Answer Yourself! A blog by Sukhpreet Singh

A blog on personal development, entrepreneurship & change.

25th September 2007

How do you compete with free?

How do you compete with free products or with products that are already established before yours?

Get out there and do the work! Work to find how can you add value to consumers who use your product or service. Here are a couple of examples where a product or service compete against “free” or already established product or service.bottledwater.jpg

1) Bottled water vs. free tap water. Bottled water is $16 billion industry. But we have free water available so what are we paying $16 billion for? We’re buying the convenience. Bottled water goes with us to meetings, sport events, road trips, is by our bed at night, is with us on treadmill at the gym, and gives us company in our cubicles at work. Its convenient to pick one up and carry it around where ever you go.

2) Private schools vs. free public school education. According to a report published by the National Center for EducationSchool Statistics (NCES) in 2002, in 1999-2000, approximately 27,000 private schools accounted for 24 percent of all schools in the US. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the median tuition for a private day school in 2005-2006 in the United States was about $14,000 for grades 1 to 3, $15,000 for grades 6 to 8 and $16,600 for grades 9 to 12. Where as education at public schools is free. So why would parents pay over 14 grand per child per year? The reason is private schools usually add more value to the consumer (child and parents). Private schools usually have well-balanced class size, good safety reputation, special academic programs and much more to offer than a public school. And parents are willing to pay for that “extra” service and security.

3) iPod vs. any-other-mp3-players (cheap or expensive). Apple was not the first in the market with an mp3 player or even first one to come out with a hard drive based mp3 player. Then what made it a big blockbuster product?iPods

Joswiak credits the company’s ease of use—both with the music player itself and with the iTunes software that connects the iPod to either a Mac or a PC. The total package only became stronger when Apple added digital music sales via the iTunes Store, launched in 2003.

Soon iPod’s trendy looks became a status symbol that lead to increased loyalty. Same (convenience) holds true for iTunes’ 99-cent songs vs. free downloads from peer-to-peer networks. The convenience and smooth integration of the killer-product (iPod) with a killer-app (iTunes) was meant to capture the market like none other.

4) Clocky vs. gazillion other clocks. “The Clocky requires you to do more than stick your arm out and tap something,” saidRunning Clock Dr. Todd Swick, a sleep specialist at the Houston Sleep Center in Texas. “It will recruit more of your senses–actually getting up, finding it and shutting it off–and convince you to start the day.” When the alarm clock goes off and the snooze button is pressed, the Clocky rolls off the bedside table and onto the floor. It rolls on until it finds a suitable spot to hide and rest. When the alarm sounds again, the sleeper has to get out of bed and search for the clock to turn it off. By now the person is fully awake. Thus, Clocky performs better than other alarm clocks in ensuring that you get out of bed on time and of course its fun to see your partner run after a clock.

So do you have a product or service that is more convenient, performs better than other products in its category, has good usability features, is easier to use and adds more value to its user? Find “the need” that has not been fulfilled yet and fulfill it.

“Make yourself necessary to somebody.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

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12th September 2007

What matters – being number 1 by any means or fair play?

In my previous article, i talked about a small, young (4 years new) but fast growing organic plant food company – TerraCycle®. They are being sued by a large (over 2.6 billion dollar), 100 years old company – Scotts Miracle-Gro®.

So whats the lawsuit? According to, a site owned by Terracycle:

1) Scotts claims that the two companies’ products look similar and will confuse customers because some TerraCycle plant foods have a green and yellow label with a circle and a picture of flowers and vegetables on it.
2) Scotts also objects that TerraCycle says its plant food is as good or better than “a leading synthetic plant food” and is refusing Scotts’ demands that TerraCycle hand over its scientific tests conducted at the Rutgers University EcoComplex to Scotts’ scientists and lawyers. Scotts refuses to turn its tests over to TerraCycle.

But Why did this multi-billion dollar GOLIATH sue DAVID (TerraCycle – the small company)? I found this reason by Rider of to make a lot of sense:

It appears the lawsuit is really an attempt by Scotts Miracle-Gro to prevent TerraCycle from becoming established in the rapidly growing market for organic non-chemical based fertilizers and plant food, which coincidentally Scotts Miracle-Gro is trying to crack into with its Organic Choice® line of products.
Clearly Scotts is concerned by the fact TerraCycle is carried by Wal-Mart & Home Depot as well as numerous other large retailers and that this will some how impact their business.Bullying

Hmmm… that seems like bullying to me. According to this definition of bullying at :

Bullying is the act of intentionally causing unhappiness to others through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation. There is currently no legal definition of bullying.
In colloquial speech, bullying often describes a form of harassment perpetrated by an abuser who possesses more physical and/or social power and dominance than the victim. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a target. The harassment can be verbal, physical and/or emotional.

There are many types of bullying. One particular kind is known as Legal bullying. It is a way of bringing a distressing legal action to control and punish a person or an organization. So what are the characteristics of a target that is chosen to be bullied amongst so many others that exist and what events trigger such an act – (source: here)

a) target company/person might be showing independence of thought or deed.
b) the bully fears exposure of his/her inadequacy and incompetence; target’s presence, popularity and competence unintentionally fuel that fear
c) having a well-defined set of values which the target is unwilling to compromise (hint: Being environmental friendly, organic)

a) target’s performance unwillingly highlights, draws attention to, exposes or invites unfavorable comparison with the bully’s lack of performance
b) challenging the status quo, especially unintentionally
c) gaining recognition of target’s achievements, eg winning an award or being publicly recognized.

TerraCycle has decided to fight the lawsuit which might cost them an estimated 1 million dollars. For a startup company which is just beggining to see profit, thats a lot of money. On the other hand, putting myself in the big Giant’s shoes, i see the point – crush the competition before it becomes big.

So whats right – being #1 by any means or fair play?

PS: Check out to find more details about insighful comparison between the two companies, their history, TerraCycle’s counter-arguments etc. Also, there is a link to make donations to TerraCycle to raise enough funds to fight this case. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to any of the above companies.

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posted in change, entrepreneurship |
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