The first-mover gets it all?


UBA launched its bancassurance product last week and I was one of the officials at the function to answer questions from the media. My first and only question of the day got me thinking ´Why are you doing this now and aren’t you a little too late’. This got me thinking about one of the management theories or concepts that I have known since business school.

The first -mover advantage

One of many management concepts that has gained so much intellectual appeal that its validity is almost unquestionable. Yes, there are very good examples of this concept both locally and globally. Example form sectors like tech, food and beverages and mobile telephony space to glean from.

I am trying very hard to keep my thoughts local and very Ghana specific so my favorites are Pepsodent for almost all toothpastes, Milo for almost all chocolate drinks and tea for almost all hot beverages, Club for all beers.  (Beer dei eno ara ne club) and good old Graphic for all newspapers.

The benefit of being first in an industry or with a product bestows on a firm immediate undeniable benefits (Financially and for the Brand).

This however isn’t promised at all times and for all industries and circumstances. Just take a good look around for some of the early entrants and you will find that some of them don’t even exist anymore. Some have dropped so low in the league for late entrants (movers) from other markets or unrelated industries taking over.

Our mobile telephony and mineral (bottled) water and my beloved banking sector are perfect examples.

Although first-mover status brings important competitive advantages, the concept has fallen flat on its face in the face of time (pun intended), changing customer needs, service and consumer experience, changes in tastes and preferences, technology and the need for continuous investment in R& D.

All of the above are the conditions that provide a good incentive to late joiners and industry followers. Their learning curves are shorter, they escape the teething problems of their trailblazers, their  costs are lower and they have loads of years of intel to guide them. So yes! Late entrants, followers and even copycats can compete and get ahead.

So let’s keep dreaming, let’s keep doing and lets not be afraid if the idea is not novel.

>>>The writer is the Deputy Managing Director (DMD), UBA Ghana Ltd.

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