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Efficient R&D Puts Product Of The Year SA In The Pound Seats

What’s the secret to growth in a tight economy? You need to stand out from the crowd without spending a fortune on R&D.

Nadine Todd

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Preetesh-Sewraj

Vital Stats

  • Player: Preetesh Sewraj
  • Company: Product of the Year SA
  • Est: 2008
  • Clients: Unilever, Samsung, Danone, Nestlé, Reckitt Benckiser, Vodacom, Nedbank
  • Visit: poysa.co.za

Businesses across the board need to do more with less, so how do you continue to grow when things are tight?

According to Preetesh Sewraj, founder of Product of the Year South Africa, the answer lies in efficient R&D and affordable innovation.

Related: Inside The Mind Of The Travelstart Risk Taker – Stephan Ekbergh

Targeted growth

“Innovative growth isn’t organic,” says Sewraj. “In boom periods, organic growth is fine, but when the economy is under pressure, your business needs something more. Growth won’t happen without input.

“There are two ways to introduce innovations to your business. First, if your business has some disposable income you can focus on local acquisition. Find a business that’s smaller than you, perhaps even a start-up, but whose products or services will bring innovation to your business and client offerings.

“If local acquisition isn’t an option, you need to find ways to put products out to market quickly with the smallest cost to your company. The goal is always higher margins — growth that comes with higher operating costs and possibly even lower margins only makes sense if there are real long-term wins on the horizon, otherwise you’re just growing for the sake of growing, and not doing your business any favours.”

Efficient R&D

So, how do you get more efficient with your R&D, and get the returns you need? “Take risks,” says Sewraj.

“One of my favourite Elon Musk quotes is: ‘Go out and take risks now. You’ll never regret it.’ I really believe in that mindset. The secret is to take calculated risks though. Do the research.

Immerse yourself in your category. Understand what other companies are doing. Learn from the best. Companies that get too used to their products and successes stop innovating, which is how Nokia, Kodak and Facit lost their positions as market leaders.

“Apple has done the exact opposite. Apple is willing to cannibalise its own products. The iPod was the biggest product Apple had, and launching the iPhone was a big risk — but it paid off. It propelled the business further.

“The real secret to innovation isn’t just that anyone can do it, but that many big businesses have — and you can learn from them.”

According to Sewraj, here are four key areas to focus on if innovation is your aim — without breaking the budget.

Related: Security Sector Success In Africa With Securitas SA

Preetesh-Sewraj-success

1. Look at what’s working globally

What markets are similar to yours? How can you apply what they’re doing successfully at a local level? What are similar global companies doing? Find businesses that are similar to yours, but operating elsewhere, and evaluate their areas of growth.

Can you apply those lessons here? You should also watch global trends. Focus on markets that are psychographically similar to South Africa. Products and services that do well in those regions should do well here. For example, when I was at Proctor & Gamble, we knew that adverts that worked in the UK and Malaysia would also work here, because our economies and consumers are similar.

2. Immerse yourself in your category

Research your category locally and in other markets. This is how I brought Product of the Year to South Africa.

I totally immersed myself in the category until I knew exactly what other companies were doing in different markets; what worked, what didn’t work and so on.

3. Find new technology

The more you understand your category and are paying attention to global trends, the more likely you are to spot new tech that’s synergistic to your business.

Technology today is far more affordable than ever before, and it’s amortised really quickly, which means after the initial cost outlay, you should see an improvement on your margins. Also, your competitors are becoming more technologically sophisticated. You want to lead, not lag behind.

4. Tap into the psyche of your market

What do your customers care about? What do they need? Be mindful of the experience that’s in tune with your customers’ thinking. People waiting in a doctor’s rooms will appreciate medical information that’s relevant to them and easy to understand. They probably won’t appreciate a clown show, because it’s at complete odds with their expectations in that context.

Related: Branding Design SA and the Search for Customers

Stretch your brand footprint

A great growth path is to stretch your brand footprint. “You already have a core business and a footprint, so where can you logically stretch that footprint? Learn from the companies that have invested a lot in research, have the cash to try new things, and are multinational.

“For example, Dettol used to be a brown liquid disinfectant. That’s it. When they were looking for growth opportunities, they asked this key question: What are we all about? What’s our heart and soul? The answer was simple: We kill germs. So, where else do people want to kill germs? Again, the answer seemed obvious.

Personal hygiene is all about killing germs. And so Dettol stretched its footprint into body washes, hand washes and deodorants. The move was all the easier because the brand was already trusted and synonymous with killing germs. From there, it was able to move into home products.

“Just be careful when planning your expansion: If Dettol had created home products first, it’s unlikely it would have had success in personal hygiene. No one wants to associate a floor cleaner with their deodorant. Moving from personal hygiene into home products on the other hand was a smooth transition.”

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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andrew-zimmern

I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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brightrock

Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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