Startups and small businesses sometimes come across the challenge of coming face to face with a large competitor and are flummoxed on how to handle this challenge.

Just look at the domain in which corporations like Salesforce, Workday, Freshdesk, and Zoho started. They all had competition from big corporations. Siebel was a large player in the CRM domain when Salesforce entered the market. Peoplesoft had market leadership when Workday started etc. But what made them successful?


Identify the gap

There were no major cloud CRM providers in the market when Salesforce entered this arena. Large CRM implementation used to cost millions of dollars with no visibility on the ROI. By adopting a pay-as-you-go model Salesforce was able to disrupt the market.

Leverage Freemium-

Instead of taking a big bang approach to deployment, these corporations started small offering their initial customer base limited functionality free of cost for limited use. By targeting business stakeholders they were able to bypass the traditional buying cycle and were able to interface with the end stakeholders directly.

Be an early mover

The startup mantra of fail fast was adopted by many of these corporations they built a proof of concepts, shipped their products took market feedback, and pivoted. Remember Twitter started of as a simple texting app and Instagram founders initially used it as a platform for mobile check-ins

But what made them successful?

Be a pioneer

Appirio was one of the first companies to latch onto Salesforce and was the only player in its category to be its Global Strategic Partner.

Zoho was at one point the only competitor to Microsoft productivity solution and by keeping its engineering base in India was able to build a large solution portfolio that it was able to sell at a fraction of the cost in comparison to its competitors.

Build world-class capability

Organizations like Thoughtworks have defined their category in Agile-driven development and have been able to portray themselves as leaders in the market even with the number of entities claiming to do so. They have been able to do it by nurturing their talent to write books, blogs, and white papers and get recognized as thought leaders in their category

Recognize and evangelize an emerging market trend Thoughtworks and Appirio are really great examples of this. Both these corporations recognized the market trend towards cloud and Agile-driven development and ensured that they had the front-of-the-mind recall when it came to these domains.


As a startup when the marketing budget is limited, a wise move can be to align with a market leader that can help you built traction in the market. Corporations like Hanu Software have built a close relationship and are enjoying market growth by being singularly focused on this domain

To Wrap Up

Going after a large market segment might seem to be the best bet, after all with a large vertical to go after what would be a chance of not being able to reach out to someone who has an interest in a corporation’s products/service. But it is not an easy task. The spray and pray approach rarely works, reach out to a large segment with a generic value proposition hoping that someone will take notice. More often than not this strategy is bound to fail.

From the above examples, we can easily see the advantages of having a focused offering with a well-defined value proposition. Instead of being just another mobile application development company how would it look if you reached out to a large consumer goods corporations with a message “Consumer-focused Mobile apps that wow your audience”

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