding into southern, East and West Africa, and many multinational companies that market in Africa choosing to base their regional offices (typically overseeing the Middle East and Africa, or MEA, region) in SA.

Another positive trend to emerge from the research is increasing willingness of local ICT companies to tackle developed markets, such as Europe and the USA.

Says Bruce Conradie, who led the research, “South African IT players are increasingly eyeing these markets and their sense of self-belief is growing. More and more local companies know they can play on the same field as the best in the world and are going offshore.”

Says Jonathan Miller, who along with partner Philip Esselaar, were consulting researchers on this project, “Our consultancy has now been involved in several major studies of the state of ICT in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa. MITTS 2003 is one of the most comprehensive and persuasive views of the sector we have seen. We were very pleased to participate when the opportunity arose. Overall, the 265-page report paints a more positive picture for the South African ICT landscape than has been observed for international markets. The 115 company profiles in the report also underline the fact that those companies that continue to make losses or go out of business will represent a weeding out of the weaker performers, and a strengthening of the proverbial gene pool of ICT companies in South Africa.

For the latest Map of IT & Telecoms Sector report visit

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Posted in the category: Technology, Trends

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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