Entrepreneurs need to deliver us into 24 hour city living

Our cities have world-class aspirations, but old-world clocks

MY GYNAECOLOGIST is based in a clinic that is attuned to my lifestyle as a busy, working woman. Between 6am and 9am on weekdays, regular patients can drop in and wait to see a doctor on a first-come, first-served basis. It is a fairly regimented place that can feel more like an assembly line than a place of care, but it is efficient.

When a second opinion is needed, though, I am thrown back into the archaic world that most of my fellow sisters reside in. It takes a few calls, ingenuity and patience to find a gynaecologist with a waiting period of less than a month, never mind one who can give an immediate second look. Why aren’t there more private practices that run like my regular clinic? It not only works for patients but it’s good for business.

There have been tentative moves by innovative businesses to recognise that SA is largely an urbanised country with citizens juggling demanding hours. In the banking sector, we have come some way from the not-so-good old days, when banks shut their doors mid-afternoon. Retailers, particularly supermarkets, have also moved closer to commuter nodes, aligning themselves to working people’s routines.

Many of the successful businesses at the cutting edge of the convenience revolution rearrange their business model to allow for “assembly-line” operations to achieve speed and efficiency. Take for example the dry-bar concept in hairdressing, which is based on the salon rapidly churning out blow-outs rather than delivering diverse services that require stylists to switch tasks and equipment constantly.

The emergence of a new generation with different preferences and values might also create demand for services that were not viable in a world that assumed every middle-class household employed a domestic worker. The US seems to be going through a laundry revolution, with venture capital-backed companies providing an old service in new ways. There are “Uber-type” services that will come to you, or lockers across cities where you can drop off your dirty clothes.

No doubt we have challenges that keep us on the slow, nine-to-five track. Last Saturday, a much-needed walk around my gym’s indoor trail was interrupted by load shedding. For a gym whose claim to fame is its operating hours, this undermines its after-hours value proposition and increases its costs. Crime is another unavoidable factor with which late-night services have to contend. With relatively expensive internet charges, services that rely on connectivity are not going to easily achieve mass appeal and scale.

But with the country’s unemployment challenge, longer hours and new ways of delivering goods and services to time-stressed consumers will help to create new jobs.


You can find the rest here: Business Day

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