In spite of their extensive experience in the advertising and media industries and first-hand knowledge and understanding of the much sought-after black emerging market, Mthunzi Plaatjie and Mpange Chapeshamano still encountered high barriers to entry when they started their integrated media company Dashboard Integrated Marketing. “The advertising industry has been slow to transform and it’s difficult as a new, young, black agency to get large corporates to give you an opportunity to show what you can do. Penetrating the market is pretty tough,” explains Plaatjie.
Opportunities further north
But while they continue to make inroads into the local market by way of a newly-formed strategic alliance, they’ve discovered that the African continent presents great opportunities for those willing to listen and learn. “We’ve landed some great work in Zambia and have been able to use this to fund the South African business,” says Plaatjie.
Africa is a market many entrepreneurs want to break into and he and Chapeshamano can offer some insight into the opportunities that exist beyond our borders. “South Africans have an edge because they’ve been more exposed to global thinking and practice than many of their African counterparts,” says Chapeshamano. But, he adds, it’s important to avoid having an arrogant attitude. “Be humble,” he says, “and respect the fact that people might conduct business differently to what you might be used to. Go in willing to listen and learn about the people and their country.”
Relationships based on trust
This, says Plaatjie, will help you get to grips with the market. “Subtle nuances differ from one country and culture to the next and if you miss these, you’re never going to be able to speak to the market successfully. When we arrived in Zambia, we made an effort not to sit holed up in our hotel. We walked around the city and tried to get a feel for the place and its people.”
But, while many things are different, one thing remains the same. Ultimately, says Chapeshamano, relationships are the key to conducting business in Africa. “Much of business is conducted on the basis of trust and while anyone can come up with great concepts, the relationships you forge will be the door to business success on the continent.”
Players: Mthunzi Plaatjie and Mpange
Company: Dashboard Integrated Marketing
Started in: 2010
Contact: +27 (0)11 465 4289