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What is competitive advantage? Is it important?

I got into a bit of wrangle with one of my new found rodinhooder buuddies over something which is essentially a core fundamental for any successful business.  Your competitive advantage.  Gettin deeper into the conversation I could sense that I was losing him…he said the features on his site was his competitive advantage, his domain name, etc….

 

Somehow I felt all those answers were wrong….in my opinion competitive advantage is something that cuts you out from the herd.  It gives you an “advantage” which your competitor will have a hard time replicating or even catching up with.  It is your unique position in a sea of nameless faces that helps you engage with your customers and deliver value.  

 

I also feel competitive advantage is of great importance and will make or break you.  What do you think? Please chime in.  I have a feeling that many of us in the rodinhood universe are woolly headed about competitive advantage.

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  1. That’s great Vijay.  Zeroing in on the advantage you can deliver is a key success. Somewhat on similar lines I have a question about your site.  Why is it in just English? Why not in local language?  I somehow have the feeling that we are getting too caught up in the ‘English web’ while the actual fortunes are in the ‘regional language web’.  What do you think?

  2. Fair enough. If you are a NRU (Non Resident Uttarkhandi!) then it obviously stands to reason that your language of communication has to be there language.  You could probably have a page for the papas n mamas n naanis and daadis in the local language and pepper the english lingo across the rest of the site with local language idioms and flavor….

     

    Also try email marketing. Shaddi tips and etc. 

    Vijay Bhatt said:

    Abey, truly great question…. we have had discussion on this and we are still figuring it out….i mean how to do it…the implementation part?

    the reason am not reallly for it is because (90%) of my clientele is between 25-35 years, between 5-10 LPA, own a car/bike, use net, shop on net, go on vacations abroad…BUT they have been bred outside Uttarakhand( my target clientele) and though they visit their home state at least one a year….and their parent speak Garhwali?Kumaoni(native languages of Uttarakhand)…THEY DONT…..so basically these guys have done well..well educated and wiling to marry among their own( a very strong preference here among them)…….THEY ARE NOT VERY FLUENT IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE….

    basically , i want to create a world class Shaadi.com of Uttarakhandis…….a world class regional matrimony solution. A place for them to call their own…which they identify with and take pride in.

    Abey John said:

    That’s great Vijay.  Zeroing in on the advantage you can deliver is a key success. Somewhat on similar lines I have a question about your site.  Why is it in just English? Why not in local language?  I somehow have the feeling that we are getting too caught up in the ‘English web’ while the actual fortunes are in the ‘regional language web’.  What do you think?

  3. Abey,

    Are you asking for proof that you are a human being?

    I understand that Monday’s do strange things to people, but your question is like ‘yeah, I know I am human… but can you please assure me’?

     

    Given u are such a great contributor to the site and a personal friend and at the cost of preventing you from going insane, here are my inputs

    • Facebook ONLY connects Friends. They DONT run a portal. They are making god feel scared.
    • Twitter helps friends communicate and fans follow their stars in 160 chars. They are NOT even a blog. They are worth 1.3 BILLION US$
    • Zynga makes you play games BETWEEN FRIENDS ON facebook – NOT EVEN BETWEEN FRIENDS elsewhere – they are a BILLION $$$ Company
    • BLACKBERRY gets mails/chat delivered – Thats ALL THEY FOCUS on
    • IPod PLAYS MUSIC – thats ALL
    • STARBUCKS focusses on selling Coffee
    • Haagen daaz  makes the worlds BEST ICE CREAM ONLY
    • TOBASCO Makes the worlds BEST CHILI sauce
    • NIKE makes the worlds best SHOES
    • Coke really spends its time making the BEST COLA in the world
    • kelloogg’s spent its life making one thing – CORNFLAKES
    • WRIGLEYS makes ONLY one thing that twists and turns in your mouth
    • DHL delivers packages only.
    • BP drills only OIL (ouch)
    • OBAMA works POLITICS ONLY
    • JOCKEY makes only UNDERWEAR
    • Perrier makes only the worlds best mineral water
    • Ning ONLY runs Social networking platform
    • A DENTIST only looks after TEETH
    • A JUDGE only knows LAW
    • Porshe ONLY makes the worlds best car
    • Omega only makes the worlds BEST WATCHES

    tell me if you need more

  4. 🙂 Alok,  I am always amazed that the sun is shining… 🙂

     

    Yes, this is entrepreneur 101 and I know how it sounds lame.  But there is some inherent confusion in what exactly constitutes competitive advantage. This was prompted by my talk with a fellow rodinhooder this morning who was talkin about the features of his site but there wasn’t one thing in his spiel that nailed down his advantage.  

