Eighteen months ago I founded Creative Foods, a shareholder’s entity that most of you are familiar with as Lettuceat. It is a company that I am very proud of establishing since it took me two years to build, like any of the well-established brands that I created in my previous corporate life.
I am very pleased about how Lettuceat as a brand is led by a dedicated team that has managed to transform the Egyptian mentality towards salads and healthy eating in a very short time. As put by Daily News Egypt, we have “re-defined salads in Egypt”, which is the core of our business, in addition to other healthy delicious offerings.
Having worked for nine years on both sides of two of the most competitive multi-nationals, which are neck-to-neck rivals in this world. I knew that it was only a matter of time before a competitor would step in and try to capture this opportunity that we have shed light on and managed to successfully own when it comes to healthy eating.
In fact, many would say I am crazy to say this, but I was anxiously waiting for it and very well prepared (by the virtue of my experience). Yes, competition is good and as an entrepreneur and an avid athlete, I believe that the only way to become better and better is by competing.
It actually makes the overall environment much more productive and brings out the best in people – hence producing better results, an overall ripple effect that transcends beautifully into other work, better strategies, better product offerings and, at the end, cascading down to the most important aspect of all: better propositions for the consumer.
In the spirit of competitiveness, there comes the notion of business ethics. Like in any competition, whether it’s in business, a football game or even friendship, there comes the notion of ethics and true understanding of honor and respect for your opponent.
We all saw Luis Suarez in the recent World Cup and how he unethically bit a player. FIFA banned him for his actions for four months, making an example out of him and highlighting the one true notion and essence of competitiveness: that it is great, as long as you keep within the boundaries of honor and respect for your competitor, otherwise we would be no different than animals pecking at each other.
In reference to unethical competition, Lettuceat recently had a small competitor come into the market. Not only did they replicate our menu in terms of salad offerings and use the same salad bowl that we use, but they are also using our registered trademark, which states that all of our “ingredients are washed with RO filtered water,” as shown below.
They simply changed the icon color and shape to avoid any legal pursuits that we would be taking!
Well, like I said, I appreciate competition. I crave it, but it is one thing to copy our menu and it’s another thing to use the same salad bowl, but it’s obnoxiously unethical to simply replicate our trademark.
The problem with some Egyptian entrepreneurs, who miserably fail in businesses and in life, is that they rely on the unorganised chaos of this society, with its lack of rules and regulations, to govern business in Egypt. It becomes easy to cross the line into being unethical, and they believe that they can get away with it and gain profits from it.
However, they seem to neglect one simple true fact: CONSUMERS ARE NOT STUPID. On the contrary, consumers are very aware of what they consume, they have endless attention to detail and they have access to everything that they want to know.
If Egyptian consumers don’t like you or believe they are being cheated or that your organisation is involved in something that is socially unacceptable or unethical, THEY SPEAK OUT. We live in an unprecedented era in Egypt where the people decide what goes on and what fails and what succeeds.
The reason I write this is not because we are afraid of competition. On the contrary, I am never scared of copycats. To be honest, copycats exist in many industries, and through time, they always fail. Why? Simply because being a copycat means that you do not have the guts to take risks and innovate, and any true entrepreneur knows that this does not cut it in the competitive world.
I believe it is important to raise awareness of this issue so that hopefully one day, we will have the rules and regulations to address those infringements. Until then, I am pretty sure that consumers will take actions into their own hands. After all, as we always say, the customer is KING.
In this highly competitive world that we live in, we should never forget the true notions of competitiveness, respect and honour, which are values that real businessmen abide by, and those are the people who succeed and make a difference in any esteemed society.
WE SAID THIS: Originality always wins. Don’t be a copycat!