George Manyosi: It’s KayaFM95.9. Welcome back to the Afropolitan Man. This B-tech graduate from the University of Johannesburg started his own web design company nearly 10 years ago. That is a long time in the world of digital. Today we speak to public speaker and thought leader in the digital space, the founder and creative director of the web based design, Bongani Gosa. Bongani, what fascinates you about the digital world?
Bongani: I think what mainly fascinated me was the fact that I saw a gap in the market. I saw a need for web design services. That happened back in 2002 when I was doing my second year at UJ.
George Manyosi: And what products do you offer these days compared to say 10 years ago when you started out?
Bongani: A lot of things have changed from nine years ago. Nine years ago what used to happen is that you would create a website, then you’d create a mobile site. So which means you had two instances of the same website. But now what’s happening is that we’ve got one website that is responsive, so which means it works nice on a mobile phone and it also works nice on a bigger screen. And also at the time digital marketing was almost non-existent at the time. People thought that it was a fad as far as [inaudible 00:01:24] goes. But now Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, all these other social medias, they pretty much have a huge influence on digital basically.
George Manyosi: Are there any unique challenges that you faced as a black Afropolitan coming up in South Africa in the digital space? Like did you need to prove yourself more than perhaps your existing white counterparts?
Bongani: Okay, I looked at the race thing was that you know what, how business works, it’s more around relations. It will be obviously difficult for me as a black guy to gain traction. The reason is simple. I don’t have a lot of people that I know that are in business. My parents, my cousins, my family, my friends, they don’t know a lot of business people that they can say, “hey, use my son,” or “use my friend,” or “use this.” So that’s what made that a bit difficult for me as a black person. So I wouldn’t say it was mainly a race issue, but it was more a relationships issues, because I didn’t have relationships with the right type of people. But over the years I have made those relationships.
George Manyosi: Now let’s talk about your staff structure. What is it that your company offers and what expertise is in the company?
Bongani: At the moment, there’s 10 of us, and we offer a lot of services. We offer website design. We offer video animations, like animated video explainers. And we offer photography. In fact, we have a mobile photography studio. We offer anything and everything related to advertising that’s not TV. So we don’t do TV just yet.
George Manyosi: How has business changed in their outlook and use of online?
Bongani: Not being online is very, very expensive for any business. People think that it costs a lot of money to have a website, but it costs a lot of money not to have a website funny enough. Because the reality of the situation is that people expect you to be online. If you meet someone and they want to do business with you, the first thing they’re gonna do when they get home, they’re going to Google your name. After googling your name they’re going to Google the name of your company.
If non of those come up in the search result, it means you don’t exist. It’s going to be very difficult for them to trust you. And if someone doesn’t trust you, they’re not gonna buy anything from you. So it’s always advisable to have a web presence. Make sure that it’s updated. Make sure that you create the impression that you want people to see when they’re looking for you. So don’t just have a website that was done 5, 10 years ago. That’s not gonna help. In digital terms 5 years ago is pretty much like in normal human terms is like maybe 20 years ago. Make sure that your website is always updated and yeah, you have relevant information on your website.
George Manyosi: For all folks who feel left behind in the digital space, is there time still to catch up, and what advice would you then give even for young people? Would you say, “go study,” or “just jump into it and live it and learn as you go”?
Bongani: Yes, I can say that they don’t necessarily need to go back to school per se. They just need to educate themselves around how digital works. If I have to be honest, digital is not any different from how normal advertising works. It’s slightly different, but the concepts are exactly the same. So say for arguments sake, search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is pretty much what you do for your website to be ranked high on search engines like Google. The reason something like that would happen is because Google looks for a number of factors that affect the search, but the most important thing that Google looks for is that, “Does this website look like I can trust it,” which is pretty much a decision that someone makes before they buy from you. They ask themselves, “Can I trust this guy?” So if Google thinks that you look trustworthy or you have the right types of size that make you look trustworthy, then they will rank you high. Then people will buy from you.
The long and short of it is that, there’s not only a huge difference. It’s just that you need to understand how.
George Manyosi: Bongani Gosa. Thank you once again for your time. I really appreciate it. Founder and creative director of BWD web based design firm.
Bongani: Thank you for having me.