     

    It made me wonder how much people understand this… all the examples are fine but when it comes down to the bone and your fighting it out in the trenches if you are not clear about your competitive advantage your execution will suffer and you will never clear the runaway.  

     

    This is one of those pivotal insights that every entrepreneur needs to grasp and imbibe…..it was missing in the conversation this morning and I could see he had trouble with that….and thankfully he also saw that…. I have also had this same confusion when talking with others along the same lines….which is why I raised it up….

     

    Alok ‘Rodinhood’ Kejriwal said:

    Abey,

    Are you asking for proof that you are a human being?

    I understand that Monday’s do strange things to people, but your question is like ‘yeah, I know I am human… but can you please assure me’?

     

    Given u are such a great contributor to the site and a personal friend and at the cost of preventing you from going insane, here are my inputs

    • Facebook ONLY connects Friends. They DONT run a portal. They are making god feel scared.
    • Twitter helps friends communicate and fans follow their stars in 160 chars. They are NOT even a blog. They are worth 1.3 BILLION US$
    • Zynga makes you play games BETWEEN FRIENDS ON facebook – NOT EVEN BETWEEN FRIENDS elsewhere – they are a BILLION $$$ Company
    • BLACKBERRY gets mails/chat delivered – Thats ALL THEY FOCUS on
    • IPod PLAYS MUSIC – thats ALL
    • STARBUCKS focusses on selling Coffee
    • Haagen daaz  makes the worlds BEST ICE CREAM ONLY
    • TOBASCO Makes the worlds BEST CHILI sauce
    • NIKE makes the worlds best SHOES
    • Coke really spends its time making the BEST COLA in the world
    • kelloogg’s spent its life making one thing – CORNFLAKES
    • WRIGLEYS makes ONLY one thing that twists and turns in your mouth
    • DHL delivers packages only.
    • BP drills only OIL (ouch)
    • OBAMA works POLITICS ONLY
    • JOCKEY makes only UNDERWEAR
    • Perrier makes only the worlds best mineral water
    • Ning ONLY runs Social networking platform
    • A DENTIST only looks after TEETH
    • A JUDGE only knows LAW
    • Porshe ONLY makes the worlds best car
    • Omega only makes the worlds BEST WATCHES

    tell me if you need more

  5. that was an interesting bit yet Aby the blog didnt catch up the fire is loosing ….Alok has better competitive advantage over his blog…..lets analyze it….

    Abey John said:

    Fair enough. If you are a NRU (Non Resident Uttarkhandi!) then it obviously stands to reason that your language of communication has to be there language.  You could probably have a page for the papas n mamas n naanis and daadis in the local language and pepper the english lingo across the rest of the site with local language idioms and flavor….

     

    Also try email marketing. Shaddi tips and etc. 

    Vijay Bhatt said:

    Abey, truly great question…. we have had discussion on this and we are still figuring it out….i mean how to do it…the implementation part?

    the reason am not reallly for it is because (90%) of my clientele is between 25-35 years, between 5-10 LPA, own a car/bike, use net, shop on net, go on vacations abroad…BUT they have been bred outside Uttarakhand( my target clientele) and though they visit their home state at least one a year….and their parent speak Garhwali?Kumaoni(native languages of Uttarakhand)…THEY DONT…..so basically these guys have done well..well educated and wiling to marry among their own( a very strong preference here among them)…….THEY ARE NOT VERY FLUENT IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE….

    basically , i want to create a world class Shaadi.com of Uttarakhandis…….a world class regional matrimony solution. A place for them to call their own…which they identify with and take pride in.

    Abey John said:

    That’s great Vijay.  Zeroing in on the advantage you can deliver is a key success. Somewhat on similar lines I have a question about your site.  Why is it in just English? Why not in local language?  I somehow have the feeling that we are getting too caught up in the ‘English web’ while the actual fortunes are in the ‘regional language web’.  What do you think?

  6. vijay u may be having an honest ambition to be the world class Uttarakhandi marriage site, yet you will loose the compit. advtge. the moment shaddi.com or others start the Gadhvalli language option on their sites…

    and u may loose the edge

    Vijay Bhatt said:

    Abey, i totally agree with you. Even though we have a on- the -road- to-be successful business of regional matrimony..there is not a single day that i do not think of value creation- the ADVANTAGE.

