In this episode, Jason ( Jason S Bradshaw ) chats with Mayur (Mayur Palta), a seasoned strategist in outcompeting rivals, uncovering secrets on navigating intense business landscapes. Mayur dives into the heart of his book, “Outcompete,” detailing the genesis behind its inception. He shares a vivid personal account of his earlier entrepreneurial journey, surviving and learning from a fierce price war in India’s telecom sector.
Mayur’s comprehensive experience, spanning Silicon Valley giants to startups, unveils the crux of his book—a distilled guide to embrace competition intelligently. The ‘Outcompete Operating System’ emerges as a core framework, emphasizing the ‘know, do, be’ mantra. This concise strategy demystifies not just identifying business vision but understanding ‘how’ to manifest it effectively.
The conversation navigates through seven strategic principles critical for contemporary businesses, exploring a landscape where cooperation and competition intertwine. Mayur emphasizes creating a new market category—comprising unification and reinvention—as a tool to drive differentiation.
Moreover, he touches on the transformative power of artificial intelligence in the business realm. Mayur hints at an upcoming book, ‘Outcompeting in the Age of AI,’ envisioning a future where AI deeply integrates with core business strategies. He emphasizes the need for understanding and leveraging AI, not to replace but to augment human strategy.
The podcast ends with a compelling takeaway—encouraging curiosity about competitors to stimulate business growth and excellence. Mayur’s insights echo a vital truth: competitors can be the driving force for sustainable competitive success.
This episode showcases Mayur’s expertise, focusing on not just surviving competition but thriving in it. His anecdotes, strategic insights, and future-focused vision offer a blueprint for businesses, emphasizing proactive learning and the art of intelligent competition.
You can connect with Mayur on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mayurpalta/
His website is https://mayurpalta.com/
You can also follow Mayur on X at https://twitter.com/mayurpalta
Mayur also regularly contributes on Medium at https://medium.com/@mayur_67509
You can get a copy of Outcompete at https://amzn.to/3u9VAhY
JASON: Hey Mayur, I’m so excited that you were able to join us on the show today. Thanks for being with us.
MAYUR: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.
I’m super excited to be here and looking forward to a conversation. I believe the audience would definitely learn a thing or two.
JASON: Well, that’s why they’re here. And I know in our pre show conversation, you certainly piqued my interest. So I can’t wait to dive into it with you. And certainly an impressive career and a great contribution to society.
Congratulations on your book, Outcompete, how startups and billion dollar companies outsmart the competition. Now, they talk about making sure you’ve got a hook in your book title, you certainly do have the hook there. It’s an ad, it’s a bestseller, congratulations on that. Can you tell us a little bit about what the book’s about, and why you chose to write the book, and when you did?
MAYUR: Absolutely, happy to. So I’ll give you, I’ll share with you a short story. About 20 years ago, I was trying to build a business, and this business was about telecom, putting optic fiber in the ground and delivering a service with the future to deliver entertainment data, everything over the same optic fiber.
And the business was going fine. I was just young and stupid. There was no venture capital available, so I took a bank loan to build this very capital intensive business. Made tons of mistakes. But the point is the business did not survive beyond a three year mark. And the reason why the business did not survive is because a price war broke out.
There was immense competition. This was when I was back in India. I’m currently in Silicon Valley in California, but this is when I was back in India and guess what India has a billion subscriber for telecom. This was such a massive opportunity that all the 800 pound gorillas from all over the world opened up their big checkbooks.
And this ended up in a price war that kind of shaped who I am very early on making these mistakes, especially related to how you compete in a price war. And we know the world today with artificial intelligence, with things becoming commoditized, things getting democratized in access, we are moving in that direction already.
So this is working at most of, I worked at small companies that I build off my own, I worked at companies at scale like Amazon. Which has more than a million employees, operates its massive scale and other companies like Oracle, Dell EMC and so forth. So I’ve seen kind of this how to scale and operate this level and how to be nimble and operate in a startup environment.
