Seven big disruptors to Australian business

Man hailing an Uber
Chris Sheedy By Chris Sheedy, CA Today

11 October 2016

The modern-day story of business in Australia and, indeed, around the globe, is one of technology and disruption. So who are the big disruptors Down Under?

The Australian market, so long the domain of monopolies and duopolies like Woolworths and Coles, Qantas and Virgin Australia, Bunnings, Officeworks and Rebel Sport, is more vulnerable than most to the effect of disruptors. 

Such a market, with its high margins and lack of competition, encourages lesser business practices. Organisations become slow and lazy, customers yearn for a better experience and new entrants that offer lower prices and more efficient service are welcomed with open arms, by customers at least.

This has been the experience in Australia and the disruption is far from over. Here are the nation’s biggest and most interesting upstarts.

1. Vinomofo

Originally intended to be a social media site about wine, quirky retailer Vinomofo now employs more than 120 people and boasts annual revenue of over $50 million. 

The brand’s founders, brothers-in-law from Adelaide, wanted to take the snootiness out of wine marketing and bring the beverage to the people. In doing so, they created one of the industry’s most profitable and influential bodies.

2. Aldi/Lidl

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have long enjoyed a comfortable duopoly and profit margins that are the envy of the world. Meanwhile, European discount supermarkets were increasing efficiencies, creating new systems and working with suppliers to make their businesses as slick and cost-effective as possible. 

When Aldi entered the Australian market, its low prices and quality products had an immediate impact. The big two scrambled to release new marketing campaigns as shoppers jumped ship to the European upstart. 

Aldi now holds over 12% of the market and is growing at a furious pace. Fellow German supermarket chain Lidl is also said to be on the way into the market, spelling double trouble for Woolworths and Coles.

3. Shoes of Prey

Design your own shoes online, have them delivered and they actually fit? No way! 

Actually, there is a way and Sydneysider Jodie Fox, along with a few friends, made it a reality with Shoes Of Prey. Now the brand is rolling out around the globe, including in Nordstrom stores across the US. 

Just a few years ago experts suggested that fashion websites would experience only limited success as people want to try on clothes before buying. Jodie and friends found the perfect way around that issue.

4. Temple & Webster

Online homewares retailer Temple & Webster took on department stores as well as the likes of IKEA with a stylish, subscription-based offering. 

Launched in 2011, it took 214 days to reach $1 million in revenue and, according to Smart Company, by 2014 was making more than that every five to 10 days.

5. Uber

The Australian taxi industry has remained relatively unchanged for decades, apart from rising prices and fees, under a virtual Cabcharge monopoly. 

Customers have long complained of dirty cars, drivers who don’t know their way to even the most well-known landmarks, antiquated booking and payment systems, non-staggered driver changeover times and unreliable service during peak periods. 

Then along comes an app that allows booking within a few taps, a friendly face in a clean car and no need for physical payment at the other end. Bliss. Cabcharge shares have almost halved in the last five years.

6. Sendle

As he worked on his now closed product-sharing website TuShare, entrepreneur James Chin Moody hit a wall when trying to organise an easy and affordable way for members to post or courier products to each other. 

Australia Post, the only player in the postage market, was expensive and impractical as it didn’t offer door-to-door service. Courier businesses seemed more interested in big-business logistics. So Moody developed his own network. 

Sendle now offers a door-to-door service for a fixed, low price and a as result it has been heavily embraced by SMEs, as well as individuals, around Australia.

7. Netflix

Australian free-to-air networks and Foxtel, Australia’s only pay TV network, knew they were in trouble when not one but three streaming services launched in 2015. 

Netflix, Stan and Presto all entered the market almost at once, offering the sort of choice Australians have not been accustomed to. But thanks to various exclusive content agreements, the offerings from the new entrants were not as thorough as many had hoped. 

Over the last 12 months the program selections offered by the streaming services have improved and the market is sorting itself out. Presto recently announced its closure, Foxtel is offering cheaper and more flexible deals and almost 1.9 million Australian homes are streaming Netflix.

About the author

Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine, GQ, In The Black, Cadillac, Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.


  • Business
  • Australia

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