Is Africa the Right Choice for Business Expansion

The global economy is trending towards recuperation after a long hiatus of slack years. According to the IMF forecast, however, the GDP growth rate is 3.5 percent, which is lower than 4.5 percent, the average growth rate before recession. Even self-sustained countries like the U.K, and U.S seem to be struggling for stability during the post-crisis period.

What are the factors affecting global economy:

Several external factors conflate, and adversely affect business, and hence, it is imperative for the entrepreneurs to assess the situation with somewhat alacrity. The aim should be to prognosticate the possible risks, and avoid the pitfalls. Some common factors, which have corralling consequences upon business are political, economic, social and technological, also cumulatively known as PEST analysis. Of course, there are other factors like demographic, legal, and environmental forces too, which have long lasting effects upon the economy.

Why to do business in Africa:

Africa has become the cynosure among investors over the last few years, especially in a situation where most of the countries have been grappling with their rivals to imprint their footholds in the global market. Gifted with bountiful natural resources, Africa has always been a land of opportunities and promises. It managed to survive against the onslaughts of the two World Wars, and the Great Depression in the previous century.

The current scenario in Africa offers a bag full of promises to the potential investors. With swathes of rich wildlife spanning across the continent, and spotless beaches dotted along the coast line, there is a vast scope to expand the tourism industry. This would, in turn, boost the hospitality industry.

Many African countries are in need of the necessary infrastructure like proper airports, roads, railways, banks, super-markets, telecom,schools and hospitals. The giant concerns have a lot of scope in bagging developmental projects by collaborating with the governments of those countries.

The tropical climate, and rich soil across the Nile basin are ideal for the growth of crops apart from rice and cotton. Hence, there is ample scope for setting up food processing, food packaging, and textile industries in this area.

Besides, Africa is rich in crude oil and natural gas reserves. While oil could be cheaply availed from here for fuel purpose, it could be used for manufacturing petroleum products. The natural gas reserves could be positively used for generating power, which is the basic requirement of all the African nations.

Moreover, the democratic governments across the expansive continent have positive outlook towards entrepreneurship, investment and economic development, thereby attracting foreign investments. In fact, Africa witnessed a growth rate of 6 percent since 2001, and managed to sustain a steady growth rate of 2 percent since 2012, in spite of the global down sliding trends.

This is due to comparatively steady exchange rates, small debt burdens and steady inflation. Countries like Mauritius, Tunisia, Ghana, and South Africa currently outperform the bigwigs like Brazil, China and Russia. With culmination of  such promising factors, Africa appears to offer a kind of respite to the rest of the resuscitating world! Sounds cool, right?

Challenges in Africa:

Everything has a dark side, and Africa is not an exception. Despite offering a potpourri of promises, this place, once dubbed by The Economist as a “hopeless land” poses as a formidable challenge to those looking for investment opportunities:

