The coronavirus is fast changing the business operational landscape in South Africa and firms that do not embrace technology run the risk of being unable to survive after the virus, says a business guru.
Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, said Hennie Ferreira, chief executive of technology firm Osidon, South Africa remained an environment of opportunity and offered a space for entrepreneurs to flourish.
Former trade unionist Ndzipho Kalipa acknowledged technology was here to stay, but feared it would have negative impact on poor workers.
“Our economy is increasingly driven by digital and technologies, therefore automation and mechanisation of factories may lead to job losses,” Kalipa said.
Ferreira said South Africa and its economy, like the rest of the world, faced unprecedented times as a result of Covid-19.
He advised entrepreneurs to capitalise on business opportunities presented by the virus.
He said now, more than ever, local entrepreneurs had to identify problems and challenge themselves to find solutions and build online businesses.
“We are facing an inevitable, unavoidable transition to an online business community. People have been forced into isolation, to work remotely and to conduct their business on the internet, social media platforms and on e-commerce sites,” he said.
“For small businesses in South Africa, the opportunities have always outweighed the doom and gloom. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced business owners to rethink how they do business. In the difficult economic situation we face now, the problems may seem overwhelming, but entrepreneurs are built to solve problems.”
Ferreira said many businesses have embraced the recent changes and have used these changes to take their businesses to the next level. He cited “world-class tech” online companies such as shopping services OneCart and Takealot, Sasfin’s B\\YOND for Business and TymeBank.
Johannesburg and Cape Town were hubs for the tech industry and there are numerous tech companies providing cutting-edge products and services. Many more online and tech companies would be popping up in the near future.
“The interest in and number of online sales in South Africa has shot through the roof recently. Many people have now experienced the comfort and ease of doing business online.
“I believe there is a huge scope for further developing the online business environment in South Africa. This transition has been forced on people and now that people have realised the benefits, there is an unstoppable wave of change,” he said.
“I have found that, often, an online business presence is more affordable than a physical business presence. Going online can save companies money.”
Many business owners and employees were scared of operating outside their comfort zone, but this could be mitigated by online tools, such as Workplace and Slack, that helped teams to stay connected even though they work remotely.
“An online presence, such as a website and social media profiles, has not been optional for many years. If you have not yet embraced these tools, you are probably not competitive,” he said.
Employers must equip themselves and their employees with new skills sets such as digital marketing, social media management and website development, which were critical, but less costly and even free on many online sites.
“It is easy to implement these technologies, most of which are free of charge, in your existing business to ensure you have an active online presence, as well as a competitive edge,” Ferreira said.