monopoly-examples

Monopoly Examples In A Nutshell

A monopoly is a market structure characterized by the presence of a single, dominant individual or enterprise that is the sole supplier of a product or service. Monopolies are associated with a lack of competition and an absence of viable product substitutes. As a consequence, the company can sell products and services at prices that result in substantial profits. 

These market conditions can arise by themselves or be instituted by the government to build infrastructure or encourage economic growth. Vertical integration can also encourage a monopoly to form. In short, this occurs when the supply chain of a company is integrated with and owned by that company.

Not all monopolies are illegal, with many businesses cornering the market simply because they offer a superior product. A firm will only attract the attention of regulators if it attained monopoly status via predatory or exclusionary conduct.

With that said, let’s take look at some of the many historic and modern monopoly examples.

Standard Oil

Standard Oil was an American producer, transporter, and refiner of oil founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1870. 

Rockefeller used a variety of tactics to purchase as many competitor refineries as he could and entered into secret deals with railroad companies to reduce shipping costs. These efforts resulted in Standard Oil controlling 90% of the oil refining market in the United States after little more than a decade in operation.

Standard Oil’s rise to prominence made it the first great industrial company in the world to become a monopoly. However, it was ultimately sued by the U.S. Justice Department in 1909 under antitrust laws and was ordered to break up into 34 independent entities two years later.

De Beers Group

De Beers Group is a corporation that specializes in the mining and trading of diamonds. It is also a manufacturer of diamonds for industrial purposes. It was founded by British politician and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes in 1888.

The company had a monopoly in the diamond trade for almost 100 years before excess supply from Australian, Canadian, and Russian mines increased competition. From a peak of around  85%, De Beers is now the second-largest distributor at a more meager 30%.

Luxottica 

vertically-integrated-business-model

Luxottica, formally Luxottica Group PIVA, is a vertically-integrated Italian eyewear manufacturer and designer that was founded by Leonard Del Vecchio in 1961.

Luxottica merged with French optics company Essilor in January 2017, with the resultant entity from the $50 billion deal controlling more than 25% of global eyewear sales

Brands under the Luxottica banner include Ray-Ban, Armani Exchange, Chanel, Versace, Prada, and Ralph Lauren. The company also owns multiple insurance companies and related optical departments at department stores such as Target and Sears. It has been criticized for monopolistic practices with price markups approaching 1000%.

vertical-integration
In business, vertical integration means a whole supply chain of the company is controlled and owned by the organization. Thus, making it possible to control each step through customers. in the digital world, vertical integration happens when a company can control the primary access points to acquire data from consumers.

YKK

The YKK Group is a Japanese conglomerate founded by Tadao Yoshida in 1934. 

The group is the world’s largest manufacturer of zippers, which are used in products such as dresses, jeans, jackets, camping equipment, and boating equipment.

After the Second World War, the conglomerate purchased an automated zipper manufacturing machine from the United States. Over time, it continued to innovate and took steps to control every aspect of the manufacturing process itself. In a 1998 Los Angeles Times article, it was explained that The YKK Group “smelts its own brass, concocts its own polyester, weaves and color-dyes cloth for its zipper tapes…” and so forth.

Despite the presence of hundreds of cheaper Chinese manufacturers, YKK produces around 50% of all zippers sold globally. This equates to about 7 billion units.

Saudi Aramco

Saudi Aramco is a petroleum and natural gas company founded in 1933 and is the operator of the world’s most extensive hydrocarbon network. The company also owns the largest onshore and offshore oil fields in addition to a colossal natural gas reserve.

Saudi Aramco has a monopoly on oil production in Saudi Arabia and the company is also a significant exporter of the commodity. Having said that, the company’s dominant presence in the oil industry has been eroded to some extent by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift toward renewable energy sources.

Key takeaways:

  • A monopoly is a market structure characterized by the presence of a single, dominant individual or enterprise that is the sole supplier of a product or service.
  • Standard Oil was the world’s first great industrial monopoly, at one point controlling 90% of the oil market in the United States. De Beers Group had a similar stranglehold on diamonds for almost a century before excess supply reduced its market share.
  • Luxottica is an Italian vertically-integrated eyewear brand that controls more than a quarter of global eyewear sales. The YKK Group and Saudi Aramco have monopolies in fossil fuel production and zipper sales respectively.

Connected Business Concepts

Economies of Scale

economies-of-scale
In Economics, Economies of Scale is a theory for which, as companies grow, they gain cost advantages. More precisely, companies manage to benefit from these cost advantages as they grow, due to increased efficiency in production. Thus, as companies scale and increase production, a subsequent decrease in the costs associated with it will help the organization scale further.

Diseconomies of Scale

diseconomies-of-scale
In Economics, a Diseconomy of Scale happens when a company has grown so large that its costs per unit will start to increase. Thus, losing the benefits of scale. That can happen due to several factors arising as a company scales. From coordination issues to management inefficiencies and lack of proper communication flows.

Network Effects

negative-network-effects
In a negative network effect as the network grows in usage or scale, the value of the platform might shrink. In platform business models network effects help the platform become more valuable for the next user joining. In negative network effects (congestion or pollution) reduce the value of the platform for the next user joining. 

Negative Network Effects

negative-network-effects
In a negative network effect as the network grows in usage or scale, the value of the platform might shrink. In platform business models network effects help the platform become more valuable for the next user joining. In negative network effects (congestion or pollution) reduce the value of the platform for the next user joining. 

Creative Destruction

creative-destruction
Creative destruction was first described by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942, who suggested that capital was never stationary and constantly evolving. To describe this process, Schumpeter defined creative destruction as the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Therefore, creative destruction is the replacing of long-standing practices or procedures with more innovative, disruptive practices in capitalist markets.

Happiness Economics

happiness-economics
Happiness economics seeks to relate economic decisions to wider measures of individual welfare than traditional measures which focus on income and wealth. Happiness economics, therefore, is the formal study of the relationship between individual satisfaction, employment, and wealth.

Command Economy

command-economy
In a command economy, the government controls the economy through various commands, laws, and national goals which are used to coordinate complex social and economic systems. In other words, a social or political hierarchy determines what is produced, how it is produced, and how it is distributed. Therefore, the command economy is one in which the government controls all major aspects of the economy and economic production.

Animal Spirits

animal-spirits
The term “animal spirits” is derived from the Latin spiritus animalis, loosely translated as “the breath that awakens the human mind”. As far back as 300 B.C., animal spirits were used to explain psychological phenomena such as hysterias and manias. Animal spirits also appeared in literature where they exemplified qualities such as exuberance, gaiety, and courage.  Thus, the term “animal spirits” is used to describe how people arrive at financial decisions during periods of economic stress or uncertainty.

State Capitalism

state-capitalism
State capitalism is an economic system where business and commercial activity is controlled by the state through state-owned enterprises. In a state capitalist environment, the government is the principal actor. It takes an active role in the formation, regulation, and subsidization of businesses to divert capital to state-appointed bureaucrats. In effect, the government uses capital to further its political ambitions or strengthen its leverage on the international stage.

Boom And Bust Cycle

boom-and-bust-cycle
The boom and bust cycle describes the alternating periods of economic growth and decline common in many capitalist economies. The boom and bust cycle is a phrase used to describe the fluctuations in an economy in which there is persistent expansion and contraction. Expansion is associated with prosperity, while the contraction is associated with either a recession or a depression.

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