The niche game

My brother-in-law is a doctor. He chose to stay and work as a general physician and not become a specialist. I would often tease him that this would hamper his private medical practice because everyone now prefers to go a specialist. But he stayed steadfast and true to his own belief. He chose to make the whole healthcare world his oyster. By being a specialist, he shared with me many years later, he would have confined/limited himself to a small pool of patients.

This conversation came back to haunt me last week when I was listening to some fantastic ideas presented by startup innovators at the 12th year conclave of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology – Technology Business Incubator (KIIT-TBI).

Listening to some great ideas and designs, it occurred to me that the ideas were all pertaining to a particular niche or fulfilling a special need. The innovators had sensed a vacuum and seized the opportunity to build a possible solution to close the gap.

Investors when asked what is that one thing they look out for when selecting a startup, they all agreed that the potential of the entrepreneur was the deciding factor.

Sucked into the mesmerising world of startups and investors, I felt I was drowning in a sea of new ideas and solutions.

The riches are in the niches

Finding a niche and arriving at a solution is not limited to the startup world. Every profession holds the promise of a niche aspect. For example, a PR consultancy would be seriously limiting itself if it were to offer just normal, predictable service to its clients. What would make it stand out would be the specialised services it brings on the table. Many examples of this abound – agencies that specialise in digital marketing or in advocacy/external engagement. And of course, the latest niche – the ESG and sustainability piece.

Speaking with an industry veteran the other day, it occurred to me how these evolving niches are a goldmine not just for the industry but also for the communicators and the corporates. A niche offering can certainly make an consultancy stand apart from the rest! Similarly, a corporate communication specialist with a rich experience in a particular field (for instance – mergers & acquisitions/crisis management/advocacy/influencer marketing/ESG) has certainly much more to offer to the industry.

The question that arises is – how does one find one’s niche? Well, the easiest way is to keep your mind open to experiencing new opportunities and being risk averse. Growth never happens in a comfort zone. Often, people hesitate to change sectors and/or industry because of lack of knowledge and thus, fear of underperformance. In the process, they lose out on learning new skill sets. Stagnation and boredom aren’t far in such situations.

Once you have experimented with different areas, it will be easier to find your niche. You will be more inclined to pick up an area which excites you most and fine tune a skill that resonates with your purpose and passion. By allowing yourself to be experimentative, you open the door to finding your own niche.

Whichever area you chose to specialise in, remember not to limit yourself within it. Keeping learning and growing!

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

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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