Jamshedji Tata copied the steel business from Connecticut, USA. Textile mills of Bombay had copied the exact business model from UK. Before Jamshedji became the steel magnate, he had established successful textile mills, producing good quality textiles as Britishers did.
Cities such as Kanpur took pride in calling themselves as Manchester of the East. Dhirubhai Ambani copied the oil companies of the USA. TCS and Infosys were copies of the consulting businesses of the west. India’s fashion industry aspires to be like their American and European counterpart. And, today it is startups.
Copying doesn’t mean bad or good. It is a phase in the evolution of India’s capitalist ecosystem. USA did it. Japan did it. China and South Korea did it. Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and India are doing it now.
Internet has made it easier. Earlier entrepreneurs traveled to other countries to get the ideas. Now, with the cheap internet and mobile phones, a business idea is just a surfing session away. Dating apps in India are good example of how their founders did not have to travel to start building one.
India’s most successful startup Flipkart is copy of Amazon. The second most successful startup Paytm is copy of Alipay. The third most successful startup Oyo is copy of Airbnb. The fourth most successful startup Ola is copy of Uber. Our startups waited for someone else to discover Thiel’s ‘0 to 1’, before they copied the idea.
Whether copying an idea is good or bad, is another thing. But, it is a widespread phenomenon. It is not just about the startups. Even the smaller businesses copy the ideas from abroad.
Do entrepreneurs copy because they are incapable? Do they copy to avoid failures? Or, do they copy because someone else will copy it before them?
Vivek’s film ‘Cut Copy Paste’ features Shack Co. , a small business. It tried to copy a new business model called ’software as a service’ (SAAS). It developed a product, but could not find the customers. Copying failed. Shack nearly died. But, copycats like Paytm, Oyo, Amazon and Zomato are thriving. Are they really thriving?
The series ‘Cut Copy Paste’ starts from where the movie ends. The series looks deeper into the phenomenon of copying businesses for the Indian market. Why a copycat succeeds and why others fail? For every success in India, there are scores of failures like that of Shack. Can copying successful businesses help India generate jobs, upskill the workforce, and become the economic giant?
As they say no success is final, and no failure is fatal. It is the courage that counts. — Katherine Birbalsingh