“Your Competitive Advantage is YOU” – Rapelang Rabana

Rapelang Rabana

SME South Africa celebrates Game changers/Disruptors this March. Follow along as we explore ideas and people that are challenging the status quo. 

“The biggest industry to be involved in today, if you want to remain relevant, if you want to generate sustainable profit, is to help the world spin a little faster in the right direction,” says Rapelang Rabana.

The right direction is one where both business and the consumer win, argues Rabana in a talk she gave last year at the inaugural BCX Disrupt Summit, a conference looking at where technology is heading and the future of business, featuring disruption leaders such as author Malcolm Gladwell and singer and creative Will.i.am.

Rabana is a computer scientist, tech entrepreneur, and is now chief digital officer at BCX, a ICT company. She is also the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader for 2017 and was selected as one of Forbes Africa’s ‘30 Under 30’ top African entrepreneurs.

The new economy demands that we use innovation and new products and solutions to create shared value where you make money WITH your customers

“Winning with others is the fastest way to grow your enterprise today,” says Rabana who goes on to drop many other many gems that go against almost every commonly held belief about business.

Here’s what Rabana has to say on the death of the singular win and why authentic connection is the key to innovation. 

On Redefining Success

No more singular wins – “The age of sustainability achieving profits by simply making money out of other people is fast disappearing into the distance. It is no longer sufficient to score singular wins. The new economy demands that we use innovation and new products and solutions to create shared value where you make money with your customers, even for your customers.”

Everyone wins – “In this new world, sales people, entrepreneurs and leaders have to lift their horizons to see right across the value chain and establish a line of sight with an outcome that leaves everyone substantially better off.”

I believe this is the primary source of competitive advantage today – your perspective, YOU are the innovation!

See the bigger picture –“Creating shared value is powerful, because it allows you to leverage public sentiment. It allows you to raise more awareness, get more attention, and ultimately more customers.”

Shared value – “The best businesses have created middle men that allow them to do just that. It isn’t just cool tech that got Uber and Airbnb out there, it’s the fact that they created a sustainable income channel for so many people. They didn’t just take a subscription fee so you just get onto their platform, they took the risk with you. They only win when you win. And obviously their customers want to win, so they win too.”

'Leave The Arrogance Behind' And More Powerful Advice For Expanding Into The Rest Of Africa

Ask yourself, what do you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling, that is so helpful that no computer can replace you, no one can outsource you

‘You are the Innovation’

The business model of the future – “My formula for today is that it starts with innovation, meaningful, contextually relevant innovation that solves a real problem that you have lived. Plus a capacity for shared value where you create value beyond yourself. And finally execution, the ability to get stuff done so good thinking doesn’t go to waste.”

What do you have to give? – “I believe this is the primary source of competitive advantage today – your perspective, YOU are the innovation! Ask yourself, what do you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling, that is so helpful that no computer can replace you, no one can outsource you. Figure that out, master that one thing and you will be further along the journey than most people.”

Authentic connection – “The best innovations don’t come from some mechanical, academic approach at all. It’s much more organic than that, and it starts with the things you are naturally interested in. The things that you are genuinely connected to and that you are drawn to. And the key question we all need to be asking ourselves is – is there an authentic connection? Because that authentic connection is the thing that gives you the ability to look deep into a issue or a problem.”

Tapping into your power – “So tapping into your ability to think more creatively and more entrepreneurially starts with tapping into those things that you notice without tossing them out as silly, distracting ideas. This idea of thinking is really really powerful because it means that your capacity for innovation is not limited to the things that you studied, but rather connected to the journey and [the] life that you have walked.”

On African Innovation

The African perspective – “I believe that the world remains deficient in African perspectives, we haven’t manifested our perspectives in enough products and services out there in the world. And I believe that we haven’t done that because we haven’t trusted in the validity and the legitimacy of our point of view.”

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Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo is the editor of SME South Africa. She enjoys keeping up with the country’s exciting and fast developing entrepreneurship ecosystem. You can find her at @lelele3