A Problem is an Opportunity
Many of us that read this article and attend talks by E4Nepal want to be entrepreneurs. Many of us must be thinking of an idea to start a business. I dedicate this posting to this topic.
There are many problems in Nepal. We all hear “yo chaina – tyo chaina” [we don’t have this – we don’t have that]. Well that is exactly a potential business opportunity. For an entrepreneur “wherever there is a problem, there is an opportunity”. This means there are tons of opportunities in Nepal.
You start a company to cater to a problem in the market. Simple example – the price of basic food such as rice is very expensive and has increased exponentially in Kathmandu. Yet when you go the villages, the farmers aren’t getting a large part of the price increase. The brokers and the ones in the middle between us consumers and the farmers are pocketing the money. How can you start a business here? You can offer quality rice to consumers in Kathmandu for a cheaper price than what is available in the market and you have a booming business. Of course, you have to think a lot deeper but this is a big problem that has a simple solution. Your task as an entrepreneur is to figure out how to offer this simple solution to the residents of Kathmandu. This could be your million dollar idea that serves millions!
Let me discuss a few other ways that you can start your business and service your customers. At a theoretical level, you can think of these as applications of the 4P framework in marketing – Product, Price, Promotion and Placement.
You can compete in and be different than your competitors in some of the following and many more ways. These are some examples –
> Quality – offer a different quality product than what is offered in the market. Eg. If only Japanese cars are sold in Kathmandu, you can sell a Maruti to a different population segment who are fine driving a simple car but cannot pay for a Japanese car. Before Maruti was introduced in the market, many in Kathmandu said “We can’t afford a car.” The dealership of Maruti may have realized this and started the Maruti dealership to convert this problem into an opportunity.
> Price – offer a product for a different price than the market. Eg. Jaya Nepal movies offers movie watching experience at a higher price. Residents of Kathmandu who want to hang out and watch movies in a nice safe hall will pay the premium here. One way Jaya Nepal compete is in price. It is more expensive than others but this brings only a segment of customers whose needs were not served before. Pre-Jaya Nepal, we might have said “No nice safe place to watch movies and chill” This was the problem. Jaya Nepal founder converted this problem into an opportunity.
> Service – offer superior service compared to what is offered in the market. Eg. Many storeowners in Kathmandu are very rude to their customers. You cannot look at a variety of items or ask a lot of questions about what you are buying. If you do, you are asked to leave. I remember going to buy a flute in Khich Pokhari music store a few years back. The storeowner showed me a few flutes, got rude when I started asking questions and said I wasn’t going to buy. I got pissed off, walked out to a street flute seller. This street vendor was super nice, showed me 10 to 15 flutes and taught me how to play. So I bought a flute with him versus the storeowner in Khicha Pokhari. My point is – if your friends say “This business is terrible. We can’t even go there and ask a few questions” there may be an opportunity for you to compete on service
> Size – offer a product size different than what is offered in the market. Eg. A few years ago, you could purchase Mango Frooti only in small cartons that you would sip in 2 minutes. “Real” started competing with Frooti on size. You can buy larger size mango juices and take it home to consume it with the family, with drinks and a lot of other occasions. It was difficult to do so with small size Frooti boxes. So you feel that you cannot do certain things with your product because of its size, your business opportunity may be a same product but different size container.
> Location –offer a product at a location that is convenient for your customers. For example, in Kathmandu where we have bunds all the time, it is extremely difficult for the old, disabled and sick to go to the hospital. If you are a doctor and want a good job or earn extra, you could go directly to a patient’s house for home service. You differentiate from the hospitals and other doctors who don’t go to the patient’s house.
You cannot compete only on one facet alone. When others see your model, you will get competitors. Price and Quality are great ways of competing. However, you must continually strive to offer good price and high quality and service. If you don’t, you will lose your business to new and existing competitors. Also, superior customer service is a must. Without this, your business builds a bad brand name amongst customers and you are doomed.
There are many other ways that you can compete and be different. Read the 4P framework in marketing for more ideas. However, at the core always understand your customer. Your customer problems are a great recipe for your next business. In Nepal, we hear lots of complaints (and many rightly so). So as wanna-be-entrepreneurs, keep your eyes and ears open. Observe. See and experience what sucks and be different. Open your business. Make a profit and always offer outstanding customer service to your customers through product, service, quality and price. And constantly strive to innovate, improve and be better.
Prasanna Dhungel is a Nepali Technology Entrepreneur and Entrepreneurial Advisor. He was an early employee of D2Hawkeye, a successful Healthcare Technology entrepreneurial firm. He enjoys helping entrepreneurs translate their ideas into products and building companies.