All of us have faced ‘competition’ in some or the other aspect of our lives. This is my interpretation of competition:

The Assassin

If I were the CEO of ‘Britannica Encyclopedia’ and had walked into a Music Shop selling CDs (in the mid 80s), I would have spotted my assassin right there – staring at me from the racks. I would have panicked and thought, "If a small circular disc costing Rs. 799.00 stores hours of music, what will happen to my profits if these discs also held my books, which are currently being sold by me at Rs. 10,000?"

If you remember, the Encyclopedia Britannica was this mammoth and elitist set of reference books that were mighty expensive and adorned the best of living rooms. It was the entire world’s knowledge, served like Royalty. Overnight, the humble CD destroyed their business model. Encarta by Microsoft was the death knell and assassinated the hardbound encyclopedia business model. It’s fascinating to note that a few years later, Encarta met its own Assassin called and was executed without mercy.

The Assassin is THE competitor who will kill you. No mercy shown.

Folks who have been executed by the Assassin type of Competition:

Assassinator Assassinated
Craig’s list Classified Papers
CDs Cassettes
MP3s CDs
ITunes MP3s
Google Generic Business Directories
Amazon Barnes and Nobles
Google Analytics Web-Trends(the service)

There is no way to escape assassination without changing yourself.

Folks who have Assassins on their back and can still save themselves:

Targets What they need to do avoid assassination
Magazines Become Internet versions only
Travel Agents Integrate with the big travel portals with a personal service layer built on top.
Media agencies Create online media auction platforms
Console Game Platforms Go Browser games fast
Yellow Pages Create vertical‘googlesque’ type listings that are very specialized
Tuition Classes Start e-learning portals via web cams

The Ghost

Many of us ‘imagine’ competitors, when they actually don’t exist. A year after launching Contests2win in 1998, we had successfully begun generating moneys from an infant Internet market in India. A lot of naysayers began predicting that brands would directly start hosting contests on their own sites thus eliminating the need for a stand-alone contesting site. Others said that and would soon launch ‘contests’ sections and kill us. The funniest theory was that a contest magazine was soon coming out, combining the best of 2 worlds – The reach of Print and the Interactivity of contests, and we would be dust.

If I had listened to all these rumors, I would have had a nervous breakdown. Nothing of the above happened and I plodded on as usual, and built a successful business. Sure, The Times of India launched 'Indiatimes Contests’ that died a quiet death. They did the same with Jobs, Matrimony and Travel. None of these verticals went anywhere. To be a competitor and succeed requires much more than just a "let’s do it if he did it" business plan!!

In so many businesses, the death knell rang when innovation and disruption emerged. Television was supposed to have killed print. Both industries flourished. Computer trading was to have eliminated stock market brokers. The brokers and the stock trading desks from where they operate thrive and how. Fax machines were to destroy courier companies. Nothing of the sort happened.

Many of the entrepreneurs, businessmen and folks with jobs keep creating these ‘end of the world, what-if’ scenarios of doom in our minds. It’s good to be paranoid, but bad to live in a constant fear of spookiness.

Drive the ghosts of competitors out of your mind. If they are for real, they will come face to face to meet you. And finally remember, ghosts live in hiding. We live in the real world.

The Priest

Nothing can be better that a competitor who actually helps you by competing with you. He is your Priest.

In India, is an ADAG funded Company, and has spent crores of Rupees in India advertising the category of ‘online gaming’. Their Sales army has gone across and met all the brand owners and media agencies and sold the concept of ‘in-game’ inventory. At, we cannot thank them enough! Just one mighty player like has ‘created’ the category of online gaming in India- for other players like to thrive in! How? Every media buyer worth her salt has to buy media and sponsorship options across a few properties so that the category is represented (In TV, you would buy across Sony, Star and Zee), so Games2win automatically enters the consideration set along with when online gaming media gets bought! It would have been an uphill task to do this on our own.

Google was not the first Search Company on the planet. Remember Lycos and Alta Vista? I was jogging my memory and the brand ‘Inktomi’ came up! They were pretty much the first folks to create a search engine business platform (later acquired by Yahoo). Yet, Google treated all these Companies as Priests… studied them, followed them and then improved on what they had not been able to successfully do.

I remember reading about ‘’ in the Economist many years back. It was the first of its kind social networking idea on the web. Then came folks like who went farther in the business of social media. Friendster unfortunately was still ahead of its time. It was which understood what the Priests were trying to teach and practice and went ahead and attained Nirvana!

Priests are meant to show you the way. Learn from them and flourish.

Competition can be your best friend, guide and mentor. Enjoy it, thrive and prosper!


Originally posted on Sept.16, 2010 on

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