Companies that changed the world

Uber, WhatsApp, Airbnb, Canva. There are many such brands born in the past decade worthy of mention, but to make our point, these 4 brands will do for now. What is common to them?

They were all born out of seemingly innocent questions. What if you could request a cab from your phone? Why can’t phone-calls and texts to family and friends be accessible for everyone from anywhere? What if we could find a place that makes us feel at home whenever we are on a vacation or a business trip? Why is good graphic designing skill expensive and tedious to achieve?

Be it Uber founders, Travis Kalanick and Garris Camp, Whatsapp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, Airbnb founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk or Canva founder, Melanie Perkins, they were all driven by wanting to make useful products first and not by wanting to make money. And yet their companies witnessed explosive growth despite the unsurprising push-backs.

They did not need advertising for their initial growth spurts. They simply focussed on improving the product and not on improving their advertisements. World-renowned marketing thought leader Sandeep Dayal in his 2021 book, Branding Between the Ears, calls it the ‘no-brainer’ strategy – offering a product/service so useful and with such a compelling value proposition that they don’t need additional persuasion. Many of these companies did however, need reputation management to tackle controversies that are inevitable when challenging the status quo and when being the first mover with no prior lessons to lean on.

The founders were all in their 20s or 30s with the raring to go spirit needed to help them ignore naysayers. They were all told repeatedly that their idea was downright stupid. And yet, the impact of Uber is so powerful that many find it financially savvy and more convenient to not own a car at all. The gesture of waving to hail a cab is probably unrecognisable to a whole generation and the ones to follow. Today, keeping in touch from different rooms in the same building or across continents costs the same. The very idea of being separated by distance is not even remotely close to what it used to be just 15 years ago, thanks to WhatsApp. With the anxiety of finding a decent, safe, budget-friendly place to stay being lifted, Airbnb overhauled the whole travel and tourism sector. Canva has effectively made designing our personal brand and in many ways, even our destiny easy and accessible for anyone with access to the internet. Together, these companies, along with many others like them, have literally changed the world.

Each of these companies levelled the playing field for customers. They democratised services and skills – enabling a world that shares, connects and collaborates more. They help transform us from operating with a scarcity mindset to the abundance mindset.

Three key new truths glaring at us:

  1. Today, relevance trumps experience

Business growth ideas will come from listening to the young. We have to resist our urge to correct them and tell them what’s possible and what’s not based on our experiences. We need to eliminate the voice within us saying their ideas are shallow, naive or impossible. Relevance comes naturally to the young workforce. It is the older ones that need to actively nurture relevance within us.

  1. Intent defines your business above all else

Profit may be the ultimate aim of any business but businesses today are born out of a sincere desire to solve customer problems and make their lives and our collective futures better. Companies aiming for profits first are being called out.

  1. The status quo is fluid

We live in a world where the status quo is to question the status quo. Innocent questions are changing the world and its mindset. All that’s left to do, is to cultivate the flexibility and openness within us to respect the voice of the young.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Pooja Nair
Pooja Nair has over 20 years of experience as a branding consultant across leading global Ad consultancies. Pooja is also known to be an ex theater performer, actress and model. Since September, 2022, she has focussed completely on her passion for the changing face of business, brand-building and reputation.

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