South Africa’s digital landscapes – whether it is e-commerce websites, digital marketing or tech and software solutions – all suffer due to a serious lack of penetration. Mobile brands no longer strive to own summer, a vibrant colour or catchy two word phrases to distinguish them from competitors.
The war has shifted to data costs and who has the best rates in the name of accessibility to yield enough usage to warrant fast-moving consumer centric digital services for profit and viability. In an age where access to internet can almost be equated with access to a good education or water, no other sector and shift in focus could be more important for South Africa, especially where a digital marketing landscape is essentially still under construction.
No-one knows this better than French-born entrepreneur, Just Perfect Digital CEO and i-Pay Solutions creator Thomas Pays.
I spoke to him about his challenges and triumphs working in Africa as an innovator and heavyweight in digital marketing and e-commerce solutions.
After years of encouragement to visit Africa from his South African-born wife, Thomas arrived in SA surprised by the level of infrastructure and opportunity he saw around him compared to the picture the average European is exposed to of Africa and South Africa.
“To my surprise, when I arrived, I found a full-fledged city and economy with potential for growth. I quickly learned as a white European male living in South Africa, job opportunities were somewhat limited making my first year living here a lot more challenging. This drove me to pursue more entrepreneurial ventures. Identifying a need for strong digital services, capabilities and solutions, I began an online gaming and marketing website and I haven’t stopped ever since,” said Pays.
Pays started and grew smokoo.com, an e-commerce business he grew from scratch to have 300 000 visitor/ impressions per month and was ranked the 29th most visited website in SA.
One of the many differentiating factors he found in making the move to South Africa between Africa and Europe is there is a priceless asset in the people that is an undying hunger for success.
He also noted that the challenge South African people face is a skills set shortage especially where digital marketing and technology solutions are concerned. However in the style of a true entrepreneur and innovator, Pays has an answer that might not surprise you to help curb this problem.
“Google is at your disposal. If you don’t know something, google it and advance”.
Pays has two pieces of key advice for aspiring business owners and venture junkies:
“Don’t focus on the money. Without passion, there’s no drive to succeed.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things even if you know nothing about them, knowledge can always be taught, but it all starts with passion.”
Realising the gap in e-commerce business in South Africa, Pays has gone on to develop a solution and brand which strives to simplify payment and front-end purchases between the customer and end user or recipient of cash in the form of i-Pay.
i-Pay is unique in that it is the only solution currently out there that accommodates immediate settlement of payments across multiple platforms meaning i-Pay’s solution reduces the risks of credit card fraud and phishing attacks.
“Competition in SA is not as heavy as that of the US and Europe. Thus there exist many gaps in the market for many more internet and digital entrepreneurs to develop and explore. However, closing the competitive gap for South Africa to be on a level similar to the US and European markets means ensuring more accessibility for penetration ultimately meaning more opportunity and room for growth. Digital business cannot afford to live in an environment where access is limited to the fortunate and wealthy few who can afford it.” Pays said.
Throughout his incredible journey and with his experience, one of his major goals is playing a key and integral role in helping young South Africans realise their potential through skills development in the digital field.