Be the first to market. Always!

First to market, first to realize the potential of an idea and its underlying technology and executing the business strategy ambitiously is the key to succeed. This has been the mantra ever since the Industrial Revolution began in earnest in mid 18th century.

Take the example of automobile industry at the turn of the 20th century. The first to invent and patent a combustion engine driven vehicle was Daimler and Karl Benz in Germany around 1885. Both had independently proposed an automobile powered by internal combustion engine (Benz) and gas powered (Daimler). They probably never met and had not envisioned that by 1926 their competing enterprises would merge to form Daimler Benz makers of famous Mercedes mark, one of the greatest names in automobile history.

In 1896, Henry Ford did the same with his first American vehicle in Detroit. By 1910 the automobile business was peaking in the United States with over 250 independent manufacturers competing for their share. There was constant innovation and improvement over previous designs. Literally, the car of yesterday was made obsolete by the latest model coming out every few months. Not much unlike the Internet craze of today where the latest iPhone or Android renders everything else obsolete.

By the year 2000 the manufacturers of automobile in the USA had dwindled to three, namely Chrysler (then Daimler Chrysler), Ford Motor Company and General Motors. The rest had either merged/bought out by these three or went out of business during the course of the century.

Today, Daimler Benz and their famous mark Mercedes is one of the leading brands out there. So is Ford Motor Company with F150 series trucks. But these were one of the first companies to realize the potential of an internal combustion engine based automobile as a real alternative to horse drawn carriage. Considering at that time, a car could not travel more than a few miles nor any faster than a slow moving elephant, yet the potential of the newly developed technology was huge. To make matters worse, there were no asphalt roads only pot hole littered dirt tracks that made driving a nightmare. All it required was belief in your idea, passionate hard work and precision engineering. Inventors like Ferdinand Porsche, Henry Ford, Karl Benz were out there designing vehicles right at the beginning. Today their brands have a history to tell.

But what about General Motors? It was not there right at the beginning. It came about in mid 1920s. That is true, but its individual brands were there from the beginning. This includes brands like Oldsmobile (now defunct), Chevrolet and Cadillac those were pioneering new vehicles that were competing head on with the bigwigs of their time. They all merged to form the General Motors group by mid 1920s and hence the birth of the largest automobile company in the world.

Being first, understanding the market dynamics and executing the right strategy is the key to becoming a brand and leader in your field. History constantly reminds us of this fact and car industry is one such example.

Today, the game is changing again for the auto industry. The birth of hybrids and alternative fuel powered vehicles are making the technological innovations of last century obsolete. By 2010, over 50 new automobile manufacturers were registered in the USA with more likely to join them. And exclusively all of them are focused on alternative fuel based vehicles or using computer driven autonomous vehicles. The current market leaders include Toyota, Honda and Tesla as they have their vehicles plying the roads in multitudes. The next few decades, this innovation will be fueled by new ideas and backed by new technology. It will be redefining the industry and maybe some of the old horses (Ford, GM, Daimler etc) might not survive the new wave. But maybe tomorrows General Motors could be Tesla itself, redefining the future of commute for the world.

So whatever your field, whatever your enterprise, try to innovate and lead from the front. Do not wait for others to show you the way.

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About Atif Mumtaz
A serial entrepreneur who loves to travel, discuss politics and hikes on weekends.

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