Simple fact often taken for granted: today’s world has countless experiences one could learn vital lessons from, and many are no more than a stone’s throw away. An observant eye and inquisitiveness are about all one needs to move ahead meaningfully - at least to begin with.
Too bad, it so happens that many people usually think and plan so big that they forget to look around them, making golden opportunities literally slip through their fingers or wearing themselves trying to reinvent the wheel.
Scenarios of this nature are common with respect to the plight of small businesses in Tanzania, many starting the wrong way and thus not making it soon enough or in fact collapsing before even beginning to sprout. But experience remains the best of teachers, and learning from those who have been in it earlier always pays.
Fortunately, more and more local and international agencies and institutions keep coming to the help of all manner of small and medium businesses in our country usually with hardly any strings attached to the assistance they are willing to extend.
For instance, there are these reports of CRDB Bank and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) having expressed readiness to help 100 women entrepreneurs land financing on the modest condition that they have saleable and workable business ideas.
We are told that the women for whom then assistance is meant are those to graduate from a specially tailored programme run by the University of Dar es Salaam Business and School, the idea being to help the beneficiaries put their business acumen and economic potential to the best use possible.
Those targeted are sure to find the training and funding invaluable, particularly after they see the rationale of combining these crucial inputs with others such as the experience they will have gained over time both through their own seating and toiling and by learning individuals and groups engaged in similar ventures elsewhere in Tanzania and beyond.
It is here that we see the need for Tanzanian small businesses to learn from the recent bitter-sweet experience of those in neighbouring Kenya, where small-scale traders are reported to be facing tough economic times as supermarkets stretch their wings.
We are told that major supermarkets are opening outlets not only in major urban centres but also in suburban residential areas, thus threatening to deprive small-time groceries, furniture shops, butcheries, chemists, etc., of customers by also venturing into similar businesses at lower prices.
Of course, Tanzania is also already witnessing a much similar scenario though not on a scale that large – and it would be foolhardy seeing the possibility of the pendulum swinging in the favour of the small players. Not that these will all be squeezed dead any time soon, only that the going will prove especially rough and tough for them.
The analogy may look far-fetched and not directly applicable to all small businesses, but it is not too early to think of strategies through which to survive and even thrive despite the ferocity of storm ahead. And, it appears the best solution lies in placing a premium on quality - which is where assistance is needed most.