Physics & business: The science of the start

Early explorers did not chart the unknown world all in one go. They went from port to port and gradually expanded their knowledge and gradually mapped the planet as we know it.

Physics & business: The science of the start

Representational image. (Photo: Getty Images)

Physics is not considered a force in Business. Physicists rarely stray into the field of entrepreneurship but their study in forces and atomic particles provide valuable insights for new businesses.

Over the years, many engineers have forayed into the world of business and they have successfully used their knowledge of forces and attraction to implement strategies and successfully navigate the choppy waters! These learnings are from entrepreneurs, sales executives and CEOs who use them daily to guide their companies:

1. The Path of Least Resistance


Drop some water on any surface and it flows using the path affording it the least resistance. The drop is agnostic to the surface – It surveys its surroundings, recognizes the first point of ingress and pushes forward, repeating this process till it reaches its goal.

“Where to Begin” is a question that confounds most on their journey-The answer lies in visualizing the drop of water and its path. Recognize the barriers (risks) holding you back, analyze and pick the weakest – solve this first and iterate!

One of its key uses can be to work around the “Perfection Conundrum”- For most Start-ups this translates to what is the Minimum Viable Product. We must remember Our goal is not to solve the ultimate problem but the basic need and then build on it.

Early explorers did not chart the unknown world all in one go. They went from port to port and gradually expanded their knowledge and gradually mapped the planet as we know it.

When apple first launched its iPod, its goal was to solve a very basic problem- Thousands of tracks on the go. As the product evolved and consumer demand shifted they launched an iPod with a screen and eventually merged that functionality with the iPhone. This iterative process though rudimentary is functional and can be applied to every sphere of business.

2. Never Work against Momentum

In every business cycle there is a momentum towards a specific style of product or industry. This momentum is referred to as “trend” in stock traders’language. Just like market technicians predict trends and try and ride the wave to profitability, so should entrepreneurs.

In physics momentum is defined as the product of mass and velocity and is used to quantify how much force a moving object can deliver; in layman’s term this is called the “Snowball Effect”

Working against this momentum (aka market trends) will consume more time, resources and capital. While this may not be true for true disruptors who aim to redefine the playing field, it is true of most business units and industries.

Profiting from any snowball effect is a two-partprocess (1) Identifying the wave correctly and(2) Defining how it fits into a company’s core competencies and market demands.

Let’s look at Amazon- Amazon and its much-famed Founder Jeff Bezos correctly identified the trend that in the mid 90’s- That consumers are logging into the world wide web (as it was known then) to consume data and browse information.

In the second step he was able to define how he and his firm “Amazon” can profit from this consumer behavior i.e. to sell books online. The subsequent success of Amazon is now folklore but their foray into all other business lines has followed the same approach.

Yes, this approach does seem a little maverick like but if the groundwork and infrastructure has been is well laid then there is a sustained business case to ride the snowball.

3. Opposites attract and the Art of Coupling

It is a well-known fact that opposites attract- whether in love or in business this can be a useful expression to remember.

A cash strapped entrepreneur needs funding, a cash rich investor needs an idea to invest in and a void in the market must be filled.

The most apparent use for this is in solving the problem of product-market fit. Think of the product and the market as two pieces of Lego that need to come together perfectly. No matter how big the market size this is a daunting task. We will break it down into two key aspects – Price and Delivered Value
As we all know a product must be “Priced to Market”- but price isn’t always the defining factor in driving sales. The product offering must deliver value to consumers.

“Delivered Value” here refers to benefitsa consumer gets from consuming the product. But to satisfy this demand we must first analyze what the consumer wants. A defining read on this is “The Blue Ocean Strategy” which details tools marketers can use to identify demands and shifts in consumption patterns to truly differentiate their offering and fit the “Want” of the consumer.

Physics and Business are truly intertwined. The key is to remember that once the forces have been recognized, they must be used to outmaneuver the competition and get ahead.

Entrepreneurs constantly function in environment where data isn’t always readily available. The attempt here is to enable a qualitative analysis of complex and sometimes unknown business scenarios.

(Surya Phadke is Founder & MD, QualeMagni)