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SMEs must be higher on local election agenda

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A lot has been said about how national government can help SMEs and how local government plays a role in shaping business, which is why entrepreneurs should listen to the promises made by parties in the upcoming elections, writes ANTON VAN HEERDEN of Sage.

Much is said about how national government can and should help create an enabling environment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to flourish, but local government also plays a vital role in shaping their business environment. As such, entrepreneurs should be listening carefully to the promises and policies outlined by the candidates and parties standing for South Africa’s upcoming municipal elections.

The day-to-day impact local government has on the average small business’s day-to-day operations should not be underestimated. Where national government sets macro-economic policy and national laws for industry and commerce, local government is the coalface of service delivery to citizens and businesses alike.

Local government affects small businesses in many ways. For example, companies planning to set up an office or factory will often need to consult with the municipality about zoning regulations and building bylaws. Meanwhile, if you operate in an industry such as food or entertainment, you may need to get a trading licence from the municipality and show your compliance with health, safety and noise control bylaws.

Building the ratepayer base and creating employment

Local government also provides a range of mission-critical services to small businesses, from refuse collection to electricity distribution. If a municipality fails to maintain its local power infrastructure, its SMEs may suffer financial and productivity losses that harm their sustainability. Conversely, a municipality that invests in broadband infrastructure and maintains its local roads efficiently creates an enabling environment where entrepreneurship can thrive.

However, we haven’t heard much from most political parties about what they will do to make the towns and cities they govern into better places to do business. We consider this to be an oversight since municipalities that do a good job of attracting and supporting small enterprises can boost their ratepayer base and help to create employment for their residents.

SME owners should ask their local candidates and councillors questions about what they will do to streamline red-tape for businesses in their constituencies. For example, do they have any plans to make it faster and easier to apply for a trading licence or a building permission? In many cases, small business owners need to go and stand in a queue to file a simple form. Visionary municipalities should make it easy to apply, pay and file paperwork online.

Entrepreneurs should also scrutinise the plans municipal candidates set out to ensure the steady and reliable provision of services such as power. Also high on their priority list is consistent, reliable billing for municipal services as well as transparent and fair ways to initiate billing disputes.

Make a seat at the table for the entrepreneur

I urge councillors and mayors who will be taking new positions in local government after the elections to make a seat at the table for small business. We think that mayors, councillors and city managers can help their cities to thrive and prosper by supporting SMEs.

In addition to revisiting red tape – in line with the 2013 Guidelines for reducing municipal red tape from the departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs – there is much municipalities can do to nurture small businesses.

One example is ensuring that they buy local as much as possible when procuring goods and services, and paying small business suppliers and service providers promptly. Another is by working with large businesses to create training and mentoring schemes for small local businesses. In a world where only the voices of the biggest are heard, we must always fight to hear the voice of the entrepreneur. It is only through growing a vibrant small business community that our towns and cities can prosper.

* Anton Van Heerden, EVP and Managing Director, Sage South and Southern Africa

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Huawei goes ultra-premium

Porsche Design and Huawei have launched the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS in South Africa exclusive to MTN and retailing for R 26 459.

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The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS boasts features like the world’s first dual fingerprint design, including an in-screen fingerprint sensor, the world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) processor and Leica triple camera with 40MP image capture.

“After the overwhelming success of the Porsche Design Huawei Mate 10 Pro in South Africa, we now bring you our latest offering, a perfect blend of innovation in a smartphone and luxury design,” said Likun Zhao, Vice President of Huawei Consumer Business Group Southern Africa. “From three-point security feature including facial recognition, rear fingerprint scanner and the new innovative in-screen fingerprint to the Leica triple camera system. it culminates in an unprecedented experience for our customers.”

The device incorporates Porsche Design’s signature design language and Huawei’s breakthrough technology.  The phone has a 6” 2K curved OLED screen and symmetrical look, minimalist feel and 8-edged 3D curved glass body.

High performance is symbolised by the naming of the smartphone: the term “RS” in the world of Porsche motorsport stands for outstanding racing performance.

Huawei provided the following information on The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS benefits and features :

·         The world’s first dual fingerprint scanner for enhanced convenience, allowing users to wake and unlock the device simply, thanks to an in-screen fingerprint sensor. Hover to wake the device, touch to unlock it

·         The winning combination of Leica triple camera with 40MP RGB sensor technology and exceptional photography powered by Master AI. This combination puts effortless, eye-catching photography at the fingertips of those looking to immortalise their favourite moments. Combined with 5 x hybrid zoom, and the world’s first AI image stabilisation on a smartphone camera ensures photography lovers can capture the best shots with exceptional clarity in almost any situation

·         The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS is the first Huawei handset to allow quick wireless charging, making it even easier to keep the phone topped up and ready to go and, thanks to its long lasting battery, users will easily be powered through the busiest of days

·         An ‘intelligent’ smartphone, the powerful AI processor automatically tailors the performance of the phone according to how it is used – constantly learning, understanding and anticipating needs, it is the perfect personal assistant for the pocket

·         256GB of internal storage means those constantly on the go and constantly on their phone can be worry free

·         Dual SLS (super linear system) speakers with DOLBY ATMOS enable users to have a superior experience, with the best immersive surround sound and entertainment on the go

·         Splash, water and dust resistant, which means there is no need to worry about damaging the device in the rain or accidentally dropping it in water

Jan Becker, CEO Porsche Design Group, said: “Both Porsche Design and Huawei seek to imagine and develop products that stand for precision and perfection, intelligent functionality and highly sophisticated design. Our aim was to create an outstanding device that goes one step further. We believe we have reached this goal by taking our partnership to the next level.”

Porsche Design and Huawei have worked in tandem to develop a smartphone that fuses together the two brands’ DNA, wealth of experience in design and technology, industry-leading expertise and exceptional performance. Through the use of colour in the device’s body, software themes and accessories, the new handset is accentuated with Porsche Design’s distinguished aesthetic and purist, minimalist feel.

The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS will be available to purchase exclusively from MTN at R 26 459.

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Cross-channel chat launched

Clickatell has launched a cross-channel live chat service, Touch Go, that transforms omni-channel customer care.

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It enables live chat across a company’s website as well as social platforms (Twitter and Facebook) and mobile apps, bringing customer care and engagement into a single business platform.

“Today’s consumers expect to engage with your brand on the digital channel of their choosing,” says Deon van Heerden, Clickatell Engage CEO and Group CFO. “They want to message your business and instantly have queries resolved, find the information and services they are looking for, without the need for a voice call. Clickatell’s Touch Go makes that happen with the right level of capabilities for businesses of all sizes.”

Businesses can start using Touch Go immediately, with a free Starter option. Touch Go requires no credit card for sign-up and is fully featured with a simple setup process. It offers customisable branding, a unified chat desk business application as well as reports and analytics.

As the business scales up its digital customer care, it can opt-in for the Touch Enterprise offering. Touch Enterprise is designed for scaling up customer care efforts through advanced capabilities including AI driven virtual agents, sentiment analysis, automated workflows, enterprise integrations and in-channel mini-applications.

“Customer care has become a defining factor for sustained business success ” says Nirmal Nair, Clickatell Engage EVP Product & Marketing. “In an ever-increasing mobile native world, customers often choose to interact digitally, but they also expect to be able to reach a human immediately, should they need. Monitoring multiple channels and providing immediate action becomes challenging with siloed deployments. Touch’s unified solution allows businesses of all sizes to provide the customer delight in a simple modular approach.”

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