Using paradigms to find opportunities: how an inkjet is like a coffee machine

“So people get this 100 euro coffee machine, but then have to pay almost double the price for the capsules?”  I love consulting because you get to play with different business problems every day.  “This sounds a bit too much like the ink jet business!”   They are selling the machines below cost to people tired of instant coffee.   Or those annoyed at the complexities of semi automatic ones.   But they are then killing them with the consumables.

“Why don’t you make a machine that simply refills capsules?”  Technically much much easier than ink jet cartridges.   There are no electronics, it is simply a plastic cup full of coffee.  In most cases, not even under pressure or in a vacuum.   And the available selection is terrible, just 3 or 4 tastes per manufacturer.   All you need is a machine that grinds coffee and puts it in little plastic buckets with a seal on top.  You could even install these machines at…ink jet refillers.  (Techies drink a lot of coffee.)   The margins are great and the taste will be better (freshly ground coffee).  Consumer choice increased.  There are no real licensing issues.   If they can navigate around a complex machine-chemical interaction like ink jets, they can do coffee.

It is a point that has often struck me.   The first time I met up with big wigs from the U.S. arm of InFocus projectors I asked: “why don’t you make a bespoke system of interchangeable lenses?”   I have been using Canon cameras all my life because of my lens collection.  Whether you are trying to make a monopoly or break one, it is often some peripheral which points the way.   If you have deep enough pockets, you can sponsor the transition; in times of economic crisis this is a form of lending.

A bit like giving a capsule coffee machine as a wedding present but then selling them the capsules…

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