  • Infrastructure Crisis: Many entrepreneurs in Africa feel hamstrung in their endeavors due to lopsided electricity and transportation facilities. For instance, Nigeria, which has population of approximately 150 million reels under severe power shortage. Countries like Swaizland, and Zambia have paucity of airports, rail penetration, energy and water resources. Such defalcations eventually dissuade business owners from investing money in these laid back regions. Moreover, Africa needs a behemoth investment of US$93bn in the power sector alone. Unless, a giant concern takes a lead in this matter, the rest of ventures seem to be a far cry in this “dark continent”!
  • Weak Demographic Front: The existing educational institutions, and hospitals are not able to accommodate the ever-increasing population due to unplanned urbanization. Consequently, a large number of shanty towns have mushroomed in the last few decades, where living conditions are absolutely pathetic. With downgraded municipalities unable to implement proper town planning, crime is on the rise. The future of business development in such places, undoubtedly remains bleak.
  • Socio-Political Waltz: The late “Arab Spring” testifies a great deal of autocratization, corruption, discontentment, inequalities, and apathy prevailing along the northern stretches of African continent. While there have been exemplar dictators in the other African counties as well, the repressive regimes in Libya, and Egypt have shown the world some of the worst examples of human rights violations. People in the neighboring countries like Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco have also rebelled against their ruthless Arab rulers. The recent years have witnessed executions, and gore in galore. Such unsavory climate is not at all feasible for investors to plan out something lucrative in Africa. 
  • Lawlessness: While the socio-political climate remains in doldrums, poverty has instilled apprehension among the locals. People cannot trust their governments anymore as far as integrity, and security are concerned. Consequently, terrorist groups like Boko Haram find a safe haven in Nigeria, and play havoc with people’s lives. The Al-Qaida finds enough protégé in countries ravaged by Civil Wars to wage Jihad against the infidels. On the other hand, The ISIS, the most outrageous terror outfit on earth is determined enough to establish its stranglehold on the war ravaged zones, and spread its tentacles further across the continent by means of indiscriminate brutalities and mass executions. Moreover, the rising instances of piracy off the Somalian coast have been causing grave threats to the shipping companies, and the international organizations overall. 
  • Health Hazards: Frequent outbreaks of droughts, AIDS, and malarial epidemics in the African countries have exposed their weak healthcare systems. Besides, Ebola, the most dreaded epidemic has spread across these regions like wild fire, and has taken a heavy toll of lives. The fatal virus, which was first discovered in Sudan, and Zaire soon spread to the neighboring countries as well. The governments in these nations have failed to be proactive in containing the outbreak so far. The little known disease resulted in a number of casualties, and deaths in the year 2015. Consequently, quite a number of foreign nationals working in these countries are keen to resign from their existing jobs, and return to their own countries. This has compelled some potential organizations in thinking twice before making investments in the African nations, where health safety has become a prime concern. 

Will Africa sustain itself in the business world:

Despite being torpedoed by certain hostile factors, Africa shows buoyancy in growth and development. With the erstwhile dictators put to rest, there seems to be very little possibility of future reprisals. Peace would steer the strife-torn countries towards stability. Besides, economic growth, and investments would eventually mitigate poverty, and crimes in the long run. Giant organizations could collaborate with the governments in these countries, in order to make huge investments in mammoth developmental projects.

How Small Business Can Manage Workers’ Compensation Costs

Running a small business entails a cocktail of challenges in terms of a concatenation of expenses. While some of them are fixed costs, the rest follow in various forms of unprecedented variables.  Keeping these impending expenses in mind, one needs to formulate proper backup plans so as to pre-empt losses.

In case, you are mulling about the possibility of curtailing workers’ compensation insurance, do not forget the premiums, which you need to pay from time to time. In fact, one of the most cumbersome expenses, which hits the small business enterprises includes compensation insurance, covering accidents, and injuries of workers on the job site.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), about 33 percent of small business entrepreneurs have complained about the hefty compensation charges comprising workers’ medical bills, wages for the number of working days lost due to accidents, and compensation costs owing to permanent injuries. These costs vary from state to state. The average premiums, coupled with health insurance, and labor costs keep spiralling year after year, and hence, cannot be ignored. Besides, frequent untoward happenings at the work site lower productivity, and adversely impact employee morale. Also, the replacement costs of damaged equipment should be taken into account. So, what steps should a company take to protect itself?

The wise have stated- Prevention is better than cure. Hence, every small business owner should plan, and implement a strategic safety programme:

  • Talk to your team about workers’ compensation: Talk to your employees, and make them aware of the fact that they are working for a small enterprise where workers’ compensations cannot be granted as freebies. Also, spread awareness about the impunity with which the company would deal with an employee, should he, or she indulge in any fraudulent claims. Make it clear among the workers that the company is liable to pay only the legitimate claims.
  • Take interest in handling the workers’ claims: Many companies tend to overlook workers’ claims thinking that these should be taken care of, by insurance companies. A claim could, however, take alarming proportions if it isn’t handled with care. So, when an injured worker submits a claim, talk to him. Make him sit in your office, and ask him what kind of support he expects from you. The employee seeking claims would feel that he or she is being supported, and would be less aggressive about the massive damages suffered by him or her.
  • Solve the problem in the beginning: Your employee’s well being should be your foremost concern. If a worker has been falling sick off and on, or if he or she feels tired while working quite frequently, then tell him or her to take an off. In such cases, you need to prove yourself as a benevolent employer who doesn’t reprimand his workers for no reason.
  • Prioritize safety: Make sure that safety of your workers should be your priority. Talk to the management team, and frame safety rules right in the beginning. The employees should be trained about the necessary safety norms. Hold regular meetings regarding safety rules, and make your employees aware of the fact that they are accountable for their own safety. Inspections should be conducted at the work place on regular basis so as to rule out all kinds of possible hazards for the workers.
  • Have readymade plans to deal with injuries occurring at the work place: There should be first aid treatment facilities, and healing measures available right at the work site, in order to treat the accident victims. Prompt actions could prevent the minor injuries turning into major ailments. In such cases, your employee would think over before he, or she decides to sue your company. Your immediate response to such untoward situations would eventually make you less liable to workers’ claims.