This book brings together all the lessons learned from all of this. On how do you apply these learnings to your own situation, to your own business, to to build, compete muscle, to outsmart your competition? Whether you’re a startup, whether you are a large end company, you apply a simple model. I’ve tried to condense all of this in simplicity.
You apply this thing called the Outcompete operating system. And you understand your vision, where you are, where you want to be. And the more important is the how. So the book talks about knowing, knowing what you need to know, doing what you need to do, and then being. Being is how do you think like that strategist in business?
Because honestly, in business, you don’t even know before things hit you, especially competition. It’s only after the fact you come to figure out what just happened. And there are ample stories in this world of companies getting out competed. We used to have these phones called Nokia, which were very popular.
And now we use these things called the iPhone. That’s a classic story. There are endless stories of businesses that don’t even exist. Think of last 10, 20 years, the lot of things we used to use, they don’t exist anymore. They just disappeared. poof, but these business leaders, if you put yourself as a protagonist in their situation, they didn’t know what was coming.
JASON: Absolutely. And even if they did have a glimpse into what was coming, knowing which competitive move was going to be the one that you had to fight against the one that you had to outpace is also just as difficult as knowing that there is that move coming right. When the first iPhone was released to use that example, there was good reason to think that it would be successful, but not necessarily strong immediate evidence that it was going to destroy Blackberry and Nokia. Now you could argue that there was a pivotal point where all the sides were there and you needed to move, and Samsung did take that move.
But certainly all businesses of all shapes and sizes are faced with their own moments where competitors make moves. And you’ve gotta judge, is this the one that I should care about or not? Now, outcompete house startups and billion dollar companies, the competition. There is loads of reasons why the audience should buy this book, but, as I understand it, and perhaps you can share some more details proceeds from the book, go towards helping charities so that you and the buyers of the book can make a difference to the world around us.
MAYUR: Yes. So the objective of writing this book was to spread awareness, make sure, business leaders are prepared for what’s to come, but at the same time, the objective was of the book was never to do generate wealth. We all are very blessed, very fortunate. So the objective of the book was to also do good.
One was to lead into the future, get prepared for the future. The second was learned from the past and third was clearly do good. So there are two nonprofits we’ve chosen proceeds from this book, go to these two nonprofits. One is called Vibha, V I B H A. This non profit has raised about 18 million in the last 10 years.
What they do is they fund different schools for underprivileged children in underdeveloped countries and developing countries, and gift them education. And this is their way of lifting children out of poverty or the situation they are born in. These kids have no control over the family they are born in or the social context they are born in.
And this is not their fault. So how do you give them the opportunity to lift themselves? The other non profit is run by students at Cornell University. It funds an orphanage in Zambia and provides some supplies to carry on their operations. Both of them have boots on the ground that are well tested.
I’ve known at least the first one for about 10 plus years, so I know that’s, it’s doing the right things.
JASON: Oh, fantastic. And we’ll certainly put details about those charities in the show notes should our audience be interested in making contributions or support in their own way as well. But as mentioned, simply buying a copy of the book is an easy way to not only learn some new things and how to improve your business, but to also support those two amazing charities.
Now in the book. You talk about the Outcompete operating system and introduced the world to seven new strategic principles for business leaders so that they can win in uncertain times. What are those seven strategic principles for business leaders?
MAYUR: Yeah, great point. So we talked about the Outcompete operating system, which is a simple model.
It’s like installing an operating system in your situation in your business. What is your competitive vision? Do an assessment of where you are on your competitive strengths against the competitors, your top competitors. Do an objective assessment of where you want to be in due course of time and come up with a roadmap of how to get from point A to point B.
That how is these seven principles. Now these seven principles, I’ll give you some examples. Things have changed since we learned about competitive strategy back in 1979 or 80s when Michael Porter introduced the world to the five forces model. Things have, the whole world is upside down already with all the inventions that have happened.
To give you an example, in your business, you may be in situations where you’re collaborating and competing with the same entities in for a lot of cases. Apple and Samsung are competitors, but they depend on each other. The screen is manufactured by Samsung. There is now this thing with chat GPT and open AI.
