Top trends analyst comes to rattle EL’s business cages

Fashion guru turned trends forecaster Dion Chang will soon be rattling the cages of East London’s business and education communities with a groundbreaking talk about the disruption of conventional business and education practices at a Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) breakfast.

GAME CHANGER: Professional ‘cage rattler’ Dion Chang is at The Venue@Hemingways on August 24 Picture: SUPPLIED

As one of South Africa’s most respected trend analysts, Chang’s Pretoria-based company Flux Trends analyses global trends and consumer patterns and gauges their relevance locally. In an interview this week with the Daily Dispatch, which is the media partner of this event, Chang said he was a “cage rattler” who specialised in business disruption – a disquieting term that describes how ripple effects caused by rapid advances in technology and digitisation are changing business models worldwide.

“In East London, for example, the automotive industry is facing two disruptions,” he explained. “The first is digital mobility, which means people stop buying cars because of ride sharing.”

The rise of Uber taxis, and in Johannesburg a new Uber rival called Taxify, means consumers will increasingly think twice about car repayments, insurance and maintenance. “As a personal case study, I no longer use car rentals when I travel. It is more convenient and 30% cheaper to use Uber. This mindset will have a ripple effect on industries like insurance and car rental.”

The second disrupter of the industry is the emergence of driverless cars. “This is kicking in sooner than people think. They are already being used in manufacturing and mining. In America young people are already not going for their drivers’ licences.”

And for those who pooh-pooh the onset of robotics, Chang says: “Many are in denial of the impact of technology and also how soon it will come, but we are talking five years, not 20. And yes, it will happen in South Africa. Medical supplies are already being delivered by drone to clinics in Rwanda, but people have a clouded vision that we will be left behind. I destroy these preconceptions.”

Chang also destroys the mindset that business can respond to the innovations with its same skill set. “That is like getting into a driverless car with a stick-shift manual.”

In addition to a “hybrid”, inter-generational workforce – younger, tech-savvy employees coupled with more experienced workers with institutional memory – decision-makers should respond with more flexible conditions.

“That we still have a 40-hour work week when technology allows us to work more flexibly and remotely means we operate in a quaint 20th-century work model. Why should people be stuck in traffic twice a day?”

Conventional tuition, at both school and tertiary level, is another area where Chang predicts a major shift.

“Obviously not every degree will become obsolete because we will always need doctors, but coming out of university you will have to be retrained. What you learn there is not suited for modern business.”

Chang has seamlessly and successfully “disrupted” his own career more than once.

He was the editor of Men’s Health before the growth of this media market and was on the launch team of Elle South Africa. He helped launch South Africa’s Fashion Week and then 10 years ago started Flux Trends.

“So it’s all been in the start-up phase.”

lTo reserve seats at Dion Chang’s 7.30-10am breakfast on August 24 at R450 per BKCOB member or R600 per non-member at the Venue@Hemingways, contact Jacqui at 043-7438438 or members@bkcob.co.za — barbarah@dispatch.co.za

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