The issues of Qantas and Virgin might be hogging headlines at the top end of town, but Australian start-up Skybid is looking to shake things up further down the travel industry food chain. The new platform, which allows consumers to bid for seats on flights, is set for take-off and Skybid founder Karis Confos says even though it is a crowded market, the platform would manage to differentiate itself from competitors. She told StartupSmart the market for Australians seeking the best price on flights was already large enough for a new contender, and growing. “The ability to bid for flights is so new, and I can see huge potential from both a growth and profit perspective,” Confos says. Being first doesn’t guarantee a start-up’s success: Google wasn’t the first search engine and Facebook wasn’t the first social network. Confos says she checked out her future competition closely and was encouraged by what she discovered. “I looked at what was out there and thought I could do it better. We’re yet to find out if we’re right, but I feel like there are so many more opportunities that the businesses already in this space aren’t taking advantage of.” While Confos says the social media potential for travel-focused companies is a largely untapped commercial advantage they’ll explore, her focus is on customer retention. “Pay-to-bid models can be wearying for customers and there is a lot of scope to reward customers on these services more. It’s significantly easier to keep a customer than get a new one. They’re the core of your business, so it’s a small tragedy when one walks away,” she says. The idea for Skybid has developed considerably for Confos, who says collaborating with others and discussing the idea with as many people as possible helped her shape an offering she’s confident in. “At first I was more concerned about accessing flight data and supply, but realised through conversations that I should be focused on traffic and reach. Marketing is my main concern and challenge right now,” she says. She adds critical feedback made her realise which answers she needed to know, and which weren’t critical at this stage. Skybid is set to launch within the next month or two. Even if it fails, Confos says she’s never been more excited about a project. “Even if it does fail completely, the experience will be so worth it. Don’t let something stop you if you’re gung-ho and committed to making it work.”
Embattled Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce is set to begin talks with union heavyweights today after announcing 5000 job cuts and a wage freeze, following a massive $252 million loss for the December half. “The current position is unsustainable. There are many Australian companies that have failed because they were not prepared to make the hard decisions. Qantas is not one of them,” Joyce says. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has poured cold water on the idea of a federal government debt guarantee for the troubled airline. “Why should the government do for one what it is not prepared to do for all, or what is not necessarily available for all?” Abbott says. Air New Zealand posts record profit Air New Zealand has posted a record half-year profit of $NZ140 million ($A130 million) despite expectations of a $49 million loss at Virgin Australia, in which it holds a 24.5% stake. “We have worked hard on improving our cost base in an environment where we have not grown,” Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon says. “In fact, we have reduced our capacity flown overall as we realigned our long-haul network.” Nationals MP raises doubts over paid parental leave New South Wales National Party Senator John Williams has raised doubts over the future of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s proposed paid parental leave scheme, telling the ABC the economy is too weak to support the plan. “I've said all along, I don't have a problem with the paid parental leave scheme. That is our policy so long as the economy is strong, but I do have concerns about the strength of the Australian economy,” Williams says. “To me a strong economy in Australia [has] a four in front of unemployment – that's currently got a six in front of it and a four or close to four in front of economic growth - and we're currently growing at 2.5%.” Williams says he will have talks with Abbott before announcing whether he’s willing to cross the floor over the proposal. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16248. The Aussie dollar is down to US89.6 cents.