Microsoft invested 10 billion earlier this year in open AI and open AI just yesterday announced an enterprise version of their own software, which competes directly with Microsoft. So on one hand, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. On the other hand, we are going to fight each other too.
This is this notion of cooperation. So that’s one of the principles. Another principle is how do you accelerate their growth through things like mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and spinoffs. There are a lot of companies which are known for these, making these moves or building their community, the ecosystem, the flywheel around them.
You could be investing or establishing partnerships with different business entities. Think of your supply chain, think of your distribution channels, think of your ancillary products and services. Where these partnerships reinforce your product, it strengthen the consumption of your product. And how do you go to market with that?
A popular story here that I’m happy to share, this is a real world life story. Coca Cola was a regional business back in the day. It was not the world known Coca Cola as we know it today. How did Coca Cola became a global brand? There was world war going on at the time. So Coca Cola sponsored that every time the troops go to a different country, they can, the troops can get access to Coca Cola for one cent.
Whichever countries they went to, Coca Cola went with them. By the end of the war, Coca Cola was a global brand. So there are ways to associate yourself. And build this flywheel effect of a platform. Think of all the platform businesses, Uber to Instacart to all the platforms, you know, of amazon.com, they have these flywheel effect.
How do you build your flywheel where initially it’s going to take a lot of effort to get, gain momentum. But once you do you’re printing money in your sleep because there are other things in the system which are doing the work for you and the momentum is going on and has this reinforcing effect. So another example, there are lots of such examples, but the point is things have changed and how to get prepared for this new world order.
And first of all, how do you think about it? Second of, how do you act? And third, what actions are you going to take to get there?
JASON: It makes perfect sense. Now, Principle 7, changing the rules of the game, create a new category. What do you mean by create a new category? Does every business have to go out there and suddenly find some new way of packaging their product so that it sits alone and has no competitors?
Is that what you mean? You know, or am I missing a lot?
MAYUR: A great question. Every product or services is hired by a customer for a job to be done. That’s the value it generates. Clay Christensen, a legend for competitive strategy, the writer of the book, Innovators, Dilemma, and, you know, disruptive strategy.
He used to talk about this job theory, which is for your product or service is being hired by a customer to get the job done. You have to identify what that job is. Now, it’s not that you are the only one in that business. There are lots of complimentary products and ancillary products that may exist to satisfy that need.
How do you create new rules of the game? Because in that rule of the game, just better performance, lower cost, better service is not going to cut it. That’s just an expectation. If you ask a customer 20 years from now, do you need better performance, less cost, lower cost, more choice? They’ll say yes. These are constants in time.
You ask them in 2050, they’ll answer yes. So how do you differentiate yourself is key. I’ll give you a couple of examples. How do, how does a new category get created? Is converging two different categories of products together to define a new category. Several examples of this. The category of electric vehicles, which is disrupting the age old engine, the combustion engines.
That’s a new category itself. The category of cloud computing. That’s a new category itself. You could be, let’s take example of you are a business running, doing things with electricity, selling electricity. How can you converge with other things that are going on with smart meters and grids? As well as appliances that you run to unify and convert these things together to create, redefine the rules, create your own narrative, because the value of this, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And to a customer that is way more valuable. How do you create value where the customers are willing to pay for that value, the job to be done. And these things are tied together and you own, you educate the market about that category. You nurture that category. And now all your competitors are behind the eight ball because they have to subscribe to this new category and they don’t have those strengths and they were not organized that way.
JASON: So you’ve mentioned this term creating value for your customers, whether that be through creating a new category or differentiating yourself in the marketplace. Is that ultimately your key to avoiding a price war?
MAYUR: That is one of the ways of avoiding a price war. Because the willingness to pay for that value is much higher.
It’s not just a commoditized business. It’s not getting the same thing at a lower price anymore. Because guess what? In that converged category, it’s not the value of that one product that you offer. It’s the convergence unification of multiple products you offer where the value is greater. So nobody can price you out because the willingness to pay is much higher.
