By Radithebe Rammutle
Talifhani Mamafha, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Analytics Advertising, has what it takes to become one of South Africa’s (SA) greatest entrepreneurs. Sitting in a corner office of a modern office park in Midrand (SA), Mamafha oversees a staff complement of 36 members, some locally based and others in Botswana. He views the world as an oyster, and with a strong vision and innovation, he believes that the hidden pearls the world has to offer can be found.
Analytics Advertising is a data company founded in 2017. They draw large datasets from different sources and platforms and integrate them for their client so that they could be sorted to find valuable information to answer business questions and predict future trends and behaviour. It is a B2B firm that can assist clients to build e-commerce stores such as Amazon Store. The tech company offers solutions for business areas such as marketing or supply chain management in manufacturing.
“We look at ourselves as a data company, and as a data company, you will need data scientists and engineers. We have about six software engineers, three data engineers, twelve people are data scientists and the rest are in managerial positions,” says Mamafha.
The tech firm built an online food ordering and delivery platform called Spaza Eats in 2019 for townships in SA. With this solution, DJ Shimza’s restaurant, The Hang Awt, in Tembisa was generating ten orders per minute. However, they soon discovered that they did not have enough capacity to fill orders. They had to go back to the drawing board and are now ready to relaunch the solution with more scooters. This move pits them against majors such as Uber Eats. However, through this investment, they are hoping that restaurants and scooter drivers will make more money and for customers to buy conveniently.
Through persistently creating new solutions and services, implementing the best human resource management practices, and building unique business models, Analytics Advertising has not only managed to stay ahead of the competition but has won five awards including the Top Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Top Empowerment.
From the get-go, Mamafha and his leadership team set their sights to become an international company. “The vision is to become a global business that is recognised for the technologies they will bring into the continent,” says Mamafha when asked about Analytics Advertising’s vision.
Global technological advancements, declining trade barriers, and increased labour and capital mobility have created opportunities for SMEs to become international rapidly. From Botswana, the start-up tech company is now planning to set up business in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and has secured business with the French company, Saint Gobain, in Estonia, Europe, as well as two clients in New York.
Internationalisation is unusual but a bold strategy for start-up firms. During the early stages of their life cycles, some companies withhold from engaging in international activities such as exporting or Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This is because small firms face greater challenges and risks than larger firms when they do expand abroad. Firstly, they do not only have to adapt their products or services to meet the needs of foreign markets, but they must adapt their management practices to the cultural norms and institutional context of the market they are entering. Furthermore, compared to large firms they often lack the scale that gives large firms the financial muscle toinvest abroad. For example, the first major challenge for firms looking to invest abroad is to decide which marketlocation offers the best cost-benefit opportunity. While big firms can invest in the due-diligence process underlying this decision, decision-makers in small firms may have to rely on their personal experience and networks they have built with customers, suppliers, or alliance partners.
Hence the internationalisation strategy embraced by Analytics Advertising is often associated with larger 20th-century firms that have gradually grown from their domestic markets. These companies started by exporting, then they developed a foreign sales subsidiary and eventually moved into full-scale operation. Fortunately, there are signs that Analytics Advertising can pull off its strategy. Through a blended team of experienced management team, each with experience of more than five years in a corporate environment and junior professionals in the technology side of the business, the tech company has become the backbone of Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) by providing solutions that are integrated into PPC’s production process. This alliance has enabled Analytics Advertising to internationalise its business rapidly because the tech company accompanies its client to new markets it enters. While the risks of internationalising its business too early are high, the “Born Global” firm can out-innovate its local rivals if it can pull off this strategy.