• Friday, May 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Introducing new market offerings: The smart way

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Organizing new product development strategies for any institution seeking to gain market share and increase sale traction either through acquisitions or the implementation of research-based theories is an essential process required to sustain the lifecycle of an enterprise.

Apart from it being a dire necessity for feasible growth and profitability, it also reflects the level of creativity of personnel as well as management’s commitment to propelling grand ideas that possess the capacity to shape the present and re-define the future.

While launching novel commodities as brand extensions of related product categories serve as a means of broadening the target base of an organization, a critical trend among African countries where a paradigm entrenched in the refusal to accept change may be impeding the rate of innovation for indigenous companies.

In the last decade, factors such as technological advancements as well as economic reforms have made unprecedented impact in increasing the region’s competitive advantage. However, the degree of transition from end-product importation to raw design and manufacturing has been low.

According to the Africa competitiveness report released by the World Bank, Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the African Development Bank, only one country, Seychelles, is transitioning to an innovation-driven stage in its economic development. The other fifty-three (including Nigeria) are saddled between overcoming the fear factor and struggling for survival.

In line with the assertions made by the global financial institutions, Kwekuh Atuahene-Gima,  the vice chancellor and professor of marketing & innovation management at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) – Ghana’s satellite campus reveals core reasons why the propensity for organizations in developing markets to engage employees in creating new systems and products is still considerably slow.

Kwekuh said, “Africa is gradually opening up to its need to position itself as one that aligns itself with global standards, whether it is in manufacturing or research and design (R&D). Our failure to put a lot of effort into making sure that the ideas that our young people generate are tested and transformed into things that can be used to help the economy grow has [resulted in poor growth].

He further stated that, “Some of the things that might also be hindering new-product development are the non-uniformity of our market structure making it difficult to test a product over a large segment and the presence of the copy-cat syndrome where if one person starts something everybody dives in without even getting the permission to use the technology and then no reward comes to the creator. But I think the most important thing is the non-commitment shown by the government because they are the ones who will actually push innovation by providing the right environment.”

Other factors that have been pegged as the root causes of the resistance expressed by businesses in this part of the world are the risky, expensive and time-consuming process of harnessing these initiative regardless of the benefits to a company’s footprint.

In response, establishment such as Microsoft have committed themselves to solving these problems by taking up the mantle of supporting the acceleration of indigenous creativity with their recent announcement to provide technical, financial and mentorship support for seven home-based companies through the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative.   

While the challenges associated with new-product entries in the domestic market abound, the growing wave among up and coming entrepreneurs to engage in adventurous ventures that could easily spin off to the creation of globally accepted commodities or service raises hope in some quarters.

Bosun Tijani, the chief executive officer at the Co-creation Hub, Nigeria’s foremost innovation support power-house explains why young innovators have taken this long to rise up to tackling the challenges facing their continent and the triggers behind their growing interest.

He expressed, “Our education system has not been structured to position students to explore the world they live in. Also the long term investment required to support experimental projects that lead to ground breaking results are almost non-existent in Nigeria.”

“Without dampening our spirit,” he continued, “nothing is happening here that’s unique to Nigeria. The emerging interest by young tech entrepreneurs is largely driven by the fact that the internet is reducing the barrier for knowledge. So it is easier to access information via the internet without attending a structured class and this is giving young engineers the chance to learn beyond what is available within the highly inadequate local institutions [and then they apply it in creative processes].”

Giving insight on the plan of action for executing critical new-product development systems, experts suggest that employers create a cross-functional management team entrenched in research and design for their companies; set up formal recognition programs to reward creative-thinkers, design effective marketing strategies for patented products and engage crowd-sourcing techniques to reduce the cost for acquiring information.

Rita Ohai