Competition watchdog the ACCC has secured a deal with supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths capping petrol discounts at 4¢ a litre. The deal will see large cross-subsidies for fuel, estimated at between $350 million to $509 million in 2013, reallocated to deeper discounts on grocery items. “I'm quite pleased with them giving discounts off groceries and discounts off petrol – it was the linkage we objected to,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims says. “[The major supermarket chains were] using their position and profits in one market to subsidise prices in another market – that was what was causing the problems. “Our evidence was it appeared when shopper dockets went above 4¢ a litre that petrol prices went up. People who didn't have shopper dockets were paying more for petrol when shopper dockets went above 4¢ a litre.” Jetstar Asia records a profit as Qantas nosedives Jetstar Asia, a joint venture partly owned by troubled airline Qantas, has reported a small full-year profit for the year to June. The airline, owned 49% by Qantas with the remainder held by Singaporean businessman Dennis Choo, posted a bottom-line profit of $S2.5 million ($A2.2 million) for the year to June, compared with $S2.1 million a year earlier. However, the carrier faces intensifying competition from other low-cost carriers in south-east Asia, including Malaysia's AirAsia and Singapore Airlines-backed Tiger Airways. Chinese shadow banking warnings Experts are warning China’s economy could be derailed by excessive borrowing through the shadow banking system, with the sector now accounting for the equivalent of 40% of China's gross domestic product (GDP). The growth of the sector has been caused by strict lending requirements to non-government entities, forcing many businesses to look elsewhere for finance. “Shadow banking is the financial activity that exists outside the formal banking sector,” says Peking University finance professor Michael Pettis. “So it includes things like wealth-management products, it includes pawn shops, it includes a wide variety of things – but basically it's the non-regulated part of the banking sector.” “There's been an increasing sense that a lot of [that] borrowing is simply going to protect existing borrowers from going bankrupt.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up to 15882.2. The Aussie dollar is at US87.53 cents.
There has been a slight tempering in business confidence following a post-election surge, according to the latest NAB survey. The index fell to five points in November, after hitting six points in October. A score above zero suggests confidence is improving, with higher readings suggesting a faster rate of improvement. “People are starting to see that changing the government doesn't change the economic activity levels. The other thing that also doesn't help is that our employment confidence was quite weak. And so that was offsetting some of the better trading conditions we were seeing,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster says. General Motors names its first female CEO General Motors is set to become the first US automaker to be run by a woman, after naming its global product development chief, Mary Barra, as its new chief executive. Barra will be the company’s fifth chief executive since US President Barack Obama forced out Rick Wagoner in 2009, and replaces Dan Akerson, who is standing aside after learning his wife had an advanced stage of cancer. “This is an executive who has a vision of where she wants to take the organisation. [Barra] is an adaptive personality and one who reacts to change well,” Akerson says. Qantas shares nose-dive to a record low as Abbott rejects bailout Qantas shares hit a new record low of just 96.5 cents, after the airline’s announcement it is expecting a first-half loss of $300 million, prompting ratings agencies to downgrade its debt to junk bond status. The airline has since announced plans to slash 1000 jobs over the next 12 months. However, despite calls from Qantas executives, Labor and trade unions to provide the struggling carrier with subsidies, saying that a bailout would risk creating a “bottomless pit” for taxpayers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5146.2. The Aussie dollar is up to US91.61 cents.
Westpac has announced plans to topple NAB as Australia’s biggest lender to business by 2017, as competition between banks over the SME sector heats up. The bank has already increased the number of business lenders and appointed Julie Rynski as its first senior executive to manage the sector. “We believe we can significantly expand our share of the market after investing in our business banking arm,” Westpac’s head of business banking, Jason Yetton, told Fairfax. “It's a big market, growth is improving, and I think we've got a good capability in this segment.” China records strong export growth in November China’s General Administration of Customs has released figures showing a 12.7% year-on-year increase in exports during November, beating analysts’ forecasts. Total exports for the month increased to $US202.2 billion, while imports were up 5.3% year-on-year to $US168.4 billion. China’s overall trade surplus was up to $US33.8 billion, up from $US31.1 billion in October and significantly above the median forecast of $21.7 billion tipped by economists. Labor calls for partial renationalisation of Qantas Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has called on the government to consider all options to help Qantas, including a partial renationalisation, after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded its credit rating to junk status. “A small stake would send the signal to debt markets around the world and to finances that this was a body with which the government had a keen interest. That is one of the options on the table that we'd look at constructively,” Bowen says. However, his call has been dismissed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who says the government’s job is to create an environment in which the airline can operate profitably. “Businesses have to operate profitably and in the end they have to operate profitably because of their own decisions and from their own resources,” Abbott says. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5186.0. The Aussie dollar is up to US91.36 cents.
