Shon Alam – Founder of travel money provider Bidwedge – discusses how disruption by default, not design, is the only way to do business post-Covid
For some time, ‘disruption’ has been a buzzword among startups and small businesses looking to take on larger rivals in their industry, with the aim of drawing attention by positioning themselves as younger, fresher alternatives to the old-fashioned business giants. The global energy market has been flooded with “disruptors”, while the multi-billion pound FinTech industry has long revelled in its “challenger” moniker.
Now, however, Coronavirus has become the ultimate disruptor to all facets of business, and consumers are often searching for the services of more stable brands as the model of disruption faces an increasing number of challenges. As an example, ride-sharing app Uber is often the poster-child of a disruptive business. The app completely changed the way that institutions, such as London’s black cabs, did business. This early offering resulted in huge market share increases, but never in profits.
After this initial impact, however, concerns over safety and the rights of workers have led Uber to be banned in major cities around the world, including – up until recently – London. Changes to the business model to get around these bans have not increased profitability and many point to the fact that wage demands for drivers – if they are classed as employees – will only exacerbate this issue.
So if one of the worlds biggest tech companies can no longer rely on disruption alone, what hope do start-ups have in competing with larger rivals?
Shon Alam, Founder of Bidwedge (https://bidwedge.com), comments what firms should focus on when competing with established rivals:
“Starting a business with the goal to disrupt a certain sector is no longer a smart thing to do, and the current climate around risk and investment is only going to speed up this change. Gone are the days of pouring money into a start-up with no obvious route to profitability. A lot of firms that are in this situation of significant market share and sky-high losses on the balance sheet are going to have to change tack very soon. COVID has shone an intense spotlight on those businesses who are burning through cash and now, investors are looking towards businesses with a clear route to profitability.
Disruption of an industry that needs changing is by no means over, but it cannot come at the expense of the methodology and the key offering and values of a company. With Bidwedge, we started from the premise that the product had to make a profit. This has allowed us to disrupt by default, gaining customers through a transparent, attractive offer, rather than by spending investors’ money. From that point onwards, because we were building our own infrastructure we were always going to be able to deliver a business model that is profitable. It’s methodology over technology, sooner or later you have to come back to the methodology.”
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