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The Idea That Succeeds

The Idea That Succeeds

Many years ago, I had an idea. I felt that we did not maximize the potential of the ‘Ankara’ fabric. ‘Ankara’ is a type of fabric, usually very colorful and with lots of design usually worn in our part of the world. One would need to buy and send the fabric to a tailor to have it made into whatever they want. At that time ‘Ankara’ was worn for non important events or outings like going to the market, wearing around the house and such like. I just felt we were under utilizing the ‘‘Ankara’’. So I partnered with a tailor uncle of mine to make classic cut clothes with ‘Ankara’.idea

Eventually we produced these beautiful skirts and tops which could be worn to church, the office and to important events. I made ten sets. I was able to sell most of them but mostly to my friends. Some took their time to pay me. I gave one or two out to friends. I did not lose money on this venture but I cannot say it was worth my while. I got paid but not as quickly as I would have wanted. The monies came in a staccato manner and I could not pool them all in to go back to get some more fabrics. My friends bought the clothes but there was not enough excitement. I let the idea go. This was about 18 years ago.

I look around these days and I see that ‘Ankara’ has become the fabric of the day. I see all kinds of beautiful creations. They are mixed and matched with all kinds of fabric and worn to every imaginable event- weddings, office, business meetings, church, parties etc. I remember those days and I cannot help but ask myself, ‘maybe I should have stayed with it’. But I like to think it was an idea ahead of its time.

So many ideas die in the market place simply because they are not well thought out, or they are targeted at the wrong market, or they are over or under priced, or they came out in the wrong shop, or they are simply ahead or behind their time. They were not subjected to enough scrutiny to enable them to be properly positioned in the market place. Like my ‘‘Ankara’ project’, these ideas do not hit the market with enough momentum to survive. That is why there is a need to take a close look at the idea and make sure it has all it takes to survive in the market.

The truth is, the fact that you would buy into an idea does not mean that enough people will buy into it to enable repeated purchase over a period of time. It is repeated purchase that ensures that the idea succeeds in the market. That is where the profit is. We are working with the assumption that the owner of the idea also has the gifting, skills, experience and above all the heart ( to take it to the market place. We must look beyond the excitement of the owner of the idea, or what he thinks and look at a few parameters to conclude the idea, all things being equal, should succeed.

The first thing that must be established it that there is a need for the idea. Not just a need, but that enough people need this idea and are willing to pay for it, to sustain it. What need is this idea meeting? What problem is it solving? Is it a need that will continuously be there? People will always need food, but they may choose to eat with the road side restaurant than in an exotic hotel. People may need clothes but wear only jeans and t shirts as against designer suits.

Is the need a crucial need or a subtle one? When mobile phones came to Nigeria, it was a crucial need. They sold sim cards at absurdly high prices. The prices were inelastic. People paid whatever was charged to get their sims and phones. The telcos were smiling to the banks. It was a very obvious need. People needed to stay in touch with business associates, family and friends more easily. They paid exorbitant prices just to be able to stay in touch.

Will the idea change people’s lifestyles significantly? Using the same mobile phone example, hitherto, people would travel across the country to visit old parents. They would spend hours in traffic to get across town.  With the entrance of the mobile phone, people could reach their family members in their villages. People could close deals, reach agreements, confirm details without leaving their desks. People could reach their relatives-children, spouses, parents, abroad without standing in those ridiculous NITEL queues. The mobile phones were like gifts from heaven. They changed our lives forever. My two last children cannot imagine there was a time people did not use mobile phones.

Are there alternatives to the idea in the market? If yes, then more questions, what differentiates your idea from the others? Why would someone opt for this idea instead of the other one? Is it cheaper, more beautiful, easier to use or more readily available?

More questions, if there are upheavals in the market place or the economy, will this idea survive? I was at a strategy session of an ICT business and the CEO told us a little history. When they started business, hardware and marketing were their strengths. They did not pay too much attention to the soft ware end of the business. They needed to change focus after a while because software became, not just the money spinner, but the way to go for ICT businesses. If they did not, they stood the chance of becoming obsolete and irrelevant in the market place. Still using the mobile phone example, land lines became almost extinct after the mobile phones came into the market. There was no more urgent need for land lines when everyone could carry a mobile phone.

Understand, that the fact that an idea did not succeed does not mean it was completely useless. For instance, my ‘‘Ankara’’ idea may have survived if I did not need the returns to come in immediately. I was cash strapped and needed my payback cycle to be short. If I did not, then I would spread the payback time, get all the monies in and go back to start the cycle again. It would have taken a longer time for it to really become a money spinner, but I would have eventually come out smiling to the bank. All I needed to do was increase my turn around time and continued to sell, understanding that, the need for my ‘‘Ankara’’ clothes was not urgent to my buyers. It would have been one of my income streams but not my primary one. I would need to reduce my risk in this type of project, since it is one that will take time to mature.

Evaluating an idea is essential to its survival. I must say that sometimes the scrutiny does not make good enough predictions, so that the owner of the idea may need to follow his ‘guts feel’ despite ‘not so good’ predictions. Yet again, the mobile phone, when MTN decided to come to Nigeria, the stock price fell in South Africa. The predictions were all negative. The Nigerian market was not good enough. They went ahead with the idea, and it was a bang from the first day. I remember I took a loan to buy my first phone. Am not sure what it was for me, if I needed a phone badly or I did not want to be left out of the fun and pleasure of owning a phone.

The scrutiny is necessary to give the owner of the idea enough confidence to take it to the market. It also enables him target the ‘spot on’ audience in the market. He is able to go to them where they are, at the right price with a product he knows they need, that will improve their lifestyles. That would be the idea that comes into the market place and survives. Once the idea has the winning combination, it will thrive in the market place and survive any upheavals or incidences in the market place. Don’t end up like me, who is still wondering, what happened to my ‘‘Ankara’’ project. Subject the idea to thorough scrutiny, then position your idea accurately, then set your expectations appropriately, so you are not disappointed. That idea does not have a choice but to survive.

On the other hand, if the scrutiny does not build and inspire enough confidence, then slow down and go back to the drawing board. It just makes business sense. Of course, don’t forget your ‘guts feel’. It just could survive, despite all……….

Chinwe Kalu

Value Creation Consultant & Trainer.

Comment (1)

  1. Ikechukwu Kalu April 6, 2015 at 8:34 am

    This is so true. It’s the ideas that spread that win _ Seth Godin. We must get people to talk about our ideas. Let the value proposition be clear and properly targeted and use the right platforms to drive home the message. The end result is most likely going to be a successful and profitable business. @CPPL2012 #cpplng #valuecreation

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