Jun 212012

During a week of big business news, the buyout of another boutique brewery by a big corporation was barely noticed, but Lion Nathan’s takeover of the Little Creatures brewery illustrates the duopoly problem that is crippling Australian business.

A few days after that deal was announced, rumours that Business Spectator – which the above link takes you to – would be taken over by News Limited started circulating. These turned out to be true.

In both cases, existing duopoly players bought out small competitors, a process that’s been going on since Australia decided industry duopolies were necessary to protect the nation’s managerial classes, and these takeovers kill genuine innovation and stymie new thinking.

For those duopolies the definition of success is grabbing a few percent of market share off each other while using their market powers to screw down supplier costs.

A good of example of this is the retail duopoly, the farmers and producers get screwed while the supermarket chains engage in price wars driven by truly awful advertising campaigns.

Un-imaginative, un-original and plain un-inspiring. Any smart young kid wanting to get ahead in the retail industries knows they have to look overseas for job opportunities or inspiration.

Therein lies the real problem with Australia’s duopoly business culture – it triggers a brain drain as comfortable managements block any innovative new thinking as being too hard or just unnecessary.

In the media duopoly, telecoms analyst Paul Budde illustrated the problem in his account on trying to convince Fairfax of where the media industry was heading in a connected economy.

Fairfax’s management didn’t get it and didn’t care – today they still don’t get but they care deeply as their business model crumbles.

It’s not just future managers that are looking overseas for opportunity, the customers are well.

The duopoly model that evolved in Australia over the last thirty years depended upon the tyranny of distance to act as an effective trade wall. The Internet has demolished that wall for most industries.

Almost every Australian duopoly is living on borrowed time. If, like the proprietors of Business Spectator or Little Creatures, your business plan relies on selling out to a local duopolist then you’d better move quick.

  One Response to “Australia – the Noah’s Ark of business”

  1. Good post Paul, yes, unfortunately we tend to think 80% (give or take 10%) between only two companies represents fair competition.

    PS – Very good question the other day at the Oz Innovation Conference. http://www.zdnet.com.au/boosting-australian-innovation-conference-watch-339339129.htm

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