 

 

Things to Do Before Starting a Business

Are you planning to quit your job, and start a new business? If that is the case, then you really deserve the thumbs-up to make headway with such an idea. This is because the world has been experiencing a massive economic meltdown since 2007. Consequently, the phrase “layoffs” has become a trope in the corporate world. In case, you too have been feeling some inklings of facing similar situation in the near future, then it’s high time you started thinking of some other alternative to keep yourself get going!

Starting business is an excellent idea for those who wish to harness their enterprising skills. It should, however, be noted here that setting up a business is not an easy task. It could be an exhilarating, as well as exacting experience at the same time. One needs to do a lot of planning beforehand so as to avoid any kind of setback in his or her venture.

Here are a few things for you to ascertain before starting a business:

  • Do proper research: Do your ground work before hitting upon an idea! You might be having certain grand plans to kick start a venture, but others too could be having similar ideas. So, you need to a great deal of shovelling before hitting upon a plan, which would be unique. Ultimately, you need to have an edge over your competitors so as to gain a stranglehold of the market. In such cases, the best way out for you would be to offer your goods, or services at cheaper rates than what is being offered by your business rivals. This work outs perfectly well for those who are beginners, and want to sustain their presence in the market. 
  • Try out before quitting your job: Set up a small scale business venture while you still exist on the payrolls of your company. Observe the market trends for some time, and build up a strong client base till you are confident enough to run your own show. So, in case, you don’t have congenial work environment in your organization, there is something else for you to fall back on! 
  • Question yourself: Everyone needs to formulate certain business goals, and you too need to do the same. Keep questioning your plans, and why you wish to execute them. There are instances when things go haywire, and being an entrepreneur you need to question your objectives. This constant exercise is imperative to ensure a steady path of growth, and ward off the factors, which could stall the process. 
  • Learn from others: Expand your contacts in the market, and make new connections. Make it a point to constantly meet your veterans, and learn from their prior experiences. Communicate with people on the social networking sites, and join a few groups. Interact with people on social platforms, and enlighten yourself. 
  • Seek legal advice: Take advice from a legal expert before starting a business. Many people think that they would need legal counsels only if they get into dire straits. The wise have always stated that prevention is better than cure. So, take advice from a lawyer before starting a business. Do not hesitate in seeking legal counsel before it gets too late. Or else, things go out of hand. 
  • Survey the market: Keep close watch over the market trends. Take into consideration what the consumer wants. It’s not necessary that people would buy whatever you wish to sell. Ultimately, consumer demands determine the supply factors. 
  • Make your brand: Be innovative, and try to create your brand image. This involves a great deal of experimenting. Take advice from experts, and do something different from your counterparts. In this way, you would definitely outshine the rest.
  • Improve your credit score: Ensure that you have a clear credit history so as to attract investments for your business. It is possible that you would fall into a debt trap in due course. Keep enough savings as backups. If your credit score isn’t good, then you would end up borrowing less money at high interest rates. To start a business, you need a real good credit score so that, you could borrow as much as you want. 
  • Be clear about your tax payments: You need to pay all the taxes on time, in order to avoid unnecessary legal suits. There could be a number of taxes which you need to pay from time to time. Hire an accountant to organize your finances, and put everything on paper in a systematic manner. 
  • Be prepared for slack periods: Every business is bound to experience tides and troughs. There would be lean times when money flows in at a slow pace. You need to have enough savings to stave off unsavoury situations, in case a client turns out to be a defaulter in payments. 
  • Stick to a proper schedule: Fix your working hours, and make it a point to adhere to your schedule. People who are flexible about hours tend to fail in their endeavors. 
  • Work out your exit strategy: Make your plans in advance to safely quit your business, in case things don’t work out in your favor. Keep observing how the market is trending. It is advisable to sell your inventory, and make up for losses on time before it gets too late. Find a potential buyer, sell your business, and reinvest your money elsewhere.

