Identify your own niche then look to make the most it

A while ago, a friend and I were discussing opportunities and their relationship with timing. Consider the GCC, for instance, and the discovery of oil in the 19th century. Those with a long-term vision went ahead and became representatives of major car dealerships, technology suppliers and retail brands.

My friend argued that it was simply a matter of the right timing; that perhaps those who dominate the market now would not be doing so well and would never have been great businesspeople had they been born at another time. Some may agree.

We then moved on to discuss her upcoming business venture and she stated that just like those businesspeople, she also aspires to be a big fish in the pond. There is no doubt that being the big fish comes with its advantages. The big fish gains respect, has a fair share of the market size and attracts more attention. That business is probably also a customer’s first choice when it comes to purchasing a product or acquiring a service.

Even though the days of oil discovery are a long time ago, with new sectors and technological developments taking place, some aspiring entrepreneurs still aim to be the biggest fish in the pond. When I speak to them, they not only want to be the first to bring in something new to the market, but they want to ensure that no one else does the same thing – at least for a while.

I am all for ambition, and I salute those who not only want to bring in something new but are already thinking about the next step to take. However, the real challenge does not lie in becoming the biggest fish in the biggest pond, but to find the right pond to begin with. And the right pond is not necessarily the biggest one; it is the place where we can do something great, change customers’ lives and hopefully improve the lifestyles of many. It may not dominate size-wise, but we can still be the big fish there.

There is always room for new businesses within the same industry since each player operates differently, and this is what makes people go to different providers of the same services. The real opportunity lies in aligning what you enjoy, what you are passionate about, with what is really missing in the market.

The great thing about living in a growing market like the UAE, and that of the GCC with its high tech-savvy youth demographic is that there is a huge opportunity to be a pioneer provider of many products and services. All it takes is extra time to research and analyse customers’ needs. This is a step I have seen many young entrepreneurs skip. They focus their research on those closest to them instead of exploring the feedback of a larger pool of potential customers.

Those who have done their research include the Emirati women behind Stars and Bananas. They noticed a lack of home party planners with exquisite taste in Abu Dhabi a few years ago. With the help of social media, they spread the word about their work and established a small party planning company to fill that gap.

Similarly, the lack of organic, clean-eating cafes in the country has encouraged numerous outlets such as Kcal and Basiligo to open up in the market and serve health-conscious customers. And Mobileaid sends their tech professionals to the rescue to fix your phone at your office or home; a perfect solution for those who cannot leave the office or those occupied with other matters.

Take your time to find out how you can fill a gap in the market; how your business would solve a problem. Ensure that solution is efficient for you, convenient for customers and can be conducted in a timely manner. Perhaps an online presence is more than enough or a mobile app will do the trick. When it comes to how your business operates, do not limit yourself. You do not have to be static; you can gain a huge market share because you are on the go.

Take your time and choose a pond that fits you rather than trying to fit yourself into an existing one. Before you know it, you could be leading the pack.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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