Imitative Entrepreneurs: Innovates Within the Familiar

Imitative Entrepreneurs: Innovates Within the Familiar

8 mins readComment
Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content
Updated on Mar 1, 2024 12:46 IST

The term "imitative" refers to the act of emulating someone or something. For imitative entrepreneurs, this means adopting and refining the ideas of others to create something new. They blend innovation with proven strategies, creating value by meeting local needs with global insight.

Have you ever thought about how global hits transform to capture local hearts? Enter the world of another Entrepreneurship type- Imitative. Here, familiar concepts get a local twist. For example- Yelp's idea into Zomato to shake up India's food industry or morphing Alibaba's Alipay into Paytm to revolutionize how India pays. 

These entrepreneurs don't just copy; they creatively adapt, mixing global strategies with local flavors. Join us in learning about another type of Entrepreneur i.e, an Imitative Entrepreneur. They bring reinvention, where global successes are seamlessly integrated into local landscapes, birthing unique and cherished brands like Zomato, Paytm, and Ola. Witness the magic of transforming what's known into something spectacularly new and meaningful.

Table of Content

Definition of Imitative Entrepreneur

An imitative entrepreneur is one who smartly picks an existing business idea, gives it a personal twist, and introduces it to a new audience or place. They focus on what's already successful, adapt it to meet new tastes or situations, and launch it. This strategy reduces risk using a proven concept, allowing them to start strong. They're not starting from zero; they're building on what works, making their own mark in the process.

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Example of Imitative Entrepreneur

Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah, the founders of Zomato, showcase the essence of imitative entrepreneurship in India. Inspired by the success of websites like Yelp in the United States, they launched Zomato as a restaurant discovery and review platform. Over time, they expanded to include food delivery, adapting to the Indian market's needs and preferences and transforming how Indians explore and order food.

Difference between Imitative Entrepreneur and Innovative Entrepreneur


Imitative Entrepreneur

Innovative Entrepreneur


Imitative Entrepreneur focuses on replicating and adapting existing business models or products to new markets or contexts.

Innovative entrepreneur develops new, original ideas, creating groundbreaking products or services that disrupt markets.


Lower risk, as the business model or product has already been proven elsewhere.

Higher risk, due to the uncertainty associated with bringing something entirely new to the market.


To capture market share in existing markets by refining or localizing proven ideas.

To create new markets or fundamentally change existing ones with innovative solutions.

Market Strategy

Competitive entry by offering a similar product with improvements or cost-effectiveness.

Market creation or transformation, often educating the market about the value of the new innovation.

Research and Development

There is less emphasis on R&D for new products and more on market research and adaptation strategies.

High investment in R&D to develop new technologies, processes, or products from scratch.

Value Creation

Value created by better suiting an existing product or service to the preferences of a new market segment.

Value created by introducing novel solutions that address previously unmet needs or inefficiencies.


A startup that launches a food delivery service modeled after successful ventures in other countries but tailored to local tastes.

A company that develops a new, eco-friendly packaging material that decomposes in 30 days, revolutionizing the packaging industry.

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Characteristics of Imitative Entrepreneur

  • Adaptation Skills: They excel at modifying existing business ideas to suit new markets or contexts, showcasing their ability to adapt and customize.
  • Market Savvy: Imitative entrepreneurs understand market needs and gaps, even in saturated markets, and know how to effectively position their adapted solutions.
  • Risk Management: They navigate the entrepreneurial landscape with a lower risk appetite, preferring to work with proven models rather than venturing into the unknown.
  • Efficient Resource Utilization: With a focus on existing models, they often require less investment in research and development, using their resources more efficiently.
  • Speed to Market: Their ability to quickly adapt and deploy proven business models allows them to enter markets faster than those starting from scratch.
  • Innovation within Imitation: While they may start with an idea that isn't new, their innovation lies in reimagining and refining these ideas for different audiences or efficiencies.
  • Customer Focus: They are adept at identifying unmet needs within a customer base and tailoring their offerings to meet those specific demands.

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Strategies for Success as an Imitative Entrepreneur

Adopting a strategic approach is crucial to thrive as an imitative entrepreneur. Here are effective strategies that can pave the way for success:

Conduct Thorough Market Research

Identify Gaps: Dive deep into market trends to spot unfulfilled needs or areas for improvement in existing solutions.

Analyze Competitors: Understand what competitors are doing right and where there's room for you to do it better or differently.

Understand Local Consumer Behavior

Cultural Nuances: Tailor your offering to fit local tastes, preferences, and cultural nuances, ensuring your product resonates with the target audience.

