Look at this picture closely and spot what's odd about it

Look at the picture closely and see if you can find something different, something odd about the spiral bound book, the scissors and the pens. Yes, you got it - the spiral binding is on the wrong side, the scissors' handles are the other way around and the pens are well - oddly shaped.

Are these mistakes? No - they are clever innovations for a segment of consumers who are more often than not ignored when designing products. The amazing thing is that this segment makes up between 10-15% of all consumers in the world - yet, few consumer products manufacturers think about them when designing products.

We are talking about leftys - people who are left handed as opposed to right handed - people who write with their left hand, who use their left hand as their primary hand. Think about it - when you have a "normal" spiral bound book and you are right handed, your writing hand never rests uncomfortably on the spiral binding. But when a lefty uses the same book, he has a discomfort to deal with unlike others. Think of scissors - the larger handle is for four fingers of your right hand and the smaller one is for the thumb. Now imagine a lefty trying to squeeze four fingers into a smaller handle - unnecessarily uncomfortable.

Lefty's - the store for left handers

Margaret Majua founded a unique store in San Franscisco in 2008 called Lefty's. It's a store for left handed people. Over the years, Margaret and her team have been working with developers across a range of products to fill up this unique, innovative store, with everyday items that leftys will find a lot easier to use, as they are designed specifically for them.


Lefty's started off with stationery items then went on to add a host of other products onto their shelves, including kitchen items like vegetable peelers, measuring cups, pancake turners etc. The biggest selling item however continues to be the flagship product - a pen for leftys. It is designed in a way that suits the particular manner in which most left handers grasp pens - it ergonomically fits with their normal ways and thus provides a hugely more comfortable writing experience for left handers.

The store is strategically located in a high tourist traffic area of San Francisco - a city which sees among the highest tourist traffic in the world. All that Margaret and her team bank on is that people who walk by the store step in out of curiosity which then turns into complete amazement when they see an array of products on display, specifically meant for left handers. Now, most of them may not be leftys themselves, but they are so impressed with what they see that they instantly start thinking of who among their friends and relatives are left handers who they can pleasantly surprise with thoughtful gifts. Not surprisingly, gifting is the biggest source of sales for Lefty's.

Margaret says most small developers lack the resources to develop products specifically for left handers and most large companies find this too small and specialised a niche to focus on. That's the gap that she and her team fill. She started product development efforts back in 2008 with USD 100,000 of her own money, and has been constantly putting money into creating more and more innovative products for her chosen niche - the world of left handers.

Insights for financial advisors and distributors

Lefty's should provoke thought among all of us to do some introspection - are there investor segments out there which we are completely ignoring to create specific solutions for? Are there blind spots that can be tapped by niche champions? And, if there are indeed some niches, is it worth your while to understand their unique requirements and tailor specific solutions for them?

Here are a few pointers to help you with your introspection:

  1. Seniors above 75: Senior citizens above 75 have very different requirements compared to the 60-65 year old who most of us have in mind when creating solutions. As mobility becomes restricted, what they value most is a range of doorstep services for all their needs - even beyond their portfolios. Find a way to cater to that and you may just have found yourself a promising niche to grow rapidly with.

  2. Single parents: Might be worth your while to understand closely the world of a single parent and tailor a set of services that appeals to them

  3. Divorcees: Likewise, a segment that ought to be understood better and catered to in a specialised manner

The key is to find a niche that is substantial but has perhaps been overlooked, a niche which has a set of requirements that could be different from mainstream. Do your homework like Lefty's did, think beyond just their portfolios, work with providers who can help you create truly bespoke solutions for them and get onto an innovative growth bandwagon that can take you places.


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