The business of impatience

Sandeep Das
7 min readDec 21, 2020
Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash

Multiple billion dollar industries have been built and sustained on a very common human trait — “impatience”. Think Uber. Think the concept of “fast fashion”. Think Deliveroo, DoorDash and GoJek. Think any form of on-demand service. All of these companies and the industries they created are driven by the impatience towards traditional industry structures.

As “on-demand” becomes the industry lingo for anything that is made available when a consumer wants it, the nature of our impatience is evolving. In a 2019 study conducted in the US by US Foods, the average acceptable waiting time for a meal to be delivered was 40 minutes. In a similar study reported by McKinsey in 2016, the optimal waiting time was 60 minutes. In a space of 4 years, the impatience factor reduced the optimal waiting time by 20 minutes for food delivery. Although the studies are not exactly comparable, but the trend of a declining optimal waiting time points towards how the dynamics of “impatience” are changing.

When Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp couldn’t get a taxi on a cold winter evening in Paris in 2008, the idea of Uber was born. The problem was unavailability, the emotion was impatience and the circumstances were trying. The very first companies who built successful businesses on the back of impatience were fulfilling an unavailability gap.

The same can be said about the concept of “fast fashion”. Before today, high-end fashion was a notoriously capital-intensive, bureaucratic and slow industry. The industry’s fortunes were driven by the collection of clothes that came out of designer’s heads and hit the runways four time a year — Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. From the runway to the shops / boutiques, the journey was agonisingly slow (potentially driven by the need to remain exclusive). When Amancio Ortega founded ZARA in 1963, he aimed to turn this “impatience” around the availability of high-end fashion trends into a massive business opportunity. This continues to this day, with the likes of Benetton, H&M, Primark, Peacock and now the embattled Topshop making fast fashion a multibillion dollar industry.

This article (below) nicely encapsulates how impatience has transformed the retail banking industry, and is driving the emergence of neo-banks:

Sandeep Das