I had briefly touched upon the 4M Framework: Magical (products), Money (machine), Moat, and Monopoly, in ‘Mystery of the Missing Profits.’ In this series, I will discuss the 4M Framework in detail and how it can help create an evergreen business independent of up-down cycles, and the creation of an enduring great company.
Netcore, over the past 15 years, has focused on units and users: units as in the volume of email and SMS sent, and users as in monthly actives for the Martech (customer engagement) platform. As our enterprise customers grew, we grew with them. However, our growth is impacted if their growth slows and marketing budgets are reduced. How can we create an evergreen business by solving a problem that never goes away, and what would it take to build a fast-growing business independent of up-down cycles?
Many exponentially growing businesses have longevity baked in, such as Google Search, the Apple iPhone, and Tesla EVs, to name a few. What is common in these businesses, and can we create a framework that can help entrepreneurs reimagine their businesses in a world where competition is always around the corner?
This was when I came up with the ‘4M Framework’: Magical (products), Money (machine), Moat, and Monopoly. The starting point must be a product that wows. As you use the product, you wonder how it is happening, and the experience is out of this world. That product experience must convert into a money machine. A moat must prevent competitors from attacking, create a defensible franchise, and help sustain profits. Eventually, the product must become a near-monopoly with a high entry barrier, leading to the creation of exponential growth and an enduring great company.
Between 1997 and 1999, Samachar became one such product, magically bringing together headlines from leading Indian newspapers to a single page, with updates every 30 minutes. Through word-of-mouth, Indians worldwide began visiting the page daily; advertising created the money machine.
While there was no moat, as anyone could write software and replicate Samachar, no one did it. Within months, Samachar had established a monopoly in the news space without employing a single journalist or editor, becoming the equivalent of Google News before Google was even born. Samachar’s popularity also rubbed off on sites such as Khoj, Khel, Bawarchi, and other India-centric websites.
Together, these websites created a fortress that maximized attention from Indians worldwide, helping create unprecedented value. This led to IndiaWorld Communications, the parent entity of these websites (Samachar, Khoj, Khel, Bawarchi), being acquired by Satyam Infoway for $115 million in 1999 in one of Asia’s largest internet deals.
Netcore primarily operates in what can be described as commodity spaces. Email and SMS are seen as pipes to end customers. Netcore has added a services and intelligence layer that has helped it dominate the email space in India and other emerging markets.
Martech platforms are indistinguishable from one another, leading to price wars. This made me wonder, ‘What products could we create to ensure the subsequent stages of money, moat, and monopoly? In other words, what blue ocean problem could be solved in a red ocean marketplace?
(Existing industries, often referred to as ‘red oceans,’ represent the known market landscape, where companies fiercely compete within defined boundaries to gain larger shares of the current market space. This intense competition often creates an environment likened to a turbulent ‘red’ ocean, characterized by cutthroat, bloody rivalry.
On the other hand, ‘blue oceans’ signify uncharted territories in industries that do not yet exist. These spaces represent untapped market potential, untouched by competition. Similar to the vastness and depth of the ‘blue’ ocean, these areas hold immense potential for opportunities and profitable growth, offering unexplored avenues for innovation and development.)
Before I answer the question, we will delve into the 4M framework, which every entrepreneur must consider to reduce their chances of failure.
When the iPhone was launched, people were amazed by the experience. They could tap the screens, see colored icons, and have a significantly larger screen without a physical keypad. Previously, Nokia had dominated the mobile phone market with phones that came with small screens, text navigation, and a clunky keypad. However, Apple revolutionized the market and reached a multi-trillion-dollar valuation.
Tesla gave people a similar experience when they encountered the autonomous driving mode, giving them a ‘magical’ experience. Google Search did something similar through its ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button. When users typed their query and clicked on it, more often than not, they were taken to precisely the website they were looking for. Google took the ‘search’ functionality to a different level of efficiency. Soon enough, the ‘ten blue links’ became the starting point for all our queries.
The magic in the experience is the starting point. As you experience it, you wonder how it is being done. In most cases, multiple innovations come together to create an outcome vastly different than what we are used to. There have been several such ‘magical’ products over the past decade, such as Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Uber, and Airbnb, to name a few.
Netflix revolutionized the entertainment industry, offering a library of on-demand content personalized to individual preferences. This disrupted traditional TV viewing and movie distribution models, making it a global phenomenon. Netflix also introduced the concept of ‘binge viewing’ – sitting and watching all episodes together instead of weekly.
Spotify completely transformed the music industry by offering vast libraries and personalized recommendation algorithms. Users could stream their favorite songs anytime and anywhere, democratizing access to music. Amazon Prime redefined eCommerce with its two-day shipping, comprehensive product range, and additional benefits such as streaming media and e-books, creating a one-stop shop catering to diverse customer needs and habits.
Uber connected riders and drivers through an easy-to-use app, providing a convenient, cashless, and reliable ride-hailing service that challenged traditional taxi models and transformed urban mobility. It is an efficient service for people who do not drive.
Airbnb completely disrupted the hospitality industry, enabling anyone with a spare property to become a host. It offered travelers more personal and diverse accommodation options, creating a global community of shared experiences.
These companies are on their way to dominating their respective categories by offering a product experience vastly different from what we were used to. These products are magical because they solve problems simply, elegantly, and effectively, making our lives easier, more convenient, and more enjoyable. They do this in a way that is so compelling that we are willing to ignore the free or cheaper alternatives that are available.
Continued in Part 2