Australia has secured an historic free trade agreement with its fourth-largest trading partner, South Korea, with the Abbott government claiming the deal will grow exports to the nation by 73% over the next 15 years. The deal will see South Korea scrap tariffs on a range of Australian commodities, including wheat, sugar, dairy, wine, horticulture, seafood, resources, energy and manufactured goods. However, it acknowledges that some sectors, including steel, auto manufacturing, steel, textiles, clothing and footwear will face increased competition from Korean businesses. “Independent modelling shows the agreement would be worth $5 billion between 2015 and 2030 and boost the economy by around $650 million annually after 15 years,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott says. “We wish to appreciate the impact upon our budget and our economy, not least of all we want to ensure that Australian jobs are supported and maintained and Australian opportunities are available in the future to make sure our national interest is advanced,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says. Qantas warned its debt could be downgraded to junk bond status Moody’s has warned embattled airline Qantas it is considering downgrading its credit rating to junk bond status, with the ratings agency tipping a full-year loss of up to $868 million. The news comes as Qantas warned of a first-half loss of up to $300 million, its first since being privatised, with the carrier announcing plans to axe more than 1000 jobs. The airline is also considering sell-downs of its Jetstar businesses in Australia, Singapore and Japan, as well as a partial sell-off of its lucrative frequent flyer program in a bid to shore up its position. Holden set to announce it is pulling out of Australia early next year Holden has reportedly made the decision to shut down its Australian operations as soon as 2016, with an announcement set for early next year. Citing “senior government ministers”, the announcement was set to be made this week, but was delayed on account of continuing discussions with the government. A decision to pull out would cost South Australia 13,200 jobs, along with $1.24 billion in economic activity. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 15810.9. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.67 cents.
Mining tycoon Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has publicly backed a controversial decision by Treasurer Joe Hockey to block the takeover of GrainCorp by US agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland. In a speech to the Australia-China Senior Business Leaders' Forum, Forrest pointed out that of 130 foreign takeover bids reviewed since the September election, the GrainCorp takeover was the only proposal rejected. “In the case of GrainCorp, the decision was necessary given the concentration of power in a near monopoly situation. “The upshot is whenever you have got such concentration of market power there, consideration needs to be given to more than one set of stakeholders, the shareholders.” ANZ hit with massive class action over bank fees ANZ has been hit with the largest consumer class action in Australian history, with law firm Maurice Blackburn taking action over excessive bank fees. Andrew Watson, the head of class actions at Maurice Blackburn, says the bank’s fees don’t accurately reflect the costs of minor transgressions. “The fees range, but $25 to $35 is the sort of range for fees that are imposed, so you might be a dollar over on your account or a day late in your payment and the banks will slug you with a fee that's out of all proportion to what it costs them for that minor transgression," he said. "We think it's worth [in total] about $50 million, but overall we're running a case for 170,000 bank customers against eight major banks, and that's worth about $220 million." Virgin attacks federal help for Qantas Virgin chief executive John Borghetti has called for Virgin Australia to receive the same support from the federal government as its arch-rival, with Treasurer Hockey refusing to rule out using public funds to prop up Qantas. “There have been media reports that the government offered comfort letters to Qantas’s credit rating agencies, prior to our capital raising,” Borghetti says. “I would also note that if Virgin Australia had been afforded the benefit of such a letter, it would have enabled us to achieve superior outcomes from both the recent debt bond issue undertaken in the US market and the capital raising that is underway.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5314.3. The Aussie dollar is up to US91.36 cents.
