Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When Should You Do Made In Naija On The Web?

I’ll start by asking everyone to stand up and give a resounding round of applause to those Nigerian entrepreneurs (or entrepreneurs focused on Nigeria) out there who are making their mark on the internet. Think of www.enownow.com, www.turenchi.com, www.walahi.com, think of www.startupsnigeria.com, www.naijapals.com, www.legwork.com.ng, www.ticketonmobile.com and all the other sites out there. Take a bow folks, you are pioneers on the bleeding edge of a new Nigeria technology industry.

As with any technology, there is a lot of innovation out there as well as a lot of duplication. Sometimes, the duplication improves on the original and gives the world something better than the original innovators give. Everybody knows the iPod, yet nobody realises that it wasn’t the first portable MP3 player. Sometimes they battle neck and neck in a historic contest that becomes the stuff of legends. Think Coke and Pepsi. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Milo and Bournvita. Omo and Elephant. Sometimes, the copies don’t really succeed because they are essentially flawed in their model, their service offering or their product design. Sometimes one product simply fails because they don’t have enough money to throw at it or because they chose the wrong colour or the wrong name. The Microsoft product called Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere was almost totally ignored by everyone in the tech industry, but when they changed the name to SilverLight, it suddenly became the hot new product.

More often than not the product fails because it is based on a flawed premise. Maybe it wasn’t right for the market, or maybe they couldn’t provide the same thing to their customers that their competition could provide.

My point? When should I choose a Nigerian technology brand before I chose an international one that offers me what the Nigerian brand offers and a whole lot more? When should I chose Zinox over HP? eNowNow over Yahoo? Tokunbo.com over eBay? The answer is pretty simple for a service like Turenchi.com (Nnanna, you need to pay for this product placement) which provides RSS feeds of Nigerian news stories or ticketonmobile.com which provides tickets to local events. However what does Legwork.com.ng offer me that I can’t get from Facebook or LinkedIn? Facebook gives me access to form communities and groups with other Nigerians. I can indeed form communities around all sorts things on Facebook including my nation, my culture, poetry, technology, faith, movies and so on. The technologies available to me via Facebook are almost infinitely configurable. Facebook has an entire ecosystem that gives access to developers, advertisers, and users. It provides storage for pictures, event notification, instant messaging, classmates across the world and very many more things. Legwork (and I only use them as a poster child of modern Nigerian ecommerce) gives me only a small relatively unsophisticated subset of that. Legwork gives me access to 500,000 Nigerians. Facebook gives me access to 200 Million people the planet over. I am in full support of start-ups and upstarts (and want a piece of the action), but as a service user, a customer, I have to go with what gives me the best and the greatest options. So I am registered with both Facebook and LinkedIn, but not Legwork.


However, I just might. Legwork is innovating. They seem to have recognised that they cannot go toe to toe against the global social networking sites out there. So they are providing services that are relatively hard for those other services to provide, or at least that are not yet on the radar for the likes of Google.com (never mind their Yoruba version). So for example, they are leveraging SMS for multi-person conversation on their network. SMS is a service that every Nigerian can relate to, has easy access to and is relatively in-expensive to indulge in. That kind of thinking that looks at what you can provide locally that the behemoths in the space cannot provide to your locality is the kind of thinking that can succeed. Indeed, an internet that has grown by stretching it’s hands towards the ends of the earth will actually grow even more by reaching out to provide location specific services. The only way the Walahi.com’s of this world can compete against the Amazon.com’s is if they find some way of getting themselves entrenched before Jeff Bezos figures out that 150 Million Nigerians is a market only half the size of the US.



nanijoe said...

Thanks for the turenchi love....I assure you that if done right, a local walahi.com can eat Amazon.com's lunch in the Nigerian market. There are things unique to every local market that the global players cannot begin to understand, which is why you often see big Global brands expand by buying up small local companies instead of trying to compete with them.

Oladejo Fabolude said...

True. But the problem is I see for the Walahi.coms of Nigeria is content. I didn't see anything I wanted to buy on Walahi.com. Having local advantage is no advantage if you cannot bring compelling content to the market. They might do better fronting as an Amazon franchise.

Joyce said...

I think walahi.com is growing and overtime they should be able to list more books to compete with amazon.com. Their prices are cheaper than amazon.I have tried their service, which is efficient.

They can also cover the african market, by walahi ghana, south africa, etc

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