Changing the rules

Changing the rules
Tesla recently announced that all its cars will be fitted out with hardware to enable them to be driverless

By Sanjiv Purushotham

Published: Mon 24 Oct 2016, 8:38 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Oct 2016, 10:44 PM

In his book "David and Goliath", Malcolm Gladwell uses the story of David successfully using a slingshot against his much bigger enemy to illustrate the importance of changing the rules of engagement.
Tesla recently announced that all its cars will be fitted out with hardware to enable them to be driverless. As soon as the regulators permit it. Airbus aims to build the prototype pilotless air taxi by the end of 2017. These are reputed brands which are standing by what would have seemed to be still far-off even at the beginning of this year.
Changing the rules enables an enterprise to distance itself from competition. These two companies are doing just that. Tesla is taking on the big car manufacturers and Airbus is aggressively entering the personal transport business using models that the incumbents will probably find difficult to defend themselves against. Ola, a taxi hailing app in India, took advantage of the hesitation of consumers to use their debit cards for e-commerce and enabled their rides to be paid for in cash and via mobile wallets. This helped them convert their new entrant disadvantage versus their more well-known (at that time) California-based competitor. A similar story relating to the UAE has been covered in the Start Ups page on Oct 10, 2016 in the Khaleej Times.
The learning for the UAE entrepreneur is to convert a disadvantage versus a bigger or seemingly stronger competitor into an advantage by changing the rules.
Being a mother herself, Roshi Tandon, founder and chief executive of Chubby Cheeks Nursery realised the need for nurseries in Dubai's tower-dominated areas and started her own nursery business in 2010. And there's been no looking back since. Tower block residents probably felt disadvantaged with having to drive all the way out to villa area-based nurseries. Tandon found them a solution.
At a macro level, Dubai is itself a successful story of converting what could be considered a disadvantage. Dubai's favourable location in the oil-rich Gulf region and the forward-thinking policies of its leaders freed it from oil dependence, from 25 per cent in the early 1990s to 4 per cent in 2015. This was a major achievement and accelerated the rise of other sectors to create a buffer that is necessary to absorb a shock that could arise from uncertainty in the global oil market.
Leveraging the potential of other sectors such as tourism, construction, trade and aviation, Dubai achieved remarkable growth and became the most viable place for investors in the region. Dubai is now a regional hub in trade, finance and other sectors. The emirate has built modern infrastructure, shaped a business-friendly environment and regulations that attract international businesses. Dubai's airport, which already served more than 70 million travellers in 2015, is being beefed up to serve over 200 million in the coming years.
The Jebel Ali Port is the largest in the world, busiest in the Gulf region and is expected to become the biggest container port in the world by 2030.
When planning your start-up strategy, be inspired by the focus, meticulous planning and flawless execution of your slingshot moment.
The writer is director at Vyashara and a digital banking and digital payments evangelist, practitioner, advisor and consultant. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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