The tasks that man has had to do to get by in life have remained stable over time. The need for shelter, nutrition, commute, avoid disease, seek pleasure, be entertained etc. have existed since time immemorial. However, the context under which consumers try to address needs, evolves over time, leading to them feeling under or over-served by available solutions from time to time. Whenever there is a large and fundamental shift in the context under which consumers perform a task, which may arise due to their engagement with existing solutions, there are opportunities for new or challenger solutions to enter – successfully.
In the early 2010s, Indian consumers outside of the large metropolitans had limited access to variety and good prices when it came to apparel. When increasing aspiration, disposable income and access to the internet coincided with this consumer context, Myntra was able to seize the opportunity by offering consumers a large variety at competitive prices. There were online fashion retailers in India before Myntra, but they perished before the demand became a market opportunity. Myntra was the first to get timing right. They got a headstart into the ‘more choice at lower price’ game and executed well on it by building a great operational side to their business. Competing with Myntra in that game at that time would have been a lost cause.
Fast forward a decade, online fashion retail is one of the largest categories on e-commerce, however the context is possibly changing for some segments of online apparel buyers. Finding the right product online is becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming with a never-ending supply of SKUs, possibly rendering some segments of consumers over-served along ‘choice’ (and underserved along ‘making a choice’). In the past few years, both online retailers such as TataCliq & Ajio, as well as, D2C apparel brands have simplified discovery and selection for consumers by keeping a curated range for specific consumer segments and carved out a consumer base. Again, they got the timing right. An online retail business built on limited, curated selection would have probably not worked out well a decade ago.
The key to right timing is identifying and being prepared for an inflection point in demand which outweighs supply (i.e. availability of options for consumers) and capitalizing on it.