To simplify it, you could think of packaging of things together. But I have a friend, a mentor who’s recently got into the business. He was the former CEO of a fortune 500 company. He recently took a role as a COO of a company which has to do with security cameras and alarm systems. And I was having lunch with him and he was talking about this thing has existed for like 100 years.
Security cameras, alarm systems for businesses and private use. There’s nothing, it’s like a race to zero. There’s no innovation, there is no. So we talked about creating a new category of these smart security systems. It’s about working backwards from your customers and understanding their unique needs.
And that’s exactly what he did. He spoke to about 20 different customers, documented all of that, worked backwards from the customers, combined these two different categories of security cameras, the endpoints, plus his own software, which is based on artificial intelligence, of predicting it with deep learning, what is this object, these are not dumb terminals, but saying what this thing is.
Because if some, if there is someone trying to steal stuff from you, the moment of time is just that while that person is there, it’s not after the fact, trying to diagnose what just happened. A lot of the things go missed, missed. So it’s about creating this new category. And that’s exactly what he did.
Now, all his competitors across these categories of security camera and security software are behind the eight ball. They don’t have anything what he’s created. But the customers want this unification. All these 20 companies which have existed for dozens of decades or, you know, even 30, 40, 50 years, they have no way to compete.
So super simple idea, but it has to be executed the right way and work backwards from customer.
JASON: Yes, the execution is key. It doesn’t matter how great your idea is. If it’s not executed well and delivers that value that you talk of, then it’s chances of success are low. And certainly that category that you just spoke of is one that is right for disruption.
Having just moved to a new house, I’m going through all the pain of security and security cameras again, and the frustration that comes with it all not not working just the way that I want. So, you’ve, you’re gifting to our audience members a fantastic opportunity for the people to get your course that’s on Udemy.
Now, your course on Udemy, do you mind just sharing with the audience an overview of what they’ll learn during the Udemy course if they dive into it?
MAYUR: Oh, absolutely. And the course is about how do you develop this muscle of competitive intelligence and competitive strategy. Most of us Whether we had some formal education in business or did not and learned by hit and trial and by being coached by our folks who are more seasoned around us, whether it’s family or friends or mentors, nobody’s taught or nobody’s even, nobody pays attention to developing this competition muscle.
It’s, there’s just lack of awareness about it. So this course is about how do you get started with competitive intelligence. It talks about, it has several case studies, real world stories and real world case studies of situations that you put yourself in and how would you apply your tactics to come out of the situation as a winner?
These are real world case studies. There is hands on assignments. And then there is videos you watch and resources you get exposed to to shape how you think about competition. When at the end of this, you in your own situation and on your own business, you’ll be able to think clearly about your competitors.
And what you should do about them. That’s the idea to take you from point B point A of awareness to taking action, doing something about getting better.
JASON: Well, we certainly appreciate you making that offer to our listeners and viewers today. And if people want to follow your work, I’d certainly encourage them to read the show notes where we have a link to all of your appropriate socials.
But I understand you have a weekly newsletter that goes out as well. I will share the details on how to connect with that newsletter on the or in the show notes, I should say. Now, one topic that we’ve mentioned briefly today is artificial intelligence. We haven’t really dug deep into that, but I understand you’re in the midst of finalizing a new book that’s actually going to talk about this very topic of AI and competition.
Would you mind sharing with the audience details around your new book?
MAYUR: Happy to. Thank you. So the book is releasing on December 15. The book is called Outcompeting in the Age of AI. It’s all about navigating this era of artificial intelligence. There’s so much in last nine months, the world has changed.
Since OpenAI introduced ChatGPT, there are, these things have people walking down Hollywood Street talking about our jobs at risk. There are other businesses which are in the editing and book publishing business, they got disrupted. Their share like went down 60 percent in a day. There is a lot of disruption that has happened.