 

7 Ways to Feel Rich Right Now

In this mercenary world, where everybody is vehemently indulging in money-making spree, numerous get rich quick means have evolved in lieu of traditional methods. There were times when people really had to toil, in order to make extra money, apart from working for fixed salary jobs; however, with online business and transaction schemes being hyped to a great extent, things have become somewhat easy for everyone. Moreover, the modern concept of digital marketing has given a fillip to people’s fictive aspirations of getting rich in reality.
Now, if you too have the urge to become rich fast without any impediments, then here are seven ways to feel rich and abundant right now:

Buy gold: These days, professionals have been deftly handling the gold market, to everyone’s delight! You could safely indulge in gold transactions without getting duped. All you need to do is to forage through the newspapers, or online news to find out gold rates on regular basis. Once the gold prices scale down, make it a point to make investments. Get a BullionVault for safe keeping of gold coins, gold bars, jewelry, mining stocks and certificates. Many people across the globe own BullionVaults these days. In fact, people like you could store more gold than your country’s central bank.

Sell gold: With the financial market continuously rolling, you need to wait for the appropriate time to part with your precious gold bars, coins and jewelry. Wait for the time when the gold price soars maximum in the market, sell your gold, and pocket your dollar bills. You need to be vigilant about the trending gold prices, whether you sell your bullions online, or at a local pawn shop. In the end, your endeavor should be to earn maximum profits, and not to end up in poor deals.

Invest in the stock market: These days, every smart guy wants to get rich quick, and hence invests money in the stock market. Make it a point to buy stocks at feasible prices, and use the dividends in buying more. Be vigilant, and invest in stocks when the prices crash. Stock markets are always known to show unstable trends. Once the stock prices scale high, sell your stocks, and stuff your pockets with dollar bills. You just need to have the right trading mindset to take correct decisions.

Rent out properties: This is an ideal way to make extra money alongside a 9-to-5 job. You could work in an office, save money, buy a number of properties, and rent them out. As a matter of fact, landlords with a good number of rented homes or commercial spaces, are likely to seek early retirement, and relax at home.

Choose tax-free investments: While some investments are followed by taxes, there are numerous others tax-free savings and investments like Children’s Bonus Bonds and pension savings.

Take up difficult assignments: Be bold enough to accept challenging assignments and jobs. People are generally hesitant about accepting jobs in unfavorable geographical terrains, or places where civil and political conditions are rife; however, do not forget that employers in such places are willing to pay six-figure salaries.

Be innovative: Be forthcoming about designing a new product, which is bound to go viral in the market. Acquire licensing rights for your patent, make copies, and sell your product.

Do Not Let Your Data Kill You – The Need for 3 R’s – Reduce, Recycle and Reuse

As the saying goes – anything in excess is a waste. Isn’t it true for information today?  Information or “data” – the four letter word which is more representative of the digital world has overwhelmed you, me and everyone transcending this space. Data in this form has various connotations – the more popular “Big Data”, Large or complex data, humongous data, etc.

On an average, data of companies have been increasing at a rapid pace – about 100% or more every year. Also, with users of social media being overactive, data transactions have multiplied manifold in real time. Though technical advances are being made to store this data in large repositories, there is a need for deriving context – meaningful information so as to Reduce, Recycle and Reuse data. For example, companies would like to use their data to understand and interpret information such as employee interactions, communications and client engagements. Data that is not used, but occupies useful repository space is a costly waste and needs to be eliminated. Regulatory requirements require one to use data to create intelligent and statutory reports that can be audited easily if the need be. The 3 R’s put in practice improve data management in a business environment:

Reduce:  Regulatory requirements for data, e.g. PCI data storage requirements or other Information governance or compliance standards, require one to be circumspect before planning for reduction of data. This challenge for cleaning up data not only results in a large volume of unused data, but also results in saving of data in local repositories of users with subsequent backups by the IT team.

Therefore, how do I reduce unused data? A Document Retention Policy, specifying the criteria for holding or removing data, the process governing such a decision and the relevant owners to implement and oversee is the first proactive step that any company can adopt that only appropriate data is maintained. With a policy in place, the discipline to actually implement such a policy enables a large reduction in unused data.

