Frost & Sullivan – Help Africa Grow
Frost & Sullivan is a combination researching and consulting firm working to help African businesses grow and expand.
For over 50 years Frost & Sullivan has become known for helping investors, corporate leaders and governments take advantage of opportunities and successfully navigate economic changes and disruptions around the world. The company profiles commercial trends, disruptive technologies and identifies new business models to help create a constant flow of growth opportunities, driving future success on behalf of their clients.
On the private sector side that translates to helping companies with identifying and developing opportunities for expansion across the continent,” explains the Africa CEO, Hendrik Malan. “For the public sector, we support government agencies to develop economic development strategies, design special economic zones and assess infrastructure investments for various development agencies and NGOs. We use pro-active commercial intelligence, technical intelligence and trend-based analysis to help organisations develop fact-based, practical growth strategies to prepare themselves for the future.” It’s this combination of market intelligence and strategy consulting capabilities that has been such a winning recipe for the company.
“Our unique selling point is this culmination between strategy and intelligence,” Malan says.
“Using our market analysis capabilities, we can help clients understand the magnitude of an opportunity and how quickly it is developing before developing a strategy around it. This enables organisations to measure their response to that opportunity, seeing where it is now and where it will be for the foreseeable future. That ability to profile opportunities down to a granular level is definitely a great attribute in Africa where reliable intelligence is hard to find. We combine our global perspective with the local context and provide clients with the best possible chance to succeed in this challenging region.”
Part of the company’s approach comes from its origins in the strategic market intelligence sector and its verticalized approach.
“Because the company has its roots in strategic market intelligence, we have always taken a sector-based approach to our business,” Malan says. “We prize the sector-based understanding and our ability to deliver value from the word go when we initiate a project. We don’t have to spend weeks gearing up.”
KEEPING UP TO SPEED
In this day and age, it can often seem like developments are happening faster and faster, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s true.
“One of our clients’ biggest challenges is finding an approach to sustainably grow in a fast-moving environment,”
Malan tells us. “The iterations of innovation have shortened quite significantly, even in Africa. We work mainly at a business-to-business (B2B) level. The standard dynamic was traditionally slower in B2B because businesses have to go through a more rigorous decision-making process where a consumer can just pick a product. However, even the B2B space is becoming challenging to keep up to speed on the latest developments.”
A rapidly moving market means that companies have to choose carefully which new technologies and ideas they’re going to pursue.
“It is significantly more challenging to look into long-term opportunities because it’s not just the industry you’re in, it’s also the adjacent industries converging with yours,” Malan says. “You need a broader perspective on who your competition will be over your planning period.
The influence of technology innovation on all industries is on the increase. From high-tech industries to industrial sectors such as energy and water supply, all sectors are influenced by the massive investments in technology and the new business models it enables. The 4th industrial revolution will spare no-one and the trend towards everything being service will upset even the most traditional of sectors. Industries are just becoming a lot more dynamic requiring organisations to seek help in planning and strategy.”
To support these decisions Frost & Sullivan considers research from a diverse range of sectors and combine its global perspectives with a thorough local understanding.
“We have access to all the global research across the geographies Frost & Sullivan covers, which is roughly divided into a number of main categories namely, commercial research, technical research and megatrends. Over the last 15 years or so we’ve increased our focus on technology research with dedicated teams focused on tracking technologies that could potentially have a disruptive impact on the industries where we operate,” Malan says.
“The megatrends we research are transformative, cross-industry, global forces that will define the future operating environments of clients both here in Africa and abroad. This is crucial to take into account for any strategy to ensure its relevance and sustainability in the long run. We’re also in talks with an AI company at a regional level to potentially team up some of their insights with our research-based platforms to provide a combined offering to clients.”
“It’s about our clients’ ability to learn faster than the competition and re-engage the market with a refined strategy on an almost on a continuous basis which will differentiate them. Engaging, monitoring, evaluating and re-engaging in an iterative fashion is the key in our current environment,” Malan continues. “To that end, you need tangible metrics on the progress of your growth strategy which means we’ll be investing in technology partnerships to enable organisations to have a lot more hands-on information. Growth initiatives have a tendency of being absorbed into the existing business, but tracking the success and failures closely is key to creating a responsive, learning organisation.”
FINDING ALMOST UNHEALTHY CURIOSITY
Finding the kind of people who are able to collate and draw conclusions from a wide variety of different kinds of data is essential for Frost & Sullivan, but it’s not easy. “It’s quite a unique set of skills required to operate in our industry,” Malan admits. “It’s not pureplay consulting. You need an also an almost unhealthy level of curiosity to operate in the corporate growth and innovation space. We ideally look for individuals with a couple of years of practical industry experience, high levels of academic credentials but also emotional intelligence to learn intuitively because there’s just so much out there you can absorb.”
Recruitment at Frost & Sullivan Africa is a thorough process, that draws from social media platforms, universities and business schools, putting candidates through a rigorous interview process and written case studies assessed by a panel of managers. “Then there are final steps to test cultural fit, conducted with the understanding that the process needs to be as open as possible,” Malan says. “Especially these days it’s very much a two-way street, an evaluation process from both sides. We want to make sure they understand the culture we drive down here in Africa and to make sure they know what they’re getting into before making any decisions.”
Every one of these new team members is joining an effort to inform, advise and connect organisations and key stakeholders in Africa. “Practically speaking it’s about making sure we develop solutions in Africa, for Africa,” Malan explains. “Helping Africa grow, that’s our ethos. Facilitating investment by informing organisations about opportunities, advising them on how to take advantage of these sustainably and connecting the relevant stakeholders with each other. Helping Africa grow.”