Some of the biggest challenges currently are innovation, followed by talent development and retention, knowledge sharing and access to resources. From my observation over the last couple of years, there are more companies and startups in Mauritius, however, there seems to be a lack of innovation especially on how businesses sell and market.
With the aid of technology, the world is changing, as is consumer behavior. I believe that we should tweak and adapt our ‘old school’ way of doing business, in light and in line with these changes.
Talent development and retention is another challenge I have had the opportunity to discuss with other business leaders. As business leaders, whether as entrepreneurs or Managing Directors, it is more than essential that we invest in developing existing and new talent, establish sustainable and attractive career paths and allow employees to be integral to the growth of the business by bringing more ideas and innovation to the table, and providing them the opportunity to implement them. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I learn.” We put a lot of emphasis on this in our office and workplace.
Knowledge should be free, and it is a shame that those who have the knowledge, they are skeptical of sharing. My principle is simple, the more we share, the better we become.
“Knowledge is power. Knowledge shared is power multiplied.”
Robert Noyce, Intel Co-Founder
Does the narrowness of the Mauritian market does pose a major handicap? Is it already probing the prospects present in Africa?
Mauritius is a small country with big potential. The market seems to narrow as it has not been exploited and looked into adequately. I believe there is still room for expansion. Mauritius has a good reputation and a strong position in Africa, but I can see that African entrepreneurs are innovating much faster than we are as Mauritians. Recent news has shown that Morocco and South Africa are emerging at a faster pace. We should watch this space, and push ourselves so we always have the edge, wherever we are in the world, not only in Africa.
The word ‘innovation’ often comes up when it comes to the business development of goods and services, do you feel that there is a lack of creativity in Mauritius, if so, how do you explain?
As mentioned earlier, Innovation is lacking. We have an amazing and enriched talent pool in Mauritius and we are hard workers. I was lucky enough to be working for some of the greatest Fortune 500 companies and delivering business technology projects across the globe, and a lot of times I feel that Mauritians would have done a much better job.
Mauritian talents have great potential, and we have to give them the chance to break the status quo and innovate. It should not matter how crazy the ideas are; do not disregard their ideas. Empower them.
“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do”
Steve Jobs, Apple
Even if they fail, we should not discourage them. Failure can be a great learning method and a catalyst for innovation. Slowly, changes to education and learning are bringing innovation to the table and the change in mindset to be forward-thinking and risk-takers should be more consistent.
Some developers, researchers, and consultants have argued that young Mauritians are not encouraged to discuss, criticize and question, both in the family and school, hence the problem to become creative individuals?
Yes, I would agree to a certain extent. The problem is our own education system, which highly academic. It focuses mainly on exam success and good grades, and less on skills and attitude. People who think outside the box are sometimes criticised for losing their time and focusing on a normal job. We should let everyone listen to their inner voice and listen to their gut feeling.
Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.
We cannot continue to follow the same method of teaching and expecting great innovation. The people are not the problem here, the system is.
The school, also because the competition does not encourage the working group, is another factor that does not promote group work within a company?
Teamwork and great team spirit are key to your own success. No man is an island. While learning anything and doing anything can potentially be done by one person, it will not be sustainable. Collaboration is essential. The more you collaborate, the more successful you will be. You can leverage other people’s skills and ideas.
Competition is actually also good, it should have positive results for instance, it should push people to be more creative and innovate to keep up with the competitors. However, the level of competition in our schools is not very healthy. This amount of stress to people from such a young age is not good and certainly not conducive. They for all fighting for success, so why not be successful together. Innovation is a team sport.
Some small businesses do not have the means to provide continuous training for their employees, is that the state should help them?
The government should definitely provide more assistance to small enterprises so they also can nurture innovation and develop their talents. Financial help and training will definitely support but there should also be a culture shift within the smaller size companies as well as larger ones; to breed continuous learning to really have an impact.
Even if the training budget is small for training your people, Your organisation could easily allow them some free time to self learn. There are many free courses and classes online which can be beneficial for the workforce. Policies such as flexi-time and study leaves can also prove to be helpful.
At our company, Smplicity.co we encourage self-learning and we leverage a lot of the online courses and materials on the web, and a lot of them are free. Our staff feels that they can invest in themselves and this is aligned with their growth, personally and within the company.
What should these companies be doing to prevent employees from whom they offered the first job and they have formed a high level of not leaving to join a big company?
I actually recall what an entrepreneur in London once mentioned in relation to something similar. It was a conversation between the CFO and the CEO:
CFO: “What happens if we train them and they leave?”
CEO: “What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?”
How do you explain that the high-flying professionals do not come to Mauritius, despite the ‘incentives’ put at their disposal?
There are some high flyers that choose not to come to Mauritius. One of the main challenges, although there are changes in the trend, I believe is the business culture. We should also not neglect that high flyers have their own personal preferences and sometimes Mauritius does not tick all the boxes, despite the incentives.
We should show that Mauritius is ready to embrace change.
Should there be a uniform pay scale in private companies, or let them offer the choice to determine wages according to the capabilities of their companies?
In my opinion, there should be a minimum of at least for different levels of work and responsibilities. However, there was an experiment done in a fast-growing start-up where everyone was paid the same and everyone knew each other’s salary. This actually encouraged more collaboration in their workplace which is probably why they grew more successful. This might prove challenging in Mauritius because of the clash of cultures and mindsets.
What should be the role of the state in terms of wages, working conditions, training, and business development, research, and market opportunities?
The Government is the driver of investment through its policies and incentives.
The Private Sector needs to be able to thrive and operate efficiently within these frameworks.
Policies and Regulations should be strong, offering both incentives to businesses and protection to employees. Further research should be undertaken to find tailored solutions. Most of this data is available from public authorities and there should be a way of organising this information in such a way that local agencies, such as SME Mauritius and Development Bank of Mauritius can provide focused solutions to companies. Finally, companies are prone to expand and work towards that most of the time. The State should look into establishing more agreements with other economies to widen market bases and ensure Mauritian Companies also emerge as winners. Wider established and guaranteed markets will take care of everything else, and this can only be done through political will.