The last mile issue

The Last Mile

Photo Credit: Joe Poon

One rule that applies to almost every aspect of your life is the 80 – 20 rule. I am almost beginning to be a fan of its universal applicability.

Take the issue of why most businesses fail even after doing a lot of things right – because they did not execute the final 20% of the solution ( that would take 80% of the effort ) with the same rigor. I like to call it the “Last Mile Issue”.

Last month, I relocated to Gurgaon and one thing that I have heard consistent praise for in the NCR area is the Metro. So last weekend, I decided leave my car home and hop on to the Metro to check it out. While the journey from one Metro station to another was flawless and praiseworthy, what stuck out like a sore thumb was the last mile connectivity of most of the stations. Only if that had been taken care of as well as the rest of the Metro, Delhi would have half the number of cars it has floating on the roads today.

Now think about Apple and the launch of its first device coming out of hibernation, the iPod. As with all Apple products, Steve Jobs not only built a superior product, but also took care of the last mile problem ( how do you get your songs on iPod ) by hooking it up with iTunes. And rest is history! I can bet that iPod would not have been half as successful had Apple not linked it with iTunes.

And sometimes, the lack of a good last mile implementation by one company can open up opportunities for others. Way back in 2000, when the first set of broadband companies setup their shop in India, they did invest a lot of money in building fiber optic backends, but did not invest in the last mile connectivity to deliver that bandwidth to the end user. The result – a lot of fiber optic companies went bankrupt in the 2001 bust and the opportunity was seized by the mobile phone operators. Today, India is No. 2 worldwide in usage of internet over mobile devices, a really commendable feat.

So what can you do to make your business succeed? The answers will vary depending on the kind of business, but one thing is very clear – ignore the last mile issues at your own peril. Or get better at it than your competitors and reap the benefits.

What is your take? Any example from your startup / business where you faced issues with the last mile or used it to your benefit?

6 thoughts on “The last mile issue”

  1. In the pic. u have used for this blog its written.. the last minute build and automation ?

  2. I fully agree with the 80-20 aspect. it is this 20 p.c that contains the USP of almost every service. examples are never ending – FB-Myspace-friendster!

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