Time and opportunity come to us all and therefore, after reading an interesting piece on cockroaches, I realised that being a cockroach is not as bad. It got me thinking, ‘Go Big or Go Home’ is a concept that needs to be revisited in the start-up ecosystem.
The start-up stratum has been experiencing immense pressure from VCs for years to scale fast, and to generate more revenue. However, it will always be more interesting to see investors root for the underdog.
Despite the welcoming disposition of the start-up segment, scaling in the shadows of big giants has almost become an industry norm and rather than working around strategies to win against them, the newcomers prefer to rather concentrate on survival. I believe that once you are associated with a start-up, you, by nature, tend to have a competitive streak. The best thing to do with that streak is to curb it and use the energy to first survive, as winning over an already existing player may be tough but surviving is not easy either.
Knowing how to survive would be the first step towards the desired victory. It will be, in fact, silly to focus on winning at the first go, when there are more established players in the game already. Of course, if you win, it will call for a great story, but probability is something that one cannot discount here.
Go where you are uncontested In addition to picking the right target audience, the key for all start-ups is to identify where they have clear runways and where the industry giants are venturing. Basing a strategy on such insights might turn out to be lucrative for the smaller players. They would be rooted deep in the segment by the time the biggies turned their attention to those verticals.
Furthermore, standing firmly against the tactics and strategies of the giant competitors is a negative approach.
It’s important to accept when you know you cannot compete, this however does not mean surrendering to the situation. This is where being a little different helps.
Differentiate When we have accepted the fact that we do not stand a chance in the battlefield, our strategy should be to be different. They have the resources, they have the finances, and they have the position of power, so we should choose to be different, in small ways. For example, they want to go to a big city, we may or may not go to a big city, if we do go to a big city, we choose a different audience. Adopt being different from ground up. They may choose to pay more to their guys, because they can afford to. We can’t because we have financial constraints. We would rather engage them more and focus on quality in low numbers.
Speed is the key, not size Bigger organisations have extensive hierarchy levels with great deal of structure in execution. However, in a start-up, time is of the essence, we cannot afford to lose time in search of such structure. Despite knowing the importance of such structured functioning, decision making in start-ups happens really quickly and we move straight into the execution phase. We know that we don’t have the advantage of size but we have the advantage of being agile, which works for us.
Thought leadership Being innovative and coming up with novelty is something that the small guys can manage well: the expectations are low, the ability to take risks is higher, and fewer approvals are involved.
What start-ups need to understand is that, with an upsurge in smartphone usage, it is easy to create a buzz in the market about a new mobile application that is already making the world a better place, but how does one get the audiences interested in it?
This can be done by identifying and highlighting to them the impact of such innovation in their personal lives and bring them out of their comfort zones. It is important to make the audiences realise the tangible results of the usage of the application addressing their livelihood, for them to embrace the change positively.
Let big guys solve your problems Why focus on problems for which solutions are already being identified? Frankly, in the prevailing industry, the issues are more statutory-like or legal-like and these aspects require dedicated resources for identification and follow-ups.
The gorillas are already working with their celebrated resources to find answers to them.
The best and wise thing to do for people like us would be to focus on scaling and the problems that are just specific to us.
Samar Singla is CEO, Jugnoo, an auto-rickshaw aggregator