Managing Competitors

There will always be competition. If there isn’t yet, there will be. That said, founders have to learn that being afraid of competitors just isn’t very useful. In fact, some African founders have found ways to turn their competitors into useful information to better their own businesses.

“We tried to correct the wrongs of other providers.”
-Brian Bett, Co-founder of Illuminum Greenhouses

##Turning Competitors into Opportunities

Brian Bett saw that other greenhouse companies offered one agronomist for every 200 farmers. The result was that they met the agronomist once every three months and their crops were failing. Bett saw this not as a market that’s already been tapped, but a chance to build a company on offering more agronomists, increasing that number to one per 20 farmers.

Bett managed his competition by doing what his competitors couldn’t. He found his place in the market. Philip Walton’s company BRCK faced a similar situation. They saw that there were tough tablets available for rural African schools, but they were too expensive.

“We went in with partners taking tablet based solutions into schools, we saw you could get an expensvie Samsung or a company called Bcak out of the US. They’re expensive but they work. The downside was the cost, $200 a piece, we wanted closer to $50.”
-Philip Walton, Co-founder of BRCK

BRCK found its market niche in a competitive market by focusing on what others simply weren’t providing. They knew they were competing with the likes of Samsung but they knew that if they could provide the needed quality, they could compete.

##Competing in a Traditional Market

Kahitouo Hien faced his own unique set of challenges when trying to handle competition. Because his competition was not other companies, it was traditional markets. His company was seeking to sell caterpillars in Total gas stations, a product that is usually sold in open-air markets.

This meant charging a higher price, but Kahit knew that he could compete based on the other things he was offering: consistent quality and convenience. But until he was more established, he was still going to have to compete with the traditional markets.

“I can’t make the price higher than it is, just because even the price now is too high for many people. It’s a new product, people are used to consuming it traditionally. I have to be competitive with the traditional market.”
-Kahitouo Hien, Founder and CEO of FasoPro, Africa Prize shortlist

Ultimately, his strategy has been successful, his company, Fasopro, is growing now. But getting there took not being afraid to compete directly with an entrenched market and not being afraid of charging more.

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