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Reviewed by Anjaneyulu | Updated on Jan 29, 2021



An incumbent is an individual who, within a company or government position, is responsible for a specific office. This person has an obligation to the role or office which he holds. All incumbents of an organization, such as directors and officers, are identified with a certificate of the incumbent.


Incumbent may also refer to the responsibility itself, or the sense of duty that accompanies the fulfilment of a specific task or objective. Likewise, the term incumbent is used to refer to a powerful company with a large market share.

Mostly, the term incumbent is used to describe a person who currently holds a particular position or office. However, it may also refer to the duties that an individual is required to perform or a duty that must be fulfilled. Furthermore, the term incumbent can refer to different business positions and relationships.

Incumbent in Business

In business, incumbent refers to a company or product that is already established with a demonstrated level of success in the market. Also, a company incumbent usually refers to a leader being addressed in the sector. For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone, its first-ever mobile phone, the company was up against incumbents such as Nokia and Motorola, who had already been selling mobile phones successfully for years.

Such an organization may have the largest market share within the industry or may have additional control. Incumbents in an industry can change in relation to market changes. A lazy attitude towards the innovation of incumbents resulting in the emergence of the new-age startups.

An incumbent may also refer to business relationships, such as the relation between a manufacturer that sells products to another company. The supplier currently in use is called the incumbent because of the supplier's partnerships hold the position. If a new supplier decides to take over the duties of the present supplier, the new supplier is a competitor to the incumbent of the existing supplier.

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