Thursday, November 8, 2012

Freakonomics and shack fires

Have you heard of freakonomics? (You can read the book)Its a fantastic mechanism for analysing data and then coming up with new ideas that are often not thought about. Often the ideas are based on real data and the ideas are often quite controversial. Like reducing crime through increasing abortion in low income areas. very controversial! So the City of cape town asked me to do a presentation on new ideas for shack fires. Ok so i thought let me do a freakonomics exercise. I decided that the only data that is consistent and makes sense is time and date. What time did the fire take place and on which date ( season). So I phoned the fire and rescue guys Theo Layne and he passed me onto Richard Bosman " Your request will have to be authorised by the office of the Executive director of Safety and Security as it is not a standard request for info". Ok so i got nothing....typical government and city department after a really competent request. Not to be deterred by usual government and city bureacracy and this is an important lesson for entrepreneurs ( not to be deterred by these crappy bureaucrats) and bureacracy you will need to navigate endlessly as an entrepreneur in this country ( which is a serious problem for new entrepreneurs) ...oh i could rant and rave about this all day....but back to shack fires. So I went back to my trusty newspapers and looked at data they wrote about in terms of shack fires. and lo i found a pattern! Shack fires are most prevalent between 9pm and 2 am and most in winter. Immediately the freakonomics kicked in. Warmth and Heat. When i looked at most of the theories on shack fires they showed light (like candles) and cooking as the main problem rather than warmth and heat. But loads of people die in shack fires which assumes that many are asleep when the fires break out....assumption being warmth and heat.  Prevention should thius include heating options and ways to stay warm and keep heat in. These include blankets, layering of clothes, beanies and socks, insulation of shacks, New generation fire places specifically designed for shacks, public driers for clothing in winter, battery driven heaters, Floor solutions and so on. As an entrepreneur using this kind of thinking one can come up with a myriad of new solutions some of which can be socially driven but many that are business opportunities. I will feedback once i have presented to the city on the 19th November. Wonder what the bureaucrats will say to some innovation!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Whats the best way to take the feathers off a chicken? ( when its dead of course!) You use paraffin know like women do when they shave their legs. At a recent innovation workshop ( which i still run) i had a guy from Rainbow chickens and he had some great ideas of his own. So I mentioned that another young entrepreneur who wanted to work with women who slaughter chickens in the township and then defeather them came up with this concept ( which is quite commonly used in Europe by the way) and wanted to make a defeathering kit ( as millions of chickens are slaughtered this way in South Africa). Otherwise the women basically use hot water which is quite a difficult process. Here the wax just takes the feathers off quite easily. Awesome. On another note in the same workshop one of the guys saw a bowl of baked beans in a very nice ceramic plate. We looked at the picture and after a bit of discussion agreed that in South Africa there are 2 markets. The mass market and the "what i want to call the artisan" market. This is very evident with coffee. From crappy instant coffee the whole market seems to be moving to artisan coffee and willing to pay for it. So I said to him why not artisan baked beans. Lightbulb! I definitely think it would work in the making and packaging of baked beans. South Africa seems to follow the trend of the rich. So if the rich start using a certain product then everyone wants it as well as a trend and a "i wanna be like them". I have mentioned this before re: brands. So if the mass market sees the rich eating artisan baked beans then they will start to eat them too and pay a higher price. Thinking aloud a great example of that is purity baby foods and nappies which make no sense at all in the mass market as they are very pricey. Yet the rich have it so the mass market aspires to it. Image and advertising which is slighly different from other countries like India...or is it? What i have been saying for quite some time is that we live in an aspirational country. So to launch new products they should sell to rich first and get assimilated into the mass market as a brand you need to get. A great example is that of coffins. If the rich are seen to be buried in sideways coffins which are made with plastics then the mass market will follow! or will they? Damn i just thought of another great idea. Building private pools in the townships for householders. They charge people a fee to use them for leisure as well as charge for swimming lessons. Not bad! In the workshop mentioned above one of the participants saw a guy in cowboy gear. Now imagine a store that imports all the cowboy and cowgirl stuff and started a small retail store. I love this idea as i can see the trend growing in Tshwane with dudes walking around in their stetsons.