The law of the jungle: The dinosaurs of retail and media
Friday, January 25, 2013/
Recently, Old Taskmaster went for a walk through the museum. All around stood dusty relics collected from days gone by.
There was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. A Triceratops. A copy of Gerry Harvey’s business plan.
It might have had something to do with the merchandise shop near the exit, but the whole experience reminded me of being down at the local shopping centre. Or the local newsagent.
Near the front door was a donation jar. A sign asked for a handout to help pay for the upkeep of these creatures that no longer play survival of the fittest by the laws of the jungle. Sound familiar?
Now, you young whippersnappers mightn’t remember, but back in my day, the world was a very different place: A world in which giant retailers and media conglomerates used their mass to crush everything in their path. It was “the law of the jungle”, they said.
Now, do you think the retail giants ever shed a tear for all the small businesses that went out of business as they were devouring everything in their path? The corner stores? The local hardware shops? The electronics retailers? The old migrant family-run delis? The butchers, bakers or candlestick makers?
Of course not! Back then, it was economic rationalism at work: That inevitable, invisible hand of the market. If that third-generation greengrocer couldn’t magically morph her business into a low-cost high-volume category killer overnight, well it sucks to be her. That was just the free market at work!
And that old migrant couple who put in long hours running the local deli to try to make a better life for their kids and grandkids after the war? Clearly, their business model was economically irrational! “Just the law of the jungle”, said the big retailers, “and if you don’t like it you can move to Russia!”
Into this jungle where Tyrannosaurus Retail and Woolly Mammoth Media played survival of the fittest crashed a giant rock called the internet. From the dust emerged a new type of creature – leaner, meaner and smarter than its predecessors. Upstart start-ups with opposable thumbs that could intuitively grasp a mouse, touch screen or social network.
Then a funny thing happened. Panic set in as the old dinosaurs realised they had already sunk three feet into the La Brea Tar Pits. Apparently, by “economic rationalism”, what they really meant was “the government should subsidise us and increase the GST on the internet! In fact, let’s censor the internet! This Twitter thing? Let’s shut it down! The world owes our broken business models a living!”
Next came the excuses. The economy is bad, so the government has to intervene. Yeah, the economy is so bad that online retailer The Iconic just raised another $25 million.
Well, you know what? When it comes to these dinosaurs that crushed so many small businesses over the years, seeing them get crushed by lean, dynamic start-ups is a fitting end. It’s just the economically rational thing to happen – you know, the “law of the jungle”.
So if you have a business idea that can revolutionise an industry, especially in retail or the media, now’s the time to take advantage of the opportunity. After all, even in Jurassic Park, all the old dinosaurs eventually end up extinct.
Get it done – today!