Everything begins with an idea. Whether you are in the field of art, films, politics or business, an idea is where it all starts. Some even say that the Universe too began as an idea in the mind of the Creator. Ideas change the world. The power of a new idea is the driving force that transforms the way we live and think. As Victor Hugo said, “There is nothing in the world as powerful as an idea whose time has come”.
How to come up with a business idea
Well then, if it all begins with an idea, where in the world do ideas come from? Inspiration for ideas can be found anywhere. The simplest way to get an idea is to look around, observe and find a problem that can be solved or a gap that can be filled or an opportunity that can be seized. Some ideas seem so obvious you wonder why you did not think of them before. Others are so ground-breaking you wonder how anybody could have thought of them at all. And don’t overlook the tried and tested ideas. You can take any idea and customise it to the times and your market place. You just have to add your own creativity to any existing idea to come up with a much-better version of an existing idea. In fact, customising a concept is not a choice; it is a necessity if you want your business to be successful. You can’t just take an idea and say, “OK, this is it”. Great ideas don’t come easily. And that leaves lots of would-be entrepreneurs asking the same question: How did everybody else get inspiration to strike—and how can we work the same magic?
Here are a few triggers:
- Solve a problem – We face different challenges or problems on daily basis. And if you dig dipper, you may find many ways to come up with the right solution. There is your business idea right there. For example, booking a movie ticket used to be a challenge. Not anymore! Thanks to portals like bookmyshow.com, you can now book a movie ticket with the click of a button. Elderly people often find it difficult to step out of their home for healthcare. But now they have geriatric home healthcare service providers like Portea.
- Find a niche – While big players are fighting for the big pie of a big market, there are many opportunities that are lucrative enough but simply ignored by the giants. Just take a look at what some of the big players in an industry are missing and explore if you can fill the gaps. For example, while Flipkart and Amazon have captured the online e-commerce market becoming the giants of that industry, portals like Bluestone and Caratlane created a niche for themselves by emerging as online jewellery stores.
- Cheaper is better – There are always cheaper solutions to existing problems. Many companies use this penetration strategy effectively to enter the market and position themselves as low-cost player to capture the market share. For example, Balaji Wafers offers a pack of potato wafers at just INR 5, much less compared to the category leader Lays. In a price-sensitive country like India, low-cost product can be a winning entry strategy.
- What customers want – You can feel the pulse of the market only by talking to the customers. Just find out what their needs are and what motivates them to buy a particular product or service. You have to keep track of changing customer needs by gathering customers’ insights on regular basis. If you are interested in fitness products, then hang out at gyms, parks and other places where you can talk to fitness conscious customers, and ask them what they wish they could find in the marketplace.
- Ask yourself, “What’s next?” – Innovative ideas are often ahead of their time. You may study latest trends and upcoming technologies to find out how you can leverage that to come up with a truly revolutionary idea and launch it at the right time. You should be curious enough to know more & more and should be bold enough to ask “what’s next?”
- Mix and match – What if two products could be brought together for the first time to create a new one? You can simply combine or merge two products or just few features of different products to come up with a completely new product or service with a unique value proposition. Many breakthroughs in the history of mankind are based oncombining information from different and unrelated domains. You may explore many “what if” scenarios to come up with an idea that can solve the problem you are trying to solve.
Always remember that the best ways to have a great idea is to have lots of ideas. These are just a few triggers to generate ideas. But before you jump to the stage of developing your idea, you must understand the importance of four key elements essential to take your idea forward:
- Business Concept Matters – Having an idea is just a trigger for the creative process. Many entrepreneurs fall in love with their idea and lose sight of the fact that their idea is just the starting point of an extended process of development. You have to transform your idea into a feasible and financially viable business concept which must face implementation challenges, before it can enjoy success.
- Right Team Matters – Building a company can never be a one-man show. A business requires multiple skill-sets and it is not possible for any entrepreneur to have all the necessary skills. Therefore, you need to bring together three to five right minded talents with complementary skill sets. You need to start putting your team together as soon as possible and work on perfecting it throughout the entire start-up process.
- Resources Matter – An idea is like a seed. You need the right resources to reap the fruits you desire. Without adequate financial resources, an idea can never become a reality. So, you need to focus on raising capital for your idea to grow. The funding can come from various places – personal savings, family, friends, financial institutions, and also of course angel investors who may back your idea at an early stage.
Vendors / Alliances Matter – All businesses require the advice of professional service providers such as market research firms, tax advisors, patent & trademark lawyers, technology service providers, etc., depending on your idea. You must bring the right vendors and partners on board at an early stage so that you can operationalise your idea quickly and more efficiently.
From idea to action
The success of any business depends primarily on three critical aspects:
- Business Idea – Your idea has to be innovative, feasible, viable and scalable
- Team – Your team must have the expertise & experience to take the idea forward
- Sufficient Resources – You should have enough resources to run your business
If you can manage at least the two out of three from the above list (Great Idea & Great Team or Great Idea & Sufficient Resources or Great Team & Sufficient Resources), then the probability of getting the remaining one is much easier. And if you can manage all the three, that’s great! But you are still going to need a business plan – a road map – to put your idea into action.
As Flannery O’Connor once said,
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
It is easy to talk about ideas and concepts, but when it comes to putting those ideas on paper, many people find it challenging. Writing a business plan may not be the most enjoyable part of building a business, but it is absolutely essential. Your business plan should convey your enthusiasm for your business and you must try to present your business concept in the best possible way you can. Remember, it’s your business story, so you have to make it interesting and engaging.
A good business plan requires detailed analysis, study and examination of the feasibility and financial viability of your business idea. You must conduct a thorough market research to ensure that every fact and figure mentioned in your plan can be backed by credible reference and you can pass the credibility test based on the veracity of the information you provide. Moreover, you don’t write your business plan simply from the perspective of the enthusiastic entrepreneur; you need to examine your business from the viewpoint of the cautious potential investor and the skeptical potential customer as well. You may need a business plan consultant who can help you put your thoughts on paper and come up with an interesting, logical and practical business plan that is also easy to understand.
You should not treat a business plan as a lengthy, boring document that helps you obtain financing. When you are at the early stages of developing your idea, preparing your business plan can save you a great amount of time and money by pointing out weaknesses in your idea and giving you a chance to correct them before it is too late. Careful writing of your business plan will give you better insights into your business. In the process of developing your business plan, you might come across things that were important and critical for your business but you hadn’t actually thought of. Moreover, once you complete your initial business plan and manage to obtain investment, don’t think that it has served its purpose. A business plan is a living document and you must revisit your plan from time to time to improvise it, depending on what works for your business and what doesn’t.
Without a doubt, putting together a good business plan takes a tremendous amount of work. But if you do it right, your effort will pay off. Remember, good luck is the result of good planning.
(Excerpts from the book “From Idea to Action: The Art of Writing a Business Plan” by Kashyap Pandya)