May 9, 2008
Find niche markets, says Ferdinand

Director of the Centre for Enterprise Development Dr Julian Ferdinand has advocated niche market diversification, as a means of economic development.

Ferdinand, during a presentation entitled “Economic Diversification through Private Sector Development”, outlined a number of ventures which prospective businessmen and women can become involved in.{{more}}

Speaking at the two day Loan and Finance Fair held by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Small Business Association and the Centre for Enterprise Development earlier this week, Ferdinand, quoting from research done by Professor Betty Jane Punnett, of the University of the West Indies, indicated that although diversification is necessary, it should be done in areas where financial success could be realized.

“We need to diversify because we need to spread the risk and enhance economic growth, but we must avoid competing in commodity products.”

“In those areas we are uncompetitive. We are challenged by the absence of economies of scale and we are unable to produce for mass markets.”

Niche markets, defined as relatively small businesses with high profitability, are considered flexible, and can have a significant advantage over larger producers.

According to Ferdinand, a number of businesses suggested by Punnett include the production of Gourmet Foods, children’s clothing made with special fabrics, natural organic health products, pet clothing, baby paraphernalia, pottery, household items and fair trade items.

The findings of Punnett’s research also indicate that networks be set up among businesses, in order to maximize the use of resources.

Ferdinand said that most persons who are steeped in traditional ways of doing things may object to the call for diversification, but these people should realize that change is inevitable.

“As a people, many of us are conditioned to keep things the way they have always been. If we do not come together out of inspiration, we will do so out of desperation; and desperation is here.”

“There are many opportunities out there but we need to free our minds and look at the possibilities. Let us start thinking differently, let us become more proactive and productive” Ferdinand urged.

He also stated that while tourism and other means of diversification are being explored as a means of economic development, agriculture should not be left by the wayside.

He suggested that a new strategy should be developed in order to add value to agricultural exports.

“We as a people need to play a more active role in determining our destiny, and as far as I am concerned agriculture must not, should not and will not be abandoned by the people of this region.”(JJ)