Smaller businesses need a more level playing field

Smaller businesses need a more level playing field

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Under Henry Lui's proposal, a huge neon Coca-Cola billboard would no longer exist.
Under Henry Lui's proposal, a huge neon Coca-Cola billboard would no longer exist.
Photo: Bloomberg

Capitalism used to be built upon the idea that any individual (or group) would succeed if they worked hard enough. However, this is simply not the case in modern society. Big corporations attract all the attention away from smaller companies with front-page ads and brightly coloured billboards, making it much more difficult for smaller companies' products to stand out on supermarket shelves.

So, how should we make the retailing system fairer? We simply ban marketing altogether.

Under my new proposed system, businesses would not be allowed to advertise their product on any form of media. All products in the same category (apple juice, for example), would be sold in the same nondescript, uniform packaging and would bear only the name of the brand and product in 36-point Times New Roman font.

This would mean that companies would only be able to differentiate their product from their competitors' by improving its quality or lowering its price. Consumers would decide which one to buy based on quality and value for money. Buying a certain product at a supermarket would be like buying an apple at a fruit market: they all look similar, but consumers would flock to the vendor with the best product.

Though it might not seem so at first, it would be consumers that would benefit most from this proposal. They would be able to enjoy greater freedom of choice as more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) might now find it economically feasible to sell their product in supermarkets.

High advertising costs would no longer be passed on to consumers, and businesses would be able to use the money for research and development instead. Consumers would no longer be duped into buying a bad product by slick advertising. There would be no such thing as "brand image", as consumers would no longer pay as much attention to the manufacturer of the product.

Although such an idea would, in theory, help to make the industry fairer, there are many barriers that prevent it becoming a reality. Any legislative body would have a difficult time passing such a proposal, as many of the corporations carry a lot of clout. Some might also find the new system to be highly impractical as some companies might have difficulty getting their products known.

I admit that a plan to rewrite the existing retail system from scratch would be rather naive and extreme, and nearly impossible to implement. However, I feel that it is high time for us to do something to change the system and make competition fair for smaller businesses once again.

We need to make the conditions better for SMEs to do well in this capitalistic society and restore the concept of free enterprise to its former glory.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Smaller businesses need a more level playing field

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