The Global Village. Probably one of the biggest buzzwords of the 21st century but how simple is the concept? For years the marketing fraternity has been talking about the existence of this village and highlighting the importance of being a valid card holding member but there are often unanswered questions. How do you know when you have arrived and what do you do when you get there? What is your role in the village? What are the benefits and pitfalls?
In the context of this handbook the real question is: "What does it mean to the consumer and, more importantly, the South African consumer?"
In a word the answer is choice. Distance boundaries and time difference limitations no longer exist with the current global transport infrastructure and modern communications technology. Language barriers are almost non-existent even in the Far East and Eastern Europe with English now being taught from preschool level. Finally, payment for the desired product is as easy as a mouse click away.
The obvious truth about it is that South Africans are a part of the Global Village and have been for a while. Some operate in it without realising it and others actively pursue participation on a daily basis. The benefit to the consumer can be either financial or convenience as they are able to acquire goods not available locally. Economically speaking the downside is the balance of trade deficit that is created due to the money flowing out the country. The government has tried to counteract it by initiating programmes such as 'Proudly South African' and the 'Local is Lekker' campaign and to a degree it has worked, particularly in the FMCG markets.
Patriotism, as it turns out, seems to dwindle proportionately to the capital outlay required to purchase a product and generally, as world class security systems are not cheap, our industry is not sheltered by the concept of buying local. This leaves the local design and manufacturing security companies to conform to international standards and compete on a global level or accept the fact they their market is limited to the price sensitive entry level sector. For some the latter is acceptable, however there are the select few who have risen to the challenge and not only try to conform but are determined to lead the way in their respective industries.
Large international security companies enter the South African market with seemingly high end products thinking that they will automatically claim a sizable portion of the market share, based on their globally branded name.
However, South African security companies are at an advantage as the local market offers security challenges often not matched internationally. As a result the calibre of products being designed locally are, by default, leading edge. It just takes a quick look around the country at the design companies in the CCTV, fire and access control markets to realise that this is a reality. One such company, Impro Technologies, based in Pinetown, Durban, is flying the flag for South Africa in the security industry with its access control offering. Impro has been involved in access control for almost 20 years producing ground breaking products and as a result when the international companies started re-entering the market it did not have to scramble to match them. Instead its ability to compete feature on feature just confirmed the quality of the products it had been producing.
There is no doubt that the security industry in South Africa has changed since the demise of the trade embargoes and international companies started entering our market, as healthy competition breeds progression. In addition, the speed at which technology is changing and the apparent trend that has seen the end user become more aware and educated to product possibilities has forced the industry to a new path. Ultimately the customer will always benefit but more importantly the concept of the security system has evolved to a place where the spin-off features now expand to sectors outside the industry such as human resources, time and attendance, fleet management and production monitoring systems. This is further amplified by the amalgamation of the core security products (access control, CCTV, intrusion and fire detection) into seamless offerings. What was once a niche security market is now expanding to include sectors previously unrelated as well as new markets such as the upmarket residential and agricultural sectors.
"Discontent is the first necessity of progress" - Thomas A. Edison
Impro Technologies is South Africa's leading access control company and one that was clearly not content to settle for average. Impro entered the international security scene over 10 years ago with its Link Scan range and ensured that it kept abreast with access control advancements. Today it offers an extensive range of integration-based access control systems. Its IXP range has a product for all applications, from single door systems through to network-based systems capable of controlling up to 3000 doors and 160 000 tag holders. All have differing degrees of integration depending on the market sector they are aimed at with their flagship IXP400 boasting a seamless integration with fire, intrusion and CCTV systems through their graphic user interface.
It is clear that Impro predicted the trend and has ensured that its systems set the standard for integrated security solutions allowing it to compete with the influx of international competition. Barry East, marketing manager for Impro Technologies adds "Without doubt our success in the local market can be attributed in part to our lengthy involvement in international markets. I do not think I would venture as far as to say that it is solely responsible but it was definitely a contributing factor."
Impro always believed that it needed to own its back yard before it started entering someone else's so its ties to the local market are well established. Even so, when international companies started entering the South African market it started feeling the pressure. Barry continues "The perception in South Africa has always been that offshore products are superior simply because they come from the First World, USA or Europe. It was a given and very difficult to convince the consumer otherwise. As a result of our exposure to these First World companies overseas we had adapted our products, in particular the IXP range, and were doing head to head battle with them internationally long before they hit our shores. Thankfully it did not take long for the local market to acknowledge that we had a world class product and we were soon in a healthy battle with our foreign components on local soil and coming out on top."
It is clear that the South African Market expectations have caught up with international standards, but it seems that the question is now 'have our home grown design companies been above standard but overlooked locally because of their country of origin?' Without doubt the Internet is a key component of bringing the concept of the Global Village closer to reality, South Africa is now just another stop on the information superhighway.
East closes with: "In hindsight I suppose we have been supplying the Global Village for some time without realising it. Today, a large portion of our international inquiries come as a result of our website and e-mail based advertising. In most cases the consumer does not even realise that they are dealing with a company operating from the kingdom of the Zulus until the first shipment is sent."
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