Sangat Pedas

Startups And Obsession Over Competition


Let’s talk about competition, in business or anywhere else. First intelligent thing that pops to my mind: there will ALWAYS be competition in any space where there’s money, power or status to gain. You might think DUUUHHH! but in emerging markets first movers tend to forget or not realize that. For a period of time some company is the only significant player in a certain space and then someone will show up and seriously challenge them.

Right now in Indonesia we see someone seriously challenging Tokobagus for the first time. After a long period in which Tokobagus dominated the market 701Search decided it’s enough and increased the marketing efforts to an unprecedented level for Berniaga. Rocket Internet is another player that’s basically challenging the whole e-commerce Industry striving for world-domination. And obviously the media portals are already much longer in a brutal fight for domination.

So the increasing level of competition results in some quite interesting observations. It’s the time when the boys are being separated from the men. The reaction I notice a lot is panic and fear, which really surprises me. It’s like it’s a complete surprise for people to see that there are other people that have the same goals and actually also have brains and means to execute. Often the result from that is that people tend to become focussed on their competitors instead of their users, target group and above all their product. Over-analyzing competitors but often unable to draw any conclusions. Or even worse: changing their product to match that of their competitor instead of building something they believe the market wants.

Panic and fear are really the worst and most expensive consultants in the business.

Of course there’s always something you can learn from your competition, something they do better. But if you find that once you have to cope competition you feel like re-thinking your strategy, you probably had the wrong strategy to begin with anyway.

Personally I truly love the increasing competition in e-commerce in Indonesia, I embrace it and I’m enjoying every minute of it. For Tokobagus to grow even further the whole e-commerce market in Indonesia needs to grow further as well. I have no illusions that’s something we can achieve by ourselves. So I love and applaud  Rocket Internet, Berniaga and all others that show the courage to invest in this market and go heads on with the establishment. In the end this will grow the market faster and benefit the consumer that will get better quality services and products.

So my advice to startup entrepreneurs facing (new) competition is to keep your cool and while looking over the fence regularly keep focussing on your own product and users. Especially avoid the panic people and the drama people, don’t let them come close, and especially don’t allow them into your company. People who don’t believe in their own strength are destined to fail.