By Blessings Flao
An entrepreneur is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money”. Entrepreneurs, therefore, exist to make profit, especially through the solving of various ‘problems’ for their clientele. The reasons for the ‘pursuit’ of profit are varied, of-course, depending on such factors as individual motivations—but I digress already, for that is not where I want to go with this article.
How well an entrepreneur is able to make profits and stay ahead in ‘the game’ hinges, primarily, on their ability to provide services or products at a reasonable price as is required, and defined, by their customers.
Entrepreneurs, therefore, exist to solve problems or to offer solutions to their customers. As much as entrepreneurs exist to solve other people’s problems as a means of making profit, they also face their own problems which they have to solve, otherwise they cease to be a relevant player on the market—one of the first steps to an entrepreneur’s grave.
Players in the Malawian transport sector, for example, are solving the problem of mobility, as is faced by their clientele. This the players do by offering such solutions as bicycle taxis, tricycles, ‘regular’ taxis, minibuses or buses, depending on such factors as distance to be covered and the ability of the client to pay for the service being offered.
As stated above, in offering a solution to their clientele, entrepreneurs also face their own problems. In Malawi transport sector, for instance, problems entrepreneurs face include proliferation of competitors. The ability of an entrepreneurial entity to grow in the Malawian transport sector, therefore, depends not just on its ability to solve its clients’ problems, such as those of mobility, but also on how well it solves its own problems, such as the sprouting up of competing players. Entrepreneurs who fail to do these two things, therefore, have declared themselves redundant.
This is why I was very surprised, a few weeks ago, when I read, in the press, the sentiments of some taxi owners, to the effect that tricycles had pushed them out of the market, and that they had “completely lost business to these tricycles”. These guys have basically assented to being fired— good thing is they have fired themselves, for how else does one describe such sentiments as “… most of us who are clinging to the business are taxi owners who have no option for our livelihood but stay in the doomed business whose future is uncertain” (For the record, the said tricycles normally charge K150 on a one way ‘regular’ trip—say from Shoprite car park, to Kamuzu Central Hospital car park in Lilongwe—whereas a regular taxi charges in excess of K1 000).
These entrepreneurs have, by their own admission, failed to solve the problem of the rise of competitors in their sector, and the most they can do now, or so it seems, is moan about their failure to compete. It is folly for an entrepreneur to cling to a business when the future is, according to current trends, and also in their own words, “doomed”.
These entrepreneurs need to find a way to compete (as I stated above, entrepreneurial success depends on the ability to solve the clients’ problems, as well as that of the entrepreneur), and they need to find it fast. Failure to do this will result in the market pushing them out of business, because consumers will not go for their services when there is a cheaper service that is also readily available.
The bottom line for entrepreneurs, though, is that consumers are looking for products and or services, and if you can offer the best quality for these, at the most reasonable rate in the economy, you will survive. Otherwise, you may as well start writing the epitaph of your business the second you finish reading this article.
**The author is a development communications practitioner writing in his personal capacity