At the moment I am in Thailand on my third Muay Thai training trip. Something that I came out of a “fuck it” moment for me has now turned into an annual trip focused on improving my martial arts skills and also my body.
If you browse the shelves of local stores (many of the small ones like 7 Eleven or Family Mart are open 24/7), you will see that there are small glass bottles of an energy drink with a very familiar logo. The two red bulls clashing has become one of the most recognizable brands in the world today. Its popularity has virtually exploded overnight.
Red Bull is known as one of the biggest Austrian companies, one with a global reach. Its products have become quite popular with people who want to get extra energy for studying, daily activities, or parties (vodka redbull anyone?). So what is this local product on Thai shelves which looks almost exactly like this global brand?
At first thought, you might probably think that it is a cheap local imitation due to lax copyright laws. The cheap price (10 baht!) seems to infer it, especially since cans of Red Bull are usually quite expensive elsewhere.
You will be surprised at the real story though. It’s not the Austrian Red Bull which is the first Red Bull. In fact, it is the Thai one!
How did this come about? The story of Red Bull is about spotting opportunities when they are right in front of you.
Dietrich Mateschitz was a toothpaste marketer who had a quite unremarkable career. It took him 10 years to graduate from university and he worked for a string of companies until a business trip in 1982 brought him to Thailand.
There he met Chaleo Yoovidhya, who owned a pharmaceutical company, but had also invented an energy drink which was quite popular among Thai day laborers. Dietrich tried this drink and found that it cured his jet lag.
Then a brilliant idea struck him. If this drink is popular in Thailand and has these energy giving effects, maybe it could become popular in his own country too? So at 40 years old, this guy with an unremarkable career up until now decided to have his own “fuck it” moment. He quit his job and started his own company.
Together with Chaleo, they founded Red Bull GmbH. Each of these guys put up US$ 500 000 in order to create the company. The company was not an overnight success and the things that Dietrich had to do in order to bring it to the global success that it is are also quite remarkable, but they are for another story.
The key lesson here is to spot opportunities when they present themselves to you. Dietrich saw a low-cost product in a far away country and realized that it had potential to be a high-cost product in his own.
Many successful business stories are just that, spotting and then grabbing opportunities when they present themselves to you.