All aspects of the business are being disrupted by technology-led innovation from startups and new age companies.
Enterprises, which engage with these startups to adopt or integrate disruptive solutions in their business, get a significant early-mover competitive advantage.
There are two broad areas in which corporates gain competitive advantage via startups:
1. Leading The Change With New And Differentiated Offerings
Enterprises thinking creatively of use-cases around technology can create solutions to disrupt the current market dynamics.
For example, insurance companies offering flexible pricing for insurance products based on data from wearable devices, or finance companies offering variable interest rates based on real-time risk profiling can get a significant competitive advantage.
Another example can be 3-D printed customizations that can offer product companies a differentiated value proposition to customers.
2. Disrupting The Cost Dynamics With Operational Efficiencies
For example, biometrics-based real-time authentication helps banks cut down e-KYC time from a few days to a few minutes. Likewise, AR/VR solutions for remote-assistance to local garages can help them get automobile companies get sales in areas where they do not have dealerships or an authorized service centre.
In the manufacturing sector IoT based solutions that predict machine downtime can make a significant positive impact. Drone-based monitoring solutions in wind-farms and solar-farms help predict downtime, thus allowing companies to ship replacements/repairs to the problem area, which in the case of solar & wind farms are usually geographically very remotely located.
Likewise, the retail industry has a lot to gain by adopting data-driven logistics and inventory management solutions.
While the above were examples of industry-specific solutions, some solutions cut-across industries e.g. video-interviews to cut down hiring time and employee onboarding solutions that help predict ‘no-shows’ on joining date.
Proactive enterprises that have taken the lead in leveraging new-age solutions typically engage with the startup eco-system in a meaningful manner. This gives them early-access to innovators and innovation.
Typically, companies that engage with startups also are able to get a ringside view of technologies and trends. This puts them in a better position to stitch together different innovations to create a new solution.
Imagine an automobile company collaborating with a heads-up display startup to make their windscreen as a display screen. And making it even better by leveraging the technology of a gesture-control startup to make that screen easy-to-use while driving. And then using iris-detection technology from a biometrics startup to customize the display for every individual member of the family who shares that family.
In some cases, early-engagement and investment with startups can be game-changing.
Look at how Google’s acquisition of Android for a mere USD 50mn (reportedly) altered the company’s strategy and fortunes. Similarly, a merely a decade ago, when NOKIA was dominating the mobile phones market, Samsung, who were struggling in the mobile handsets segment took a bet to back Android, a relatively newer platform. The rest is history. Or, closer to home, see how Mahindra’s acquisition of Reva is giving them a head start in the Electric Vehicle segment at a global level.
It is hard to find all good ideas in-house. Hence, enterprise R&D and internal innovation programs are not enough. Corporates can gain a competitive advantage by using innovations done by others, rather than relying just on internal innovation.
Apart from increasing the speed to market, such innovations typically reduce costs and increase revenue, thereby improving profitability and shareholder value.
To find innovative solutions, companies have to continuously scout for and curate startups and new-age solutions. Participating in, or organizing initiatives like Innovation Hunt, Business Plan Competitions, Hackathons, etc. is a good way to engage with startups.
However, that requires commitment at the highest level in the organization, as without that it is hard to further the engagement with startups. Also, it is important for companies to continually look out for and meet startups that may be relevant.
At The Growth Labs we help companies get greater value from their innovation programs. We have a formalized system to identify startups, curate and nurture them across industry sectors and technologies. This is done in partnership with startup bodies, incubators and top educational institutes, supported by an industry expert from our team. This ensures that we are able to forge the right partnership. We have found in our experience that corporates and startups find it hard to directly engage with each other due to clash of culture and philosophy. We combine our knowledge of both worlds to forge a meaningful partnership with great results.