Online marketing has been identified as a no brainer and classic example for start- ups to scale through and move higher in today’s business environment. Director, Enterprise Development Centre, small business arm of Pan Atlantic University, Engr. Peter Bankole, who made the observation as a guest on Fidelity SME Forum, a weekly radio programmed by Fidelity Bank Plc, noted that there are now a number of online malls such that rather than physically walk into a mall, you virtually walk into that mall.
“And that is changing a lot of things,” he said. Adding, “Our people in the logistic business are doing massive operational work. So a small person that may not be able to afford a rent or an outlet in Victoria Island suddenly has an outlet online that is accessible to everybody in the entire world. People are beginning to benefit from that and because of mobile technology and all the associated technology, they receive payments on time, they are able to get the good delivered and this was how Jumia, Konga and co have been able to develop in such a very short time.”
Bankole, further stated that any business must make sure that whatever product or service they are providing is of quality and can match anything. “Once you have that, then you need to integrate into different networks. Again, make sure that you are also able to connect to some distributive systems which could be the likes of Shoprite, etc.,” he added.
Sharing his experience in the field at the recent Market Access launched in Enugu, he explained that Market Access Nigeria is a platform the centre offers small and medium scale enterprises, otherwise called triple helix platform. “What that means is that you have on one hand government, on the other hand you have the private sector and on the third hand you have the academia. “We represented the academia, then starting with us at the conception of the programme is Etisalat and then we have the government of course. The whole purpose is to bring big organisations to be in contact with small and medium organisations. That way, it’s just not about networking but seeing how they can key into their value chain. For us, that is very important. So it’s a neutral platform that everybody feels a bit safe and you can talk about your value chain as the big organisations. But we get between five to ten SMEs to actually pitch during that. Apart from the big organisations sighting them, there are three hundred to four hundred other small businesses within a particular market access network that can talk to you and also do business with you. “The one at Enugu was a couple of weeks ago and we had about 400 people. In fact it was largely hosted by the Enugu State Government. So increasingly, we are having more state government approaching us and asking if we can bring market access to their state. Akwa Ibom is on the line now, and we have one or two others in the South East and South South.”
He disclosed that Market Access was launched in Abuja about two years ago from where it came to Lagos, stressing that the Ministry of Industry Trade and investment and SMEDAN, which is responsible for the overall development of SMEs, are all integral part of the exercise.
“Increasingly now, we have brought in the banking industry. The whole idea is to bring in all the stake holders in other to have one big conversation. It’s also safe because it’s not like they are asking for money, but you just get to know one another. It’s the building of relationship and from there it becomes easier to deal with those people,” he stated.
Explaining what really happens at the market access event; Bankole said that the Market Access is about four hours beginning with the information session where participants are taught how to use social media to promote their product
“We also use it as information dissemination. If there are programme and things that can benefit you as a small business, then we bring it to limelight. Beyond that, we bring our big businesses to talk about their value chain and so people can think and see ways on how they can key to the value chain.
“We devote like thirty minutes to what we call the speed networking. After every two to three minutes we ring the bell and then you have to change the person you are having a conversation with. That way, we force you to network and so, within that thirty minutes, you can meet as many people as possible. And because you know we are forcing you to do it, you don’t feel awkward about it and even if you are shy, you continue to meet people. Within that space of thirty minutes, you are bound to meet somebody that will have some kind of impact or you can do business with.
“There are a lot of testimonies also. It’s a very safe relationship environment and people get to know one another with not only the intention of having a business relationship but for also making lasting friendship.”