A few days ago we were having a discussion about how so many business stories that we hear are the same – but each with that slightly different angle which helps it to stand apart from the crowd. In a world that is now so connected and technology driven, the likelihood that a product is completely unique and the first of its kind, is idealistic and rare. So, this month, I chose to write about why it is not such a bad thing to not be the first. In fact, being a “copier” could actually help you – if you find that fresh angle.
The first step is to figure out how entrepreneurs come up with an idea for a new business. Almost always its likely to be “find a problem or a gap in a customer experience, and you fix it”. This customer could be a company in need of data analytics tools or a consumer in need of groceries within 30 minutes. Today, the answer to almost everything is “use technology”. And that’s how so many businesses have been born. Find something mundane like groceries, that customers need regularly, add in the convenience of an app and there you have it – a fresh angle to an old problem.
However, when those customers need to pay for those groceries, it’s not a smooth process. So, another player enters with the idea to smoothen the payment system and make it more seamless. Another fresh angle to an old process. At each step, the mindset of “how can I make this easier” builds on old ideas to solve an extra layer of inconvenience.
Take a very basic need – networking. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of networking, yet it needs to be done. Facebook tried to allow us to interact and network in an informal safe space. LinkedIn gave it the fresh angle of professional networking online. Just a few days ago, I read about a UAE based start-up eMajlis that gives you community based networking which using AI to create matches and helps you to set up a meeting as well. A fresh angle again.
The first mover advantage can work wonderfully, as is well known. However, the first mover does have to invest more in terms of creating a market and educating the customer. Some businesses have high barriers to entry. This would include high tech software solutions for corporations wherein a deep knowledge of the industry is prerequisite. Even a business like CAFU of UAE which offers delivery of Petrol and Diesel through an app, the app is just the user tool – the backend comprises tie-ups, fuel trucks and expensive infrastructure. It’s not easy to break into it. Even ecommerce and marketplace systems, the competitors usually have long road to gaining traction. However, whenever they do, the company that comes next, gets to build on a problem or small gap in the existing system.
In our personal lives, it helps not to focus on problems. To make money however, you have to find a problem to solve. No system is perfect and your success could perhaps be found in that very fresh, yet very small angle in a well established business system. All you have to do, is learn from their experience and add your burst of freshness to give the users a whole new product. It does not need to be all new. It just needs to solve a new problem.
This article was originally published in Bahrain This Months April 2022 issue.