Recycle:  Regulatory Reporting is an important aspect for many industries. For example, in the US, Health industry related reports are mandatory, not only for the companies, but also for the patients, and the industry is well regulated.  Taxation or Financial obligations also require statutory reporting and audits. It is important for the data to be recycled and processed into useful reports for the auditors and the statutory authorities. Usually, intelligent software, ETL techniques, help in recycling such data.

Reuse: The most interesting part of data management is Reuse of data. The world of Business Analytics and Business Intelligence has offered options for deriving business insights from a large data set and intelligently reuse data. A new science “Data Science” has evolved in its own right and is promptly advocated by the Harvard Business Review. The HBR article from Thomas H Davenport and D J Patil in fact refers the job of a data scientist as the “sexiest job of 21st century”.

A few terms often used for reuse of data are:

  • Data Science: This is a term which loosely entails the combo of computer science, analytics, statistics, and data modeling. While this is a loose combination, and some companies have evolved their own courses or certifications, it still needs to mature as a science with comprehensive tenets and elaborate literature.
  • Smart data: Smart data is usually a subset of Big Data, with noise filtered out. While Big Data can be characterized by its attributes – variety, velocity and volume, a smart data is usually is characterized by velocity and value. Smart data is a key ingredient for intelligent BI Reporting.
  • Predictive Analytics: It involves smart methodologies utilizing data – machine learning techniques and statistical algorithms to predict the future outcomes of data. Companies gain out of predictive analytics by deriving or planning important outcomes from past data, e.g. revenue or profit.
  • Real Time Analytics: Analytics served real time, e.g. stock prices moving up or down, updates on page views, sessions, bounce rates, page navigation, advertisements dynamically adjusted based on type and frequency of customer usage, etc.
  • Intelligent Decision Systems: Use of Artificial intelligence in association with data is an area that helps users to derive the best and optimized decisions based on a large number of input variables. While this is still evolving, it can be used in number of areas such as building marketing systems that offer customers based on profile analysis, blocking of fraudulent transactions in credit card operations, etc.
  • Data Visualization: Pictorial or graphical representation of data intelligently, in an interactive way, help business professionals to identify trends and patterns in their data, e.g. sales data region-wise, or by customer profile.
  • Big Data Analytics: Reuse of data is not complete unless we use the term Big Data. The concept of Big data analytics has evolved from companies managing huge sets of data such as oil companies or telecommunication companies to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn that involve large data sets. This form of analytics help us to derive hidden patterns, market trends, preferences of customers, unknown correlations, etc.

 Business Data Analytics, therefore is in its infancy, to be nurtured, developed and evolved over the years. The attraction therefore is immense, and so is the job of the Data Scientist!!!

Business Ideas With A Small Budget

 

Are you planning to open a business that does not require a large amount of money? If your budget is limited, then here are some great ideas to look at to ensure that your money is channelized in the right way and not spilled in schemes that do not provide a decent return on your investments.

  1. Research , Research and Research – Research your market, do adequate research before you even think of having a business plan.  You may have a great idea. However, would the customers be ready for your idea?  A thorough research would show both the market potential, as well as the limitations of the idea.
  2.  Base your Assumptions on objective analysis –  Often, companies are misled by incorrect interpretations of the market and therefore, they rely on half-truths, or false assumptions. Any business needs to be objectively analyzed based on what could be the opportunities and threats to the business, the possible dependencies and a correct estimate is to be built. Buffers for unaccounted risks are to be considered as well as mitigation strategies for enterprise risks are to be planned.
  3. Keep a control on expenses –  Keep expenses low, be frugal in your spending, till assured of appropriate returns. For a startup, it is important to consider ways that keep the budget low. Adequate cost control measures are to be taken right from day one of business.
  4. Develop a team as you grow business – Do not keep every thing with yourself , even if you are a start-up. Time is crucial, and therefore take help of others, who could deliver work faster and cheaper.
  5. Maintain a financial buffer-  Always have a financial buffer which could help in case of emergencies. Ideally, have  a contingency fund of about 6 to 8 months to take care in case of emergencies. Else, have an alternate source of regular income to meet any eventuality that may precipitate.

Read : Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill