In the biblical story of David and Goliath, David takes a stone and slays the giant Goliath, by not allowing him use his size and strength as an advantage. This simple lesson is the theory behind the history of winning warfare throughout history, and can easily be translated into how to compete in the business world.

How can a business out-plan and outmaneuver another to gain a sustained competitive advantage in the marketplace? This is the David and Goliath question, in particular in markets like the yoga industry, where competition is high, not just among studios, but also across the entire fitness industry.

picture1Multiple competitive strategy models, including Porter’s Five Forces Analysis (summarized in the table to the right), can be used as a blueprint for David to beat or prosper against Goliath. In the yoga business world, often smaller studios are trying to compete with large corporate conglomerates like CorePower, or other studios with multiple locations.

How can a small, single location studio compete with larger corporations or multi-location studios? Most small studios are at a significant competitive disadvantage, in that they lack the working capital necessary to match advertising, the ability to modify, renovate and beautify their space, the ability to lease prime locations, or to hire what are considered or perceived to be top-of-the-line teachers.

As a small, single location studio owner, my personal mindset on competing with the corporate studios is to not consider them as direct competition. One of the primary advantages that a small studio can offer is a significantly differentiated product. Large corporate studios are limited to standardization because they are generally required to offer rigid consistency in classes from location to location. This means that the larger studios are commoditizing their own product offering and they must rely on marketing to convince the public that their product is “better,” no matter how far it actually strays from the teachings of authentic yoga, versus a fitness class with yoga poses.

As a small studio owner, we have the ability to significantly differentiate the class offering and teachings, and this can be a significant competitive advantage. An example of this differentiation can be defined by the class description, ability to allow the teacher to sequence as they see fit (rather than following fixed sequencing), or moving the yoga away from the fitness class model to authentic yoga.

In addition, many teachers are philosophically against teaching in a studio that is a corporation whose sole purpose is to enrich shareholders’ or owners’ wealth. This concept of wealth gathering for the sake of wealth gathering is non-yogic in that it does not follow the practice of Aparigrahah, or non-greed, the last of the Yamas. This opens the door for smaller studios to attract teachers whose primary interest is in the growth of the students and live the yogic life.

This is not an exhaustive list, and we will continue on this topic in our next post as we explore the innovation of the yoga business and how that can be used to the competitive advantage of a small studio owner.

If you are a small studio owner and you have competitive advantage ideas, please post them here and we can add them to the discussion. Yoga is always better non-standardized and true to its lineage and collectively, David can stay strong and thrive in a yoga world that is moving towards Goliaths.


Sarvesh Naagari is the owner of Ripple Yoga in Seattle, Washington, and author of the inspirational novel of the spirit, 20,000 Oms and a Cup of Chai. He has accumulated gary-beebeapproximately 2,500 hours of teacher training, including a six-month stay at the Ananda Ashram at ICYER in Pondicherry, India, where he studied the yoga teachings of Maharishi Patanjali and Swamiji Gitananda Giri, the Lion of Pondicherry. He also has an MBA in executive management from the Washington State University and a bachelors of science, corporate finance and accounting, from the University of Maryland. Prior to opening Ripple Yoga, Sarvesh was a corporate executive for 20 years in technology and innovation.  He is also a regular contributor to the Seattle Yoga News and the ClassPass blog. In his spare time, Sarvesh is an avid musician, singer, hockey player and volleyball enthusiast.