So, what does industry expect from academia?
As industry players, we look for competencies and skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, initiative, innovativeness, proactiveness, adaptability, decision making, multi-tasking, language and communication skills, presentation skills, negotiation skills, resourcefulness, open mindedness, emotional intelligence, team building among others. We therefore expect academia to find ways of helping students to develop these skills. In this age and time, it is not enough for graduates to have technical skills; they need the above soft skills to be successful at the workplace.
Again, as industry players, “we hire for the attitude and train for the skills”. An excellent work attitude is thus required for success in the world of work. Students must therefore be trained in the context of HE to acquire excellent work attitudes such as commitment, dedication, self-discipline, self-motivation, respect for team members, ability and willingness to learn and unlearn, demanded by industry. Industry also expects academia to equip students with the basic knowledge and processes within organisations.
A lot of suggestions have been proffered towards the bridging of this long existing gap between industry and academia. In my opinion, bridging this gap is a collaborative effort among academia, policy makers and industry. On the part of academia and policy makers, the following are some of the ways by which they can help in bridging this gap.
First, the educational system and curricula we inherited from our colonial masters should be revised to meet today’s demand and industry expectations. This should be done in consultation with industry experts; and be made to suit industry demands and ensure that they remain relevant. Again, the curricula should include the use of case studies, role plays, presentations, in-trays, etc to teach students how to transfer theory into practice. This will also help students to develop key skills such as communication, presentation, public speaking, team building, critical thinking, creativity, etc that industry expects from graduates.
Secondly, lecturers should be assigned to intern with industry or businesses during long vacations or sabbatical holidays and have hands-on experience in board room discussions and politics, innovation, product research, industry practice, etc. This will help them to gain an understanding of the workings of industry and be able to prepare students adequately for industry. Again, industry experts could be invited on regular basis to share their experiences with students. This will inspire students to have a “can-do” spirit and give them the opportunity to gain insights into what pertains in industry, and how they can prepare themselves adequately for the job market. Some of these industry experts could also be employed as visiting lecturers so they can share their practical experiences with students; and help them to relate the theory they learn to industry practice.
Again, there should also be the establishment of a fully-running research and consultancy outfit within our universities and training institutions with the main purpose to help bridge the gap between academia and industry through consultancy and applied research. This outfit could be operated by one or two employees for a start; and also have a business advisory committee comprising key leaders from academia and industry to advise the unit to stay relevant in helping produce industry-ready graduates.
Further, the current way internship is conducted within our universities and training institutions where students have to move from one company to the other looking for internship opportunities should be improved. Academia should take the burden of looking for places for internship for students by collaborating with industry players and businesses for this purpose. This would help reduce the frustrations students go through to get attachment places for themselves. Again, students can be posted directly to these businesses based on their areas of specialisation and interests. Also, academia should institutionalise internship and make it part of the curriculum through the assessment of students on internships. The duration should be at least one year to give students sufficient time to link the classroom work with what occurs in the world of work.
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Source Beauty is pushing the boundaries of Egyptian e-commerce
Egyptian e-commerce: the county’s digital drive has not yet gotten to the growth typically seen in European countries and North America. However, as businesses have started shifting online, customers are now following suit, resulting in the gradual development of the digital eco-system.
Innovation, such as digital marketing, is reinventing the consumers’ path to purchase. The Egyptian e-commerce market is expected to grow at a rate of 33% annually to approximately $3bn by 2022, according to Oxford Business Group.
Source Beauty and disruption
The increase in e-commerce comes from rising internet penetration rates, driven by connected and digitally savvy millennials. Several platforms, both locally and internationally, such as the direct-to-consumer beauty platform Source Beauty, have disrupted the beauty industry in the region to drive their growth by truly connecting with their customers.
By being aware of the changing consumer behaviour trends in the e-commerce landscape, service providers like Source Beauty are continually fostering customer engagement with a community they have created. The customer service team, along with the editorial and marketing teams, respond to each comment and direct message, making customers feel listened to.
Lydia Schoonderbeek, the founder and CEO of Source Beauty, said:
“Egypt has traditionally been a price-driven market. After devaluation and high inflation rates, people have become much more price sensitive. People are consuming less and are shifting away from imported products due to price, accessibility and inconsistency in supply. As a result, they’re looking for local alternatives.”
In line with its digital transformation and financial inclusion agenda, the Egyptian government has set in place directives to raise the limit for electronic payments for individuals via mobile phones to EGP30,000 (USD1,905) per day, and EGP100,000 (USD6,350) per month, since March 2020. Traditionally, 70% of online purchases were cash on delivery, which has proven to be a major challenge to e-commerce growth throughout the region. This preference has changed to credit card payments, increasing to 30% from 16% due to the spread of Covid-19, but it remains to be seen whether purchasing behaviors will be affected in the long term.
The CEO of Source Beauty further added that, the company had seen substantial growth thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic, with existing and new customers wanting to limit in-person beauty services and adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing requirements. Beauty customers, she says were changing spending habits, moving towards products that allow them to recreate the salon experience in their homes and protect them from the potential impact of an increasingly digital lifestyle. Finally, she believes they have seen customers prioritising skincare and haircare purchases over makeup.
The question is, ‘Is anyone in Egypt going to buy beauty products online?’. Who thought people would buy books on the internet from a website called Amazon! Well, the answer seems to be YES. Consumer spending in Egypt on non-essential goods has reached EGP 3.90bn in 2020 and is set to reach 8.81bn in 2021, according to FitchSolution’s 2021 Report.
According to the Egyptian e-commerce beauty company, Source Beauty, it believes that the world is in an era where consumers are looking to associate with brands and not products, to make their beauty purchasing decisions and this is where homegrown brands like theirs will doubtlessly lead to economic growth in Egypt.
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