    Why must people come to http://www.maangal.com when they already have Jeevansathi.com and shaadi.com????

    I am always trying to look for that extra value creation ,be it customer service, more personal interactions,more members, more features …more ,more,more……….

    Yet, i am not satisfied …….i am continously searching for that elusive nirvana of ultimate in matrimony…the easiest method of offering people an easy search of a life partner…right on their breakfast table…

    I totally agree that we must always be on the lookout for THAT COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE………..

  7. Ashwin, I am really on a deadline elsewhere so cant stay for long but I just needed to jump in and point out that language alone is not a competitive advantage.  And marriage is a sensitive and tricky issue in our culture and each slice of the demography has their own special needs, fears, and concerns.  Vijay’s real competitive advantage is his intimate understanding of his own culture.    

     

    Ashwin C Parulkar said:

    vijay u may be having an honest ambition to be the world class Uttarakhandi marriage site, yet you will loose the compit. advtge. the moment shaddi.com or others start the Gadhvalli language option on their sites…

    and u may loose the edge

    Vijay Bhatt said:

    Abey, i totally agree with you. Even though we have a on- the -road- to-be successful business of regional matrimony..there is not a single day that i do not think of value creation- the ADVANTAGE.

    Why must people come to http://www.maangal.com when they already have Jeevansathi.com and shaadi.com????

    I am always trying to look for that extra value creation ,be it customer service, more personal interactions,more members, more features …more ,more,more……….

    Yet, i am not satisfied …….i am continously searching for that elusive nirvana of ultimate in matrimony…the easiest method of offering people an easy search of a life partner…right on their breakfast table…

    I totally agree that we must always be on the lookout for THAT COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE………..

  8. agreed, but if I am Shaadi. com then I will find ‘that intimate understanding of gadhavali culture’ and I do not believe that its an immposible thing for the competitor. its not only language but content that matters Aby
    Abey John said:

    Ashwin, I am really on a deadline elsewhere so cant stay for long but I just needed to jump in and point out that language alone is not a competitive advantage.  And marriage is a sensitive and tricky issue in our culture and each slice of the demography has their own special needs, fears, and concerns.  Vijay’s real competitive advantage is his intimate understanding of his own culture.    

     

    Ashwin C Parulkar said:

    vijay u may be having an honest ambition to be the world class Uttarakhandi marriage site, yet you will loose the compit. advtge. the moment shaddi.com or others start the Gadhvalli language option on their sites…

    and u may loose the edge

    Vijay Bhatt said:

    Abey, i totally agree with you. Even though we have a on- the -road- to-be successful business of regional matrimony..there is not a single day that i do not think of value creation- the ADVANTAGE.

    Why must people come to http://www.maangal.com when they already have Jeevansathi.com and shaadi.com????

    I am always trying to look for that extra value creation ,be it customer service, more personal interactions,more members, more features …more ,more,more……….

    Yet, i am not satisfied …….i am continously searching for that elusive nirvana of ultimate in matrimony…the easiest method of offering people an easy search of a life partner…right on their breakfast table…

    I totally agree that we must always be on the lookout for THAT COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE………..

  9. intimate understanding is not so easy….you cannot hire an MBA or a sociology student to go in and do a book report….it takes time…somethings you will never find out unless you are part of the culture…those are the critical fulcrum points…not just the content window dressing…what is the fact that hides behind the content…that’s whats important….

    Ashwin C Parulkar said:

    agreed, but if I am Shaadi. com then I will find ‘that intimate understanding of gadhavali culture’ and I do not believe that its an immposible thing for the competitor. its not only language but content that matters Aby
    Abey John said:

    Ashwin, I am really on a deadline elsewhere so cant stay for long but I just needed to jump in and point out that language alone is not a competitive advantage.  And marriage is a sensitive and tricky issue in our culture and each slice of the demography has their own special needs, fears, and concerns.  Vijay’s real competitive advantage is his intimate understanding of his own culture.    

     

    Ashwin C Parulkar said:

    vijay u may be having an honest ambition to be the world class Uttarakhandi marriage site, yet you will loose the compit. advtge. the moment shaddi.com or others start the Gadhvalli language option on their sites…

    and u may loose the edge

    Vijay Bhatt said:

    Abey, i totally agree with you. Even though we have a on- the -road- to-be successful business of regional matrimony..there is not a single day that i do not think of value creation- the ADVANTAGE.

