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Rethinking cartels: The value in unity

By King Kaka | Published Wed, February 14th 2018 at 08:24, Updated February 14th 2018 at 09:12 GMT +3
King Kaka

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

Last week while I was driving Lisa home, we had an interesting conversation. For those who don’t know who Lisa is, she handles PR for Kaka Empire and has been part of the vision from the early days. Anyway, the discussion was based on an experience we’d had.

We had just finished preparing for a presentation and I called a contact for a meeting at one of the leading companies in the country.

The meeting was scheduled for the following week Monday, and in the process of planning our calendars, they invited us to a product they were launching that Friday.

I had an insider at the company give me a heads-up on what the invitation list looked like – I’m all about networking and expanding.

VIP list

So that Friday, I broke out one of my new tailored suits and Lisa wore a dinner dress, and we went straight to the door to find our names on the guest list. I’m still not over that feeling of finding my name on the VIP list. I’m still accepting the idea that I’ve risen in the ranks and get to show up and create new links that lead to new opportunities.

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There’s this popular African saying: “If you want to go fast,go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

I have come to understand that the ‘cake’, as people call it, is so large that you can’t consume it all on your own. And that was proven on this particular night.

Practically in all industries there are stories about groups of people who have managed to understand the rule of unity and what it can do. They have been named ‘cartels’.

The word has a negative connotation, but I took a different view of what it really means.

This is the standard definition of the word ‘cartel’ in a dictionary: “An association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.”

But remember, business is about competition. That’s what one of my mentors, DJ Loop, always tells me. He’s been my mentor for years, and I bumped into him at the product launch. He pulled me to the side and we got to talking.

He started pointing out a few of the people who supposedly ‘run tings’ in the particular industry that we were interacting with.

Different needs

He added that this gathering had the who’s and who. I asked him why he was there, and he proudly said he was part of the cartel and then laughed hard.

DJ Loop then got serious and asked me: “What’s the actual definition of a cartel?”

We then did a panorama profiling of most of the people who were there, and it turned out that he had worked hand in hand with literally all of them when he was starting out in business.

The beauty of business is that all of the people gathered there were in the same industry, but had focused on different aspects of it, from marketing and sales to supply and branding.

They each saw different needs, held meetings and changed the game. They saw things differently, got together and from that day on, laughed all the way to the bank.

However, it wasn’t easy to get to the end game. But the fact that they saw they were in one industry and were focusing on one consumer gave them a common first agenda.

This takes me back to the definition of what cartels really mean and what they stand for. Loop mentioned that the word cartel had been given a ‘bad’ image.

In his view, a cartel is just a group of like-minded people who have seen the strength that exists in unity. That it automatically grants them the control of most curves, from pricing to market control, product quality and consumer chains.

The good thing with this thinking is that members are given priority, and so everyone grows equally – and shares the risks. This in turn stabilises the market and there is a sense of control from one source.

Loop is a firm believer in unity and association in business.

The competition with his peers also drives him to do more, and since he and his partners have control, their industry becomes more stable and their companies can withstand the cycles of business better.

Common interest

That was an insightful launch dinner. The meal was great and I collected my contacts.

While heading back home, Lisa and I realised that all those businesses had a common interest, and as a result, their level of their growth, or return on investment, has been huge.

What I loved is that Loop mentioned that they grew in unison and learnt from each other.

I’m not planning to start a cartel, but I’m a firm believer of collaborations and common interest so that we can all profit and learn from each other for the benefit of the product, business and consumer. Remember, the cake is large enough for all of us.

The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.

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