Concept > Ctrl + C > Ctrl + V = Success?


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Can copying concepts be a success?

The world of competition tests the patience when it throws unprecedented challenges from time to time. Copycats are one of the biggest challenges faced by businesses today. A lot of sweat, and blood goes into the years to develop a strong foundation of a business. However, in this ever evolving world, copying ideas have the potential to become a norm.

Hence, the question is – does following others’ business ideas really prove to be successful?

One of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso said that good artists introduce a new idea, while great ones possess it and gives a new definition to it. That’s where the crux of the success lies.

Simply put, replicating ideas might land you some success for a short span. Yet, ground-breaking successes are achieved only due to the ideas which have never ever been tried before. However, the bottom line is, innovation and improvement has higher success rate and there were highly successful cases of companies taking inspiration from a business model and innovating it to create their unique idea.

Let’s take a look at some of the examples below:

Airbnb and Oyo Rooms

The idea of providing hotel rooms, homestays, on rent travelled from Airbnb to Oyo Rooms. Being a hotel aggregator, Oyo Rooms offers rooms on rent to customers while traveling to a new place. Ritesh Agarwal, founder of Oyo wanted to start a business of discovering hotels and rooms with Oravel Stays. However, he found that better opportunities lay in standardizing the experiences instead. Oyo banked upon the fact that, even after discovering hotels; a predictable user experience of lower category hotels made often make customers hesitate. (Source: Economic times)

It’s the innovation which helps a business survive. Hence, it is advisable to invest your efforts in Research and Development of a business model, instead of imitating everything from it.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The 1990’s was witnessing the rise of Amazon as a pioneer in online selling store. Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, was a huge and successful stationary book selling store. They may have tried to pave their way into the online selling getting inspired from the Amazon’s business model. However, they couldn’t achieve success because they were heavily dependent on human interaction. Here, Barnes & Noble were insecure about the fact that their traditional ways of doing business might get foreshadowed. They were unable to innovate and go full-on aboard with the e-commerce structure of business.

Whereas, Amazon was all about online shopping. In fact, Amazon’s “one click checkout” became so common that Amazon had to file patent rights for it. So when, Barnes and Noble came up with the same technique in the year 2002, Amazon filed a case on them. (Source: thenextweb).

Facebook and Orkut

Orkut was launched way before, when Facebook got inspired from the same idea. However, Facebook focussed on constantly upgrading the innovation required to make it way more successful than its earlier counterpart. So, success largely depends on the innovation. Orkut was shutdown in September 2014 by Google because of the failure. It did very little to bring itself back in the game, until recently. “Hello”, is an app-only social networking platform which is making a comeback – also developed by Orkut Buyukkokten. (Source:

Whatsapp and Blackberry

This was the case of Whatsapp building upon the idea of Blackberry. The latter introduced the idea of messaging anyone through the internet using a BBM pin. However, it was limited only to their own handsets. Whatsapp took the cue and instead made it a cross-platform online application which can be accessed on any handset.

The above examples highlight that imitation alone cannot guarantee success to anyone – even if the original concept is delivering success.

People who are involved with quotations in software development companies may have experienced that many times customers send inquiry with a reference web/app and want to get a quotation to copy it.

Being an Executive Director at 9series, I often receive a large number of queries from my customers. These questions mostly begin with “can I copy a concept of a business model for my own business?”.

Its difficult to intercept what goes in the mind of the entrepreneurs when they think of getting inspired from a concept. So, I often ask them a question to understand their thoughts “What is the idea behind your business structure?

We regularly receive requirements from customer saying that they want to develop a concept as similar by giving a reference link, sometimes they want to build app/website exactly copying someone else app/website.

I recently received an inquiry for mobile app development services and website development from a customer. They wanted to copy Tinder, a dating mobile app. As we follow the practice of understanding the thoughts behind the concepts and business model, I have asked a few questions to the customer and they couldn’t answer it properly. As they were not clear about their own business structure, and they lacked at proper understanding of Tinder business model. So, copying is worth if there is thought-innovation at some level.

Businesses are highly susceptible and vulnerable to their ideas being imitated. Hence, they have to keep close tabs on the latest trends to stay ahead of their counterparts. If the competition is being shifted to a new trend, “inspired” start-ups are sure to emerge. New businesses often try to look up to the ideas which have already been successful. However, innovation always holds the key – if a concept has worked for one business, doesn’t mean it would work for others too.

Ashwin Vairu
I am the Executive Director - Marketing of 9series Solutions Pvt. Ltd. As an engineer and entrepreneur, I assist start-ups, individuals, SMEs and enterprise businesses in their end to end technology needs. I am a strong believer in “Those who are active are young”. I love to write about the developments in technologies and how it will affect the growth of any organization.


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