Expanding your business north of the Limpopo is an excellent growth strategy if you’re looking to capture new markets and become a truly international operation. But while heading up into the rest of Africa can be a lucrative and exciting move for your business, it should be done for the right reasons.
Rocketseed South Africa – a home-grown tech company that helps organisations to cultivate marketing capital through email branding – recently embarked on an expansion drive into Africa. Since the first deal was done in August 2014, Rocketseed is active in two African countries outside of South Africa – and it’s not planning on slowing down.
Rocketseed South Africa MD Tess Sulaman says the secret lies in careful planning, and not letting your ego get the better of you.
“There was never any doubt that we were going to expand into the rest of Africa,” she says. “It’s a no-brainer. Some of the world’s fastest growing economies are on the continent, and we want to be part of that expansion.”
However, Sulaman explains, most of Africa’s economic growth comes from development in the small- and micro-business sectors, which don’t fit neatly into Rocketseed’s client base.
“The vast majority of our clients are government departments and agencies, large corporates and multinationals,” says Sulaman. “So even though there is all this wonderful economic growth happening, our studies told us that it wouldn’t be viable for us to set up operations elsewhere on the continent. The business environment simply wouldn’t support our operating model and we would, in all likelihood, be forced to shut our doors within months.”
Instead, Rocketseed opted to go the reseller network route, forming partnerships with agents across the African continent who then include Rocketseed’s email marketing services in their client offerings.
“Our first partnership was with Tryangle, a digital marketing agency in the Ogilvy stable, based in Mauritius,” says Sulaman. “It’s been going for several months now and the results are beginning to bear fruit. We have seen promising benefits by going this route. The in-country agents provide local content – which means there are no language or cultural barriers to overcome in the communication itself – and we provide the technology. Everybody wins, which is what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Rocketseed’s Business Development Director Antonio Petra says that the stability of the Rocketseed platform makes it suitable for almost any digital environment.
“There are so many myths about Africa’s online infrastructure – that it’s slow, porous and unreliable,” says Petra. “In our experience, this is not the case at all. In fact, we have found it to be none of these things. Sure, there are differences, but it’s nothing we can’t adapt to.”
As Rocketseed’s Africa expansion unfolds, the company continues to develop relationships with marketing agencies and IT providers across the continent, targeting well-known IT growth hubs in Mauritius, Kenya, Angola and Nigeria.
“Our email marketing offering spans a number of sectors, including software development, IT implementation, digital communication, monitoring and evaluation. Usually we offer our services as a bundle, but by separating out certain functions we have been able to access new markets and new client segments. These, in turn, have not only helped us to grow our bottom line, but also generated a non-rand-based revenue stream. This cross-currency trading has helped us, to some extent, to hedge against the massive volatility we have seen recently – and which we expect will continue for the foreseeable future.” Adds Petra
As will Rocketseed’s expansion, no doubt.
“Yes,” says Sulaman, “we have big plans for Africa. We’ve proved that it can be done, and we intend to keep on doing it until everyone on the continent knows who we are!”