Now, the idea is in your business, you have to figure out a way of how to compete in this new world order of artificial intelligence, where the large language models are as good at conversing as machines as humans. And they are not just talking about searching and content curation and aggregation, but they’re generating their own new content.
How do you leverage artificial intelligence as core competence within your business? It’s not just getting checkbox and saying, Oh yes, we have a chat bot for our business. That’s not what we’re talking about. Anybody can get a chat bot. That’s a non differentiator. It can help you reduce cost in your customer service.
It can help you reduce cost in customer support. Yes, there is value, but how do you make AI bring it from the periphery to the core of your business? That the core of what you do is enabled augmented with AI in some manner, that it creates unique value that your customers are willing to pay for, and customers value as your strength.
How do you augment that? Still have human in the loop. Your product or service is leveraging these things to enhance, to change the game. Because guess what? If you don’t, and your competitors do then it’s going to be a very ugly game of playing catch up. And it’s about who does it first and who does it the right way.
JASON: So you’re not suggesting that artificial intelligence will take away the need for people to understand the competitive environment, but rather how they can leverage artificial intelligence, the tools of AI to be strategic, to be a category of one, to be ahead of the competition, right?
MAYUR: Yes, absolutely. And it’s leveraging AI to transform your business to be that category of one, but also leveraging artificial intelligence to understand your competitors, to understand the landscape better, to have this, think of this alarm system that you’re talking about for your business that can alarm you and give you this downstream impact of a competitor’s announcement that you may not be even aware of.
The worst thing that can happen is your customer telling you about a new competitive announcement from your top competitor that you don’t even know about, first of all, and second of all, have no idea what to do about what’s going to be the downstream impact to your business. So how do you put those, you know, an alarm system in place?
That’s one. But engaging, transforming your own product or services and leveraging AI with it to create more unique value also. It’s not just about chatbots. It’s AI is being leveraged to do a number of different things in terms of the core product capabilities you build. In the future, a few years from now, I strongly believe that every company would be an AI company.
They would just happen to be in different industry verticals. Every company.
JASON: I was going to say, that’s quite the prediction. Every company will be an AI company. So you’re saying Coca Cola will be an AI company?
MAYUR: Absolutely. Imagine if Coca Cola, which just doesn’t sell, you know, black sugar water, but also does a whole host of other things.
Need to understand the needs of the consumers and how it’s evolving. Distributing, you know, beverages to snacks, to other things is just a mechanism. But all this, you know, a hundred year history of consumer data is so valuable to predict and anticipate future trends, which could potentially disrupt Coca Cola’s own business.
How do you get ahead of these changing consumer preferences? How do you get ahead of what is new businesses you can get into? That is what the data can tell you. Based on past preferences and aggregating it with data that doesn’t exist within your four walls. Because the facts are outside those four walls.
JASON: Leveraging that AI tool to get knowledge and insight at scale fast. MayUr, it’s been absolutely a privilege, a great opportunity to chat with you today. I’ve loved everything you’ve shared with us, but if I’m watching the show now or listening to the podcast, what’s one thing I should do as soon as the show ends that will help me be more competitive, help me and my business be more competitive?
MAYUR: The number one thing you should do is buy the book. No, I’m just kidding. The number one thing you should do is be curious about your competitors. There is the stigma about competitors. You’re like, Oh, we are not competitor, except obsessed. We are customer obsessed. We are customer centric. We are customer obsessed.
You hear all these terms. But if you don’t pay attention to competitors, you would not know what happened to you. And it’s a blessing to have a good competitor. The good competitor gets the best out of you. It benefits the customer. And it just challenges you in ways that gets the best out of you.
So it’s a blessing to have good competitors. So choose your competitors wisely. And try to get, try to study them, know them, and try to act accordingly of knowing where, anticipating where the pack is going. And you will create lasting competitive success.
JASON: I love that last bit of insight from you. Be curious about your competitors.
Don’t worry about the stigma of being competitor centric or customer centric, but just remain curious so that they can certainly encourage you through competition to be your best. So Mayur, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for being on the show today.
MAYUR: Awesome. Thank you so much.