His business plans go a little beyond – well, infinity, if I may put it that way. The vision of his company is to make us a multiplanetary civilization. Yes, we needn’t fear being stuck on Earth forever when some unforeseen tragedy strikes. For that 39 year old Elon Musk and his company Space X, are inventing a reusable orbit-class rocket, which according to him, will be one of the most important inventions in history. He plans to take us to various planets and he may be successful, faster than we think he can. However far flung his vision may sound, for starters, the man has managed to win a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to help deliver cargo to the International Space Station located 200 miles above the Earth.
Wow! That’s what dreamers are made of, those who dare to think beyond – in this case, way beyond the ordinary. Elon is also one entrepreneur who has his eyes set on the future. He has a car company. It’s no ordinary car company but an electric car company named Tesla. He also has a power firm; no ordinary power firm, but a solar power firm named Solar City. In the distant future, probably those are the businesses that will thrive, and survive.
FORGET ALL THAT YOU LEARNT! IT’S OUTDATED!
Traditionally, the companies that traded in oil were the ones who made the maximum money and became the world’s biggest companies. So you had companies like Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP etc dominating the lists. They were soon joined by companies that used this oil to run their products. So those were the carmakers who started sharing space with them; and you saw companies like Toyota Motors, General Motors, et al join the group. However, the new trend is different today. The world’s largest corporation is one that manufactures more or less nothing – forget thriving on natural resources. Today, the world’s largest corporation is Walmart. From being a discount retailer chain to one that believes in selling energy-efficient bulbs (it sold 145 million of these in 15 months) to joining the Clinton Climate Initiative, Walmart knew that just giving discounts was not going to be enough. It had to show customers that it was progressive too. That and some quick global expansions validating that perspective have today made it No.1.
Things are changing fast. The Hotmail is hot no more. Gmail replaced it; and even that too could be a gone-mail soon, for now you have Facemail – the new service provided by Facebook. A lot of youngsters today don’t even remember when they last sent an e-mail. Its so passé... You message or mail via Facebook now.
It was the leader in car-rentals and ruled the business. It was the undisputed leader. Even its competitors acknowledged that. That’s why, when Avis wanted to catch the attention of consumers, it did what all others had done – acknowledged the leader. Hertz was the leader and Avis said so in its advertisement that read, “We are No.2, that’s why we try harder.” The advertisements shot Avis to fame, but little did they know that things would change soon for both Avis and Hertz. Here came a company that defined business. Its mission: “We are redefining the way people think about transportation.” This company went beyond car rentals. Now, you could rent a car for even an hour and at very nominal rates. Zipcar found that 77% of Manhattan (New York) households don’t own a car and knew instantly that America was ready for a carsharing company. Zipcar beat Hertz in its own game. Today, Hertz is trying hard to cope up by introducing its own car-sharing business model “Connect by Hertz” to get some share of the car-sharing segment. Zipcar is, however, cooler. Its members are called Zipsters. They are modern and believe in car-sharing more than in car-owning as the way to live. Everybody from students to businesses now hire a car of their choice, that too at rock-bottom rates. It’s simple, fun and will help change the world for the better. It’s the future of travelling. It’s the business of the future.
DON’T FORGET WHAT MOMMA TAUGHT YOU
Remember what mom told us as kids; “Sharing is caring.” Today, that’s the business model that’s giving the maximum profits. The future of business is sharing, as Lisa Gansky very appropriately mentions in her new book The Mesh.
From a consumer’s point of view, it’s much easier to hire (share) than buy. If it were not so, Netflix (the iconic DVD rental company) would not have been so successful. Bagborroworsteal.com would not have been so popular; so much so that it even featured in the movie Sex and the City. Why buy when you can hire it at a fraction of the price? It’s no more just music that people are sharing on the Internet.
ThredUp.com is an interesting website where you can send a box of clothes your child has outgrown and swap them for another box of clothes that fit your child. All you do is pay $5 plus shipping charges every time you swap. A box-full of clothes for just $5 is not a bad deal! Not bad at all, considering the company has already raised $1.4 million, which brings its total funding to $1.7 million. A startup couldn’t have asked for more. It’s already got 12,000 members, saved families an estimated $195,000 in children’s clothing, all in a year’s time. That’s what makes for a great business idea. Sharing saves money and makes money for you too.
“A great deal everyday” – that’s what makes Groupon a company everybody is salivating for. Be it restaurants, bars, films, sports, there is a money-saving deal everyday that Groupon sends to its members via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. It could even be a simple 50% off on a spa treatment. However, the offer is valid if a certain number of people opt for it. So, if you find an interesting deal, you need to “share” it with your friends. If the required number of people don’t choose it, the offer expires. It’s crazily good and everybody loves to save money. The company started in 2008, and today boasts of revenues upwards of $50 million a month. This April, it was valued at $1 billion. With 20 million subscribers, and presence in 29 countries, the business model has inspired hundreds of clones.
Everybody wants a share of the lucrative business idea, and everybody wants Groupon. In early December 2010, it was rumoured that not only was Google attempting to takeover Groupon in a $2.5 billion bid, but also that Yahoo was willing to pay $4 billion for the firm. This sure seems to be one of the best ways to ‘share’ & earn.
Even its clone in India snapdeal.com is today listed among India’s most visited websites. Not bad for a company started 8-9 months ago.
‘Sharing’ is the new business model. Share a car, a deal, clothes, dvds, bags, anything and chances are you’ll make it big. There’s an old saying, “You become successful by helping others become successful.” In this business too, you earn when you help others save by sharing.
THE FUTURE IS HERE
Street dancing just became the next big thing. A group of street dancers decided to show the world how beautiful street dancing could be. When Miley Cyrus (then 15 years old) left a message with one of the dancers that she loved their show Step Up 2, the group saw this as an opportunity. They didn’t know her number, so they challenged her on YouTube to an online dance battle. Whoever thought that that would work, got it perfectly right. It worked like hell and the online battle got a million hits within a week. Soon, Lindsay Lohan, Diana Ross, Adam Sandler all joined the battle and this group, LXD (The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers), became the biggest hit. It’s now a web series broadcast exclusively on Hulu. It’s more popular than the regular dance shows on TV. LXD showed the world a new way of viewing art and making money. They have become so popular that from the Oscars to Bill Gates, everyone has seen them and loves them.
If you thought charity meant donating old books and clothes to the needy, think again. Worldreader is an organization that believes in putting a whole library in the hands of the needy. It’s distributing Kindles (e-readers) to the children of the villages of Ghana in Africa, for now they can get any book from anywhere in the world and even “listen” to a book if they don’t know how to read. The e-readers are not just opening up their minds, but are opening up a whole new world for these people. That’s the charity of the future.
If you have an idea, you can change the rules, for in today’s world, the rule is – there are no rules. That’s the future of business. Have you got your idea for the future?