Customer Feedback: Engage with potential customers to gain insights into their needs and preferences, using this feedback to refine your product or service.

Leverage Existing Business Models

Model Adaptation: Choose a business model that has proven successful and think about how it can be adapted to serve a new market or solve a different problem.

Efficiency and Scalability: Evaluate how the model can be implemented efficiently and scaled quickly to meet demand.

Prioritize Differentiation

Unique Value Proposition (UVP): Even when borrowing ideas, it's vital to offer something unique that sets you apart, whether it's superior service, innovative features, or a more appealing price point.

Branding and Marketing: Develop a strong brand identity and marketing strategy that highlights your UVP and connects emotionally with your target audience.

Foster Continuous Innovation

Iterative Improvement: Constantly seek feedback and use it to iterate on your product or service, ensuring it remains relevant and competitive.

Stay Informed: Keep abreast of technological advancements and industry trends to refine and improve your offering continuously.

Build Strategic Partnerships

Collaborations: Partner with local businesses, influencers, or complementary services to broaden your reach and add value to your offering.

Emphasize Customer Experience

Service Excellence: Ensure that every interaction with your company exceeds customer expectations, from the user interface of your website to customer service.

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Case Studies of Imitative Entrepreneurs

Case Study 1: Zomato - India's Culinary Map Redefined

Imitative Entrepreneur

Origin of Idea: Taking a leaf out of Yelp’s successful model in the US, Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah founded Zomato, aiming to offer a similar restaurant discovery and review platform tailored for the Indian market.

Implementation: Starting with Delhi, Zomato meticulously cataloged over 1,200 restaurants in its first year alone, providing not just reviews but also photos, menus, and user ratings. Recognizing the diverse culinary landscape of India, Zomato expanded to cover over 10,000 restaurants across major cities by its second year.

Outcome: As of 2021, Zomato has expanded its reach to 24 countries and lists over 1.5 million restaurants globally. It successfully went public in July 2021, raising over $1.1 billion in one of India's biggest IPOs, marking a significant milestone for the company.

Case Study 2: Ola Cabs - Driving India Forward

Imitative Entrepreneur

Origin of Idea: Inspired by Uber’s success in the US, Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati launched Ola Cabs in 2010 to revolutionize the way India commutes, adapting the ride-hailing model to local preferences and challenges.

Implementation: Ola started in Mumbai with just a few cars but quickly expanded, offering a wide range of transport options, including auto-rickshaws and bikes, catering to India’s unique market. They introduced innovative features like Ola Wallet and Ola Play, enhancing customer experience.

Outcome: Ola has expanded to over 250 cities across India, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, boasting over 1.5 million drivers. In 2019, Ola reported 1 billion rides across India, demonstrating its dominant position in the Indian ride-sharing market.

Case Study 3: Paytm - Revolutionizing Digital Payments in India

Imitative Entrepreneur

Origin of Idea: Observing the success of Alibaba’s Alipay, Vijay Shekhar Sharma founded Paytm in 2010, aiming to bring a similar digital payment revolution to India.

Implementation: Paytm initially focused on mobile recharges but quickly expanded into a full-fledged digital wallet. Post-India’s demonetization in 2016, Paytm became a go-to platform for digital transactions, with features like Paytm Mall, Paytm Payments Bank, and Paytm Money, making financial services more accessible.

Outcome: Paytm now boasts over 350 million users, with over 200 million wallets and 12 million merchants accepting Paytm nationwide. In 2020, Paytm facilitated 7 billion transactions, showcasing its significant impact on India’s move towards a cashless economy.

Challenges Faced by Imitative Entrepreneurs

Differentiation: Standing out in a market filled with similar offerings can be daunting. Imitative entrepreneurs must find innovative ways to differentiate their products or services to avoid blending into a sea of replicas.

Intellectual Property Issues: Navigating the legal landscape of copyrights, patents, and trademarks is essential to avoid infringement issues. This requires a careful balance between inspiration and imitation.

Market Saturation: Entering a market that already hosts similar business models can lead to intense competition. Capturing and maintaining market share demands strategic pricing, superior quality, or unique value propositions.

Customer Perception: Convincing customers of the value of a reimagined product or service, especially when they are accustomed to the original, can be challenging. Building a strong brand identity and trust is key.

Adaptation to Local Markets: Successfully adapting a business model to fit the cultural, economic, and regulatory landscape of a new market requires deep understanding and insight, making research and local partnerships invaluable.

About the Author
Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content

Chanchal is a creative and enthusiastic content creator who enjoys writing research-driven, audience-specific and engaging content. Her curiosity for learning and exploring makes her a suitable writer for a variety ... Read Full Bio