Small and big businesses compete

Small Businesses Must Compete With Retailers – Dr Mazwai

Dr Thami Mazwai.

Poor management and lack of proper market research are some of the constraints faced by the small and medium enterprises in South Africa, according to Dr Thami Mazwai, Director for the Centre for Small Business and Medium Enterprise Development (CSBD) at the University of Johannesburg.

The CSBD, based at the Soweto Campus, was launched in 2006 and aimed at addressing the current low levels of technical business and entrepreneurial skills in the community. Mazwai joined the CSBD in 2008 and since then the centre has trained more than 2 500 students in general business.

To qualify for training, a candidate must have been running a business for at least two years. 

Poor management and lack of proper market research are some of the constraints faced by the small and medium enterprises in South Africa, according to Dr Thami Mazwai from the University of Johannesburg's CSBD.

In his exclusive interview with Spotong, Mazwai said continuous research and marketing is important in order to stay in the business and compete at the highest level within the market. 

“Once you get into business you must be ready for a competition and you’ve got to be creative. Sometimes the market can be very brutal and you have to fight to stay in the market and compete.”

Mazwai states that it is possible for small traders in townships, such as spaza shops, taverns, hair salons and other community enterprises, to compete with established retailers and supermarkets.

He advises that traders must do more research and find out what it is that the market wants and that the retailers don't sell. He also appealed to local entrepreneurs to make use of all business development agencies for advice on how they can grow and develop their businesses and get financial support.

Mazwai says there’s enough financial support for aspiring entrepreneurs in the country and people must not be discouraged when banks want collateral when applying for a business loan.

“That is to measure the seriousness of your business idea, they know if you can put your house as collateral you’ll work hard to sustain your business so that you won’t lose your house.

Why should the bank trust you with their money,” Mazwai asked. 

Last year, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, lambasted the Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta), saying most of its training colleges have their head offices in the upmarket suburbs.

As part of service-level agreements between his department and Seta, Nzimande said he expected the authorities to start opening offices in rural areas and townships.

Mazwai welcomes this move, saying it will help both township and rural communities to easily access services and essential information regarding training and development.

Earlier this month the CSBD hosted its third annual International Conference on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development.

“The conference enhanced the understanding of entrepreneurship and small business development in Africa. It also played a crucial role in stimulating research collaborations and networking within African countries and the rest of the world,” says Mazwai.

The CSBD has been established to address the current low level of technical business and entrepreneurial skills in the country, particularly focusing on small and informal businesses in townships.

It’s regarded as the African premier business school that recognises the critical need to address the facilitation and establishment of a development strategy that is directly focused on the business needs of the community and is committed to expanding its boundaries with ground-breaking initiatives.