    Why must people come to http://www.maangal.com when they already have Jeevansathi.com and shaadi.com????

    I am always trying to look for that extra value creation ,be it customer service, more personal interactions,more members, more features …more ,more,more……….

    Yet, i am not satisfied …….i am continously searching for that elusive nirvana of ultimate in matrimony…the easiest method of offering people an easy search of a life partner…right on their breakfast table…

    I totally agree that we must always be on the lookout for THAT COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE………..

  10. Vijay don’t be too sure about the regional matrimonial sites in 30 years…we are evolving into a genetic/cultural melting pot thats blurring the lines of individual regions, cultures, regions and will continue to do so.  Kids don’t see the world as we see it, just as we don’t see the world as our parents did.

     

    Take my case, I am what they call a NRK, Non Resident Keralite.  In my entire life I might have spent not more than 5 years in kerala.  Mostly in bits and pieces of month long holidays.  Went to school there for 2 years in KG and Ist.  And then again 1 year in college.  That’s it.  I love going back there.  In fact recently I found an old b/w photograph of my great grandmom, complete with oversized gold earrings the type you see in tribals in Africa.  That was the height of Keralite chic then! I got a total kick from that. But if you ask me to marry a mallu babe I am going to have tremendous trouble with that and already did when I was that age much to the chagrin of my parents but that’s another story :).  

     

    Once you move out, your roots kind of get lost or at best diluted.  Which is natural.  Nostalgic connections to home rarely extend to marriage.  But yes if you are in a deeply traditional society where you guard your traditions where ever you go you might be able to hold on to going back to vilayat to get married but even then the bonds wont last more than a generation.  To maintain this your social interaction has to be entirely insular with limited contact with anyone else outside your community.  I doubt that’s possible anymore today even though in most cities this communal grouping of housing and societies continue to exist.  The kids just don’t care.  My cousin’s kid grew up in Mumbai – she married a college mate who is tamil and who also is from Mumbai.  Both of them speak Marathi and Hindi better than Malayalam or Tamil respectively.  

     

    Our culture hasn’t matured enough to reach a Woodstock style upheaval of the younger generation rejecting the ways of the older generation but we are getting there…may not be like Woodstock but definitely something similar is brewing in our cultural underbelly…that’s one event which I am eagerly waiting for….

     

    For the next gen NRUs it is going to become less important that they marry within the community.  That said, I still believe mangal will be viable 30 years down…local language and traditions may take on global overtones but there will still be enough distinctiveness to need something more distinct than your public transport style shaadi.com.  Maybe you’ll have to morph into a dating site too who knows…scandalize all the dadhas and daadis no doubt but thats what may be needed then…

     

    hmmm…mini epiphany…you are not in the marriage business…you are in the relationship business…shifts the perspective altogether….

  11. Vijay you should read this:

     

    https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/business/20ignite.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

     

    Jyothi found it so you can thank her. 🙂

  12. The key take away is that kids don’t want marriage, they want to do what urban kids do every where, chill have fun and if possible make out.  The bharatiya nari who hides behind the pallu at the bride dekho shinding is going to be history…not today…not tomorrow…but day after?

  13. LOL thats probably more accurate today.  20 years down the line when these group daters become mommas and poppas and they are ambivalent of the things their parents considered as ‘proper’ wonder what their kids will do….

  14. Interesting…there are layers and complexities that we have no inkling of….will be interesting to see how it plays out….

     

    Dating and marriage…hmmmm….my view of dating has been that it is a gateway to marriage but obviously these kids see it differently….a clue maybe what my deeply traditional cousin said about another cousin who was in the process of ‘bride dekoing’…he said ‘He is going to enter into official life’…. the malayalam word for official….which I found strange and kind of weird.  How can life be official?

     

    Now tying that in with what you say about how the kids leave groom/bride selection to the parents it looks like something major is happening here.  Best as I can make out it looks like there is a switching of identities once you clear the marriage hall.  The old identity of boy and girl is left behind and a new identity is taken on.  Something like till marriage we’ll fudge around with the value system and play it to the edges but once we get married we will embrace the value system and lock everything in place….and we are part of a socio-traditional hierarchy with some upgrades so we aren’t too old fashioned but with the essential core traits left intact…. 

     

     

     

     

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