When Gabrielle Thompson and Shannon Gunn quit their jobs as shoe designers for a big company a few years ago and decided to branch off on their own, they knew they needed to build up their business skills quickly. “We’re definitely designers first, and we weren’t especially business-minded,” says Thompson, who says the training programs and incubator programs they went through were critical to the ongoing success of their shoe and accessory label Tom Gunn. “It’s no good designing beautiful things if you can’t get it out there and get it sold,” says Thompson. “We had a lot to learn about managing the business side, how to bring your product to market, and cash flow. Cashflow is always a challenge for fashion business.” The pair graduated from the Creative Enterprise Australia Fashion Incubator run by Queensland University of Technology in 2010. Thompson and Gunn share the designing, but have separate areas of business responsibilities. Thompson says Gunn looks after the finances, the stores, visual merchandising and marketing, and she looks after the production and manufacturing. One of the key challenges they’ve had to grapple with as fashion design entrepreneurs is manufacturing issues. They did their own manufacturing until they realised the required price-point was just too high and then went searching for Australian manufacturers, but ended up having to go with a Chinese manufacturer. “Before us, there weren’t really independent shoe designers in Australia,” says Thompson. “Shoes are quite hard; there is no manufacturing so it’s hard to start selling as you grow. We have to go overseas. It’s a big step to start out.” In March this year their creative work was recognised by winning the fashion category in the 2013 QANTAS Spirit of Youth Award. They will be mentored by the team at Zimmerman for the next year. They now have over 15 stockists and have launched their own boutique in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. They successfully ran a Melbourne pop-up store last year and plan to launch a Sydney one soon. “We’d love one in Sydney and we’re working on it. But it’s quite complicated because we really need to work in it and on it ourselves, so we need to get down there and no one wants to lease something residential for such a short time,” says Thompson. She adds that organising insurance for short periods, and creating a quality fit-out that matches the price range of their stock (shoes can be over $400 a pair), is challenging too. “The whole experience has been a dream come true. A dream with a lot of hard work!” says Thompson.
Surfwear giant Quiksilver has missed second quarter revenues and sales targets, announcing that it will dump non-core brands and liquidate excess inventory, placing further pressure on embattled rival Billabong. Quarterly losses at Quiksilver blew out to $US32.4 million, up from $US5.1 million a year ago, as revenue fell 6.8% to $US458.7 million. “Asia-Pacific revenues fell 9%, with the shortfall driven by headwinds in the Australia wholesale market. But we were pleased to see solid positive comp store sales growth in our full-price retail stores in that market,” Quiksilver chief financial officer Richard Shields said. Echo attacks Crown as Sydney casino battle intensifies Echo Entertainment chairman John O'Neill has lashed out at James Packer-controlled rival crown, alleging the casino giant is waging a “smear campaign” against Echo chief executive John Redmond as part of its campaign to win a second Sydney Casino licence. According to reports, the leaked emails allegedly detail an internal investigation by Echo into whether Redmond fell asleep in one of the bars at its Star Casino just weeks before taking over as chief executive. “These allegations are entirely baseless and the timing of this cheap smear campaign comes as no real surprise," Mr O'Neill told The Australian. Virgin looks to spread its wings further into Asia Virgin Australia is looking to begin running flights to Singapore using its long-range Boeing 777 or A330 aircraft in a bid to strengthen its alliance with Singapore Airlines. For its part, Singapore Airlines has purchased 19.9% of the shares in Virgin, with Virgin in turn recently cleared to take a controlling stake in Singapore Airlines controlled low-cost carrier Tiger Airways Australia. The move comes as Qantas moved its new international hub to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.06% to 15,238.59. the Aussie dollar is down to US94.64 cents.
Boeing has warned of delays in deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner jumbo jets, with the aircraft grounded by air safety regulators in several countries as a result of overheating batteries.
China’s State Council has unveiled new energy conservation plans that would see the nation dramatically cut the growth rate of its coal consumption.
Australian musician Clare Bowditch will accelerate the development of her side project Big Hearted Business after smashing her $26,450 target on local crowdfunding platform Pozible.
G’Day USA has returned with a vengeance in 2013, with more than 25 events set to showcase Australian business capabilities, marking the 10th anniversary of the promotion vehicle of all things Australian.
Businesses large and small are rushing onto Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to engage with customers.
The healthcare and social services sectors now employ more people than any other industry in Australia, according to results from the 2011 Australian census.
Climate Friendly, a business that helps households and companies reduce their contribution to climate change, has been named the City of Sydney Business of the Year 2012.
I see so many start-ups that simply waste money, unintentionally (I've invested in them).
In the previous post on Being Unique I discussed what a unique selling proposition (USP) is and how vital it is to a successful business.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has urged business and union leaders to “speak up” for the Australian economy in order to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Asian markets.
Australia needs to review the level of assistance given to specific industries to better help businesses that are struggling, according to a Productivity Commission report.