Why you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to be successful

Business ideas that provide a solution or disrupts an industry will probably garner a customer following

FILE PHOTO: A woman talks on the phone at the Airbnb office headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco, California, U.S., August 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Gabrielle Lurie/File Photo
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I had a conversation with an acquaintance recently, who desperately wanted to become an entrepreneur for years. When I asked her, what was holding her back, she said it was the inability to come up with a fresh business idea. Her role models in the business world were the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk; product innovators who have set the bar high for aspiring entrepreneurs out there.

While it is true such entrepreneurs revolutionised the way we live, coming up with a novel business idea is not the only way to become successful.

Around the world there are notable businesses whose success was not a result of a unique product, but because they provided a new solution to an industry or are disruptors. Airbnb or Uber are examples. Both businesses followed the peer-to-peer business model.

Airbnb helps connect those looking for cheaper lodging alternatives hotels, through a spare room, or an entire flat. Uber was a disruptor to the world of transportation. The company provided a platform that connected consumers with drivers for a ride or food delivery.

There are also many other business ideas that have proven their success and will always be in demand related to conventional businesses or services like pharmacies, supermarkets, and dry cleaners. Yet, many entrepreneurs overlook the potential of their business and ways of improving their offering.

Consider Dubai's Cafu, the Middle East’s first fuel-booking application. Cafu simplified car refuelling for customers. The company did not introduce a new product but a better a convenient offering for time-conscious customers.

So how can you come up with a successful business without reinventing the wheel? And how could you create a buzz around it? Simple.

Seek inspiration in conversations. Listen to the people around you, and go through discussions that are happening online. Visit the social media pages of different brands in the industry you want to operate in, and see what people are complaining about or wanting more of. Often, you're likely to get inspired.

Provide a solution to a problem. A business depends on its customers to succeed. The question to ask then is what solution can you provide them that would make their life easier? Is there a delivery service problem that can be capitalised on? Is there a shortage of grocery stores in a specific area? Ask others if they would go for a product that eased a certain problem for them, or if there was another provider, would they consider switching to it and what a switch require?

For example, if you live in an area that has one grocery store and people complain that it doesn’t offer a delivery service, then you don’t need to open a grocery store, but perhaps offer the delivery option through your business. The possibilities are endless and the opportunities often lie within the questions you ask potential consumers.

Innovate through marketing. Once you find out what potential customers are missing, and have set up your business, this is where more innovation needs to take place. Come up with a creative marketing approach that differentiates your business from competitors and shows customers you listened to their concerns. Don't be afraid to think outside the box or market aggressively. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and speak a language they understand. Creative marketing approaches could be implemented with the right tactics and low-cost budgets by focusing on creating noise and leveraging word of mouth.

Above all let the needs of your customers guide your path.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi