It’s a question every small startup breaking into an industry ruled by giants faces at one point or another: How do you grab market share from the big guys as an unknown?
This is especially true for companies in capital-heavy industries. If you need equipment or infrastructure to run your business, you can only cut your prices so far before you start coming up against your necessary expenditures. And that means that out-pricing—often a go-to for young startups that need to make inroads in an industry—won’t always work.
So what does work? I spoke with an expert in taking on established industry giants, Sam Bashiry, to find out. Bashiry started his broadband company, Broadband Solutions, in Australia in 2005 with an investment of just a thousand dollards. Within ten years, he and his partner had grown the company into a multimillion dollar business—but what’s even more impressive is that Broadband Solutions is the network provider for ninety percent of all of Australia’s hotels.
Talk about grabbing market share.
Here’s what Bashiry had to share in terms of lessons learned when toppling industry heavyweights.
Q: You started a small company in an incredibly challenging industry. What’s your brand’s differentiator that allowed you to break into the hotel broadband industry so successfully?
A: We are the leaders in hospitality today in Australia, but this was not the case day one. You don’t have to invest millions to become a well-recognised brand. As a startup, we had no funding to spend on marketing and branding, so instead we went out and talked to hotels. We invested well over 12 months researching the sector and understanding their requirements.
This is KEY! If you want to topple an industry giant, you have to get to know the industry better than they do and that takes work.
Then we built solutions that allowed them to become more efficient at what they did when it came to telecommunications.
We built that brand by word of mouth and providing great customer service. That helped our business grow within that sector, and over years, we became the experts.
Q: Should all telecom companies focus on marketing to a niche? How do you decide where to focus your marketing efforts?
A: In my opinion, it’s important to always be the best at what you do. We didn’t want to be everything to everyone.
That’s why we selected verticals—in our case, hospitality, healthcare, and education. That allowed us to more effectively build a reputation and brand within those sectors.
Q: Why did you branch out into developing a Voice AI platform?
A: We built our Voice AI platform over a decade ago, because we always knew that technology would change. The Internet and voice go hand in hand, and it was just a matter of time before people moved across to an IP voice platform.
We’re not selling a phone system. We’re providing an integration of communication tools that allow information to be at your fingertips. Don’t forget that’s what AI is—you still need a human element, because while AI will provide you the information you need effectively, it still requires a person with emotions to deliver that service in a manner that’s pleasing for the customer. That’s something a machine can never do.
Having been certified by the biggest hospitality brand in the world is a testament to the shift from traditional communications to a IP- and AI-based system. I believe there are going to be very exciting times ahead.
Q: What would you say to other startups looking to break into industries where established companies hold most of the power?
A: Well, what we did to succeed was this:
First, we understood the market well.
Second, we disrupted the market by providing solutions that hadn’t been offered by the big players. Big players often get complacent – that’s where you can come in!
Third, we took advantage of the fact that Broadband Solutions was not a big organization with all the politics and policies and bureaucracy that goes along with that. We were, and still are, nimble, so we made decisions very fast and then executed them very quickly.
Playing to your strengths is always a smart move in business, but that’s never more true than when you’re a small company in a highly competitive industry. As Bashiry’s experience shows, focusing on a niche, and embracing the agility that comes with being a new entrant into an industry, can pay huge dividends.