Business Lessons from American Gangster

I've planned to write something about the film "American Gangster," starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, since I watched it last month. The film is set in the 1960's and it is about the rise and fall of an American drug dealer.

Apart from enjoying the film for its artistic and creative merits, I've learned to appreciate and pick up a few business insights that aren't too different from what I've been learning in the MBA program. People have picked up business lessons from movies like "The Godfather," (Here's one and here's another) so here's my take on Business Lessons from American Gangster (there are some spoilers though):
  • Master the supply chain - In the movie, drug dealer Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) was able dominate the Harlem drug market by finding the right supplier and finding the right means to get the goods to the market. Lucas traveled to Asia and found quality contraband and used U.S. military planes to hoodwink U.S Customs in getting his products to the market. His strategy was to make his supply chain as lean as possible.
  • Brand matters - Speaking of products, Lucas branded his drugs "Blue Magic," and it was about ten times the quality and purity of the normal heroin being peddled on the market for half the price. He effectively differentiated his products from the pack and became the preferred "hit" for the junkies. To the customers, Blue Magic meant unparalleled value for money. The success of the brand even prompted competitors to infringe on the "trademark."
  • Manage risks - What ultimately led to Lucas' business downfall was the end of the Vietnam War as the military planes were grounded and his strained relationship from his government (police) backers. I guess every business deals with government and externalities, so risk mitigation and a sound exit strategy are musts. Had Lucas been able to create a alternative distribution links and played the government's game, he would have been able to create a sustainable enterprise.
If you ask me, there's more to pick up from American Gangster and I'll leave that to you to find out. :)


Anonymous said…
Interesting, ha. I never thought of analyzing the business concepts behind this movie. I thought it was marginally overrated actually. Yourself?

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