Digital Disruption: How to ride the crest of this wave

Digital Disruption: How to ride the crest of this wave

The world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles (Uber); the world’s most popular media owner creates no content (Facebook); the world’s largest retailer has no inventory (Alibaba); the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate (Airbnb); the world’s largest cinema house owns no cinema (Netflix); the largest software vendors don’t write the apps (Apple & Google).

What do you think is happening? Obviously something interesting, but beyond that, something disruptive.

Welcome to the age of digital disruption. The ‘Internet of Things’ has become “An age of digital disruption.”

The digital wave is disrupting a wide range of industries and businesses, essentially transforming two key things: the ways of doing business and the business models.

How else can we explain the astounding success of platforms like Uber, Facebook, Alibaba, Airbnb and Netflix?

Last week was an exciting week for me. I met two diverse passionate groups of people who were keen to know the nuances of digital disruption and how it would impact their businesses.

The first group was the Top 100 Mid Sized Companies of Kenya, an initiative of KPMG Kenya and Nation Media Group, which identifies Kenya’s fastest growing medium-sized companies to showcase business excellence and highlight some of the most successful entrepreneurship stories.

None is immune

The other was a group of around 50-plus small yet enterprising women entrepreneurs in the baking industry. It is overwhelming to know how businesses understand that no business, no industry is immune to this wave.

Size and scale of business do not matter. What does is how innovative can you turn things around.

Organisations that have embraced ‘digital of things’ in the past few years have been successful. One key pattern is that they brought the ‘digital’ from the side (as a mere department in their organisation) to the core of their organisation.

In fact, going one step ahead, we can say that for you to be successful or leverage success from the digital technology, if your current business or your current operations do not support ‘Digital’ at the core, you are better off aligning your operations before it’s late.

Be it finance, supply-chain, marketing, communications, customer service, operations, legal or merchandising, ‘Digital’ can turn around the way you conduct business. You only need to think ‘How’.

Don’t entertain the thinking that digital disruption is not for you or your business. It is estimated that by 2020, all safe havens of business will be subject to disruption.

It requires real persistence and patience to follow the exponential growth of technologies. So it is time for you to shape up or shape out. It is time for organisations to reflect on three major questions:

1. What is happening now?

This will give you insights and understanding of the drivers of digital transformation in your industry, how this impacts your industry, and the impact of the digital disruption on your organisation.

2. What will happen?

You would be able to pre-empt what would happen next both in terms of the impact on the industry and your organisation.

3. What are we going to do?

This question will enable you to generate and deliberate on new business ideas, new models and may result in an innovative solution.

It is important for businesses to take cognisance to the fact that digital disruption will not only give them a competitive advantage but will also positively impact operational efficiency, an absolute competitive necessity and at about a tenth the cost than the traditional way.

Mr Sri Bharatam is the founder chief mentor of Kuza Biashara. @Sbharatam or

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