By Valrie Grant, Managing Director GeoTechVision
In November this year I was honoured with the title of Commonwealth Woman Entrepreneur of the Year and invited to attend a high-profile women’s forum in Malta on the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference (CHOGHM).
Even now I am contemplating what it really means to serve as the brand ambassador for Commonwealth businesswomen. I have engaged stakeholders from government, the private sector, academia and civil society who all have a vested interest in entrepreneurship to look at the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Caribbean. As I reflect on the discussions to date, it becomes increasingly clear that a scientific understanding of the key issues is required. It is also clear that many of the issues had a location component that needed to be explored, hence my decision to focus this week’s column on how location intelligence can support and enhance entrepreneurial activities.
Among the fundamental questions for any entrepreneur are: Where to locate my business? Where do I find what I need? Where are my customers? Where are my competitors? Where are the gaps in the market? Where are the critical sources of data to inform entrepreneurial activity? What are the jurisdictional policies that may assist or hinder the prospect of my business?
Using economics, demographics, physical geography and other data pertaining to location, location intelligence helps detect patterns, risks, and opportunities often difficult to see without being displayed on a map. There is a world of data that could significantly improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Such data not only surrounds us, but is begging to be collected, analysed, and deployed so that entrepreneurs can readily access and use same deriving conclusions that lead to profitable business decisions. To illustrate, absolute data like a city’s population can serve as a rough gauge of a market’s potential, but additional relative data like matching of store locations to local demographics is needed to yield true location intelligence.
At present, almost all organizations give at least some attention to location, whether in evaluating traffic patterns when choosing a store location or observing the location of their competitors. While there are benefits from even these isolated, and often informal observations the full power of location intelligence is not being harnessed. To do so governments should create entrepreneur friendly IT and Spatial Data Access policies that see to the development of the necessary Spatial Data Infrastructure. This will, at the very least, provide some kind of an online portal that will allow entrepreneurs to use location data in conjunction with company specific data to inform the organizations decision making process. Governments could ultimately attract, retain, and support entrepreneurs thus creating jobs and strengthening a country’s economic base.
If such an infrastructure existed how would entrepreneurs benefit? Conceptually, location intelligence bears many similarities to customer intelligence. The core premise of customer intelligence and customer relationship management is that if a company knows more about a particular customer’s demographics, preferences, and buying patterns over time, it could tailor marketing offers and customer interactions in a way that would increase the customer’s desire to buy. Imagine the value of adding a location dimension to this, being able to accurately assess market potential, better focus marketing efforts and ultimately increase sales.
What if there was a map that showed exactly where cabbage, cassava and pepper farmers are located? Could such a map not assist buyers to find supplies? What if as an entrepreneur you could easily determine the best time-of-day and time-of-week for different purchases based on purchase patterns in different geographies and across various demographics? Would that not inform stock levels in the various locations? If we are thinking digitally, location intelligence can also assist with determining the optimal timing and placing of internet advertising. What if there was a Caribbean map that indicated by industry where all the entrepreneurs were located? Would this be useful in identifying clusters and gaps in the different markets? What are some of the other functional layers that could be incorporated to add value to such a map?
There can be no doubt that location intelligence is invaluable in enhancing the understanding of an organization’s operating environment, and can therefore assist in increasing revenues, reducing costs, and improving profits. Location intelligence is assisting smart entrepreneurs to detect patterns, risks, and opportunities that would have otherwise have been invisible using other kinds of analysis. There is thus a real need for governments to create an enabling environment that includes Spatial Data Infrastructure as a critical element that will contribute to supporting entrepreneurial activities and set a country firmly on the path to sustainable economic development. Imagine if Guyanese entrepreneurs had access to locational intelligence; this would be an important step in levelling the playing field to compete internationally.