When determining what business to start, the rule is to find out what the market needs and wants, and then address those needs in that kind of business. But how exactly do you find out what your target market wants?
Let’s use as an example one of the questions asked at Yahoo Answers — “What business can you start that caters to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)?”
OFW is the term used for Philippine citizens who work overseas on contractual basis. Examples include nurses, maids, caregivers, construction workers, crews in cruise ships or shipping vessels, etc. Labor is one of the top exports of the Philippines, and in 2008 government estimates showed that there were 1.2 million OFWs.
OFWs are hailed in the Philippines because of the tremendous contribution they give to the country’s economy. Remittances or money sent by these OFWs back to their families in the Philippines amounted to $12.77 billion in 2006. Given the strong family values in the Philippines, it is common to find overseas Filipino workers sending half (or even more) of their income back to the Philippines — and that foreign currency inflow has significantly helped the Philippine economy.
If this is the target market, what do they need? Often OFWs need:
- A way to send remittances to their relatives and family back in the Philippines easier and less expensive.
- An inexpensive and safe way to send boxes of goodies (called “balikbayan” boxes)
- An inexpensive way to contact their families in the Philippines (e.g. inexpensive phone cards, free texting services, etc)
- A service that will allow them to communicate with their families — think videoconferencing service for example
But the above are markets where most businesses catering to OFWs go, which means the market is a little crowded and very competitive. Western Union, for example, is a popular service used to send remittances. Philippine banks with overseas operation also offer remittance services. Even the country’s biggest media companies such as the ABS-CBN have gotten into the remittance game.
So if you are planning to reach this market, it is important to think of other services needed but not currently addressed, or niched areas that the big companies haven’t bothered to get into. Examples may include:
- Address the need of OFWs in finding trustworthy recruitment agencies. OFWs typically use recruiters to help them find jobs abroad and facilitate the processing of their employment (e.g. visas, health exams, etc). Given the number of scams and fraudulent recruitment companies, many OFWs find themselves tricked into giving substantial placement fees but no overseas jobs. A review site listing rating the reputation of recruitment agencies and other OFWs enumerating their experiences with a particular agency would be extremely beneficial.
- A directory of OFWs working in one country. One of the questions of OFWs before leaving for their work abroad is: “Who do I know who is already in Dubai/Hongkong/Taiwan, etc?” Creating a website that lists who are in New Zealand or Saudi Arabia may be useful.
- Social networking site for Filipino workers in a particular country such as Hongkong. It is natural to find fellow countrymen in other countries, and Filipinos are no exception. Hence you have Filipino maids in Hongkong gathering in parks on Sundays during their dayoffs. Even in the US, you go to an area such as Bangor, Maine for example and ask around if there are other Filipinos in the area. Think of a more adult and mature Friendster, this time for OFWs
Look at your target market. The only way you can determine what they need is by getting to know them. Look at how they live their lives, and make a list of what they need. Then think of a way to address those needs.