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  • Vinay Nair

Ascendancy in facing a Goliath sized Startup Competitor

Do you remember the story of how in a battle between the Israelis and the Philistines, an ordinary man with cunning, bravery and intelligence managed to kill a giant, thus winning the war for them?

Yes, I am talking about the story of David and Goliath, where David the underdog, the misfit, the tiny shepherd boy, fights against the nine feet tall giant Goliath, who was coming to the battlefront every day to hurl insults at the Israelites for not being able to do anything or for being too scared. David is an ordinary shepherd boy, with neither warrior-like skill nor build, but he is smart enough to know his strength, his skill with a sling and Goliath’s disadvantage- speed and agility. David assesses the situation, uses these two components to his advantage and slings a stone at Goliath’s face, who as a result falls down, only to have his head cut off by David with his own sword.

The terms ‘David’ and ‘Goliath’ are common when it comes to businesses, while the former is used to refer to smaller enterprises, the later is used to refer to their larger competitors. It is a commonly known fact, that entrepreneurs are constantly stuck in a cycle of playing the role of David to their Goliath competitors. It would be an understatement to call these small businesses just underdogs because they are much more than that. Many hugely successful businesses today started their entrepreneurial journey as Davids and underestimating their skills, unique capabilities and non-confirmation to traditional rules were what catapulted their successes!


Here are ten ways in which the founders (the Davids) of today can beat the established players (the Goliaths)

Believe in yourself!

To take that leap, first, you must believe in yourself.

David believed in himself that he could defeat Goliath, despite all odds, and that is one of the most important lessons from this story. If you cannot convince yourself about the greatness of your product, how can you convince your buyers and investors? Another way of inculcating self-belief would be to look into your past track record and derive motivation from that. It's commonly said that you never lose, you only win, or you learn. Having this faith in your product and on yourself is extremely important because that is what sustains you along the long and bumpy road to success. Not only that, but it is also a key feature that impresses and interests early adopters and investors.

Try and be Unique

Distinguish yourself from the Crowd

While it might seem that your product or service is out of the world and quite possibly the best, keep testing it constantly to ensure that it indeed is. It is important to keep asking yourself why your product is different, and why customers will choose it, instead of a similar one offered by a competitor. What benefits will your customers get specifically?

How can you sell it and maintain profitability? Knowing your audience is also very vital when it comes to designing your product, which brings me to my next point.

Be a niche player

We are all expert in our own little niches'

A startup can’t design such a product or provide such a service that will serve the purposes and interests of a global market. Market and related demands vary from country to country, region to region. It is therefore extremely important to figure out the right niche for your company, and beginning with a niche has time and again proven to be one of the best ways to go viral and eventually take down even the biggest giants.

Cultivate Innovation and Agility

A popular saying goes “change is the only constant”.

Today’s world is socio-cultural-economic potpourri, and not only is it fast-paced but also extremely dynamic when it comes to consumer behaviour. If you cannot adapt to change then your success will also be limited. Innovation is also key to this process. You must have a business strategy and product planning that can accommodate changes if circumstances so require.

Value your Customers

At the end of the day, your success depends on them.

Build a strong and faithful customer base, and start with providing personal attention to their problems. Make them feel like they are your only customers and their problems are the only issues that matter at that moment. Feel their pulse, and use your sixth sense in developing strategies to retain your customers.

Work smarter, not harder

Figure out sustainable ways to get the job done.

Use the unconventional way if it works for your model, take into account the level of personal commitment of your team, and work around the problem. Don’t lose touch with the current social and cultural trends and their subsequent shifts. Engage in getting meaningful and genuine messages across to your customer base.

Own the fact that you are an underdog

Everyone considers you an underdog? Well, own it.

Be the underdog. David was not the favourite to win against Goliath in that battle who wore a bronze helmet and body armour and carried a javelin, spear and sword. David went around the problem and realised that the only way to kill Goliath would be to use agility, speed and an incredibly fast sling. Look at the problem with the perspective of your own company, and how you can solve it with the resources at your service. Startups have the advantage of being able to fly under the radar and gather extremely valuable customer feedback.

Make your own rules

There is no rule that says you have to be like everyone else.

David was expected to go to the fight with traditional weapons like bows and arrows, spears and swords. But instead, he accessed his strengths and Goliaths’ weaknesses and showed up with stones and a sling. Point is, don’t try to replicate the culture prevalent in the big established companies, they come with their cons and ‘dead weight’. Organise your team efficiently and keep them motivated to dish out their best performances. A brand has to propagate their own values, independently amongst those who work for it. There is no fixed guidebook you can follow; just make sure that it works for your outlook and vision. This will also help surprise the larger companies and catch them off guard.

Marketing can make all the difference

This is almost a no-brainer.

A well planned and organised, quirky and unique marketing strategy and the ability to pull it off makes all the difference when it comes to the future success of the product or service. Designing a fool-proof strategy that will sustain into the foreseeable future is one of the most important building blocks in the success of your company. Having a clear vision is vital as it forces you to clearly ascertain all the stages and goals, thus making it considerably easy to follow through with it.

Little drops of water make a mighty ocean

Set up small achievable goals for your brand.

That not only boosts morale but also makes it easier and smoother to reach the end. Remember, how David used the stone sling to hit Goliath in the forehead and bring him to his feet first. It was then that he proceeded to take Goliath’s sword to behead and eventually kill him. Smaller but consistent wins can also make the larger incumbents feel vulnerable and significantly weaker, increasing their chances of misstepping.


Distribution, lack of brand awareness, limited budget, failure of bureaucratic mechanisms can be some of the major barriers that startups have to face. Think round it, there is always a way out which will be sustainable and effective for your brand. Study how to make your company future proof and keep its relevance alive.

There is no shortcut to success. So, focus on your strengths and exploit the weaknesses of your opponents, because, not only is the fight a worthy one, it is extremely rewarding when it works!




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