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Product Thinking: A Mind-set Change & Need of the hour

This is not funny. But so far my observation goes in rapidly changing transient Indian IT Ecosystem, especially when India is moving from typical Technology Project Outsourcing/Delivery Model to Product Development Model, it is high time we start developing Product Thinking.

I would like to put forward few key aspects which are absolutely missing in majority of start-ups here. The purpose is not to criticize such ventures, but to make us aware that we do build successful products from India in coming days. Also, at the end of the day, it is a huge burnout for founders, entrepreneurs & whole IT ecosystem. Together we can definitely, eliminate the waste which few such start-ups are creating unknowingly. We can save the effort & resources, utilize it in an efficient & effective way.

For most of Technology Start-ups which are born within a year or few years back, few key commonalities are observed when we interact with the respective members from such organizations:

  • Top 5 reasons why are we building it : There is absolutely no clue what the end goal is.
  • What is the name of your product? : We are yet to name it.
  • Who are your customers? : We are yet to start a demo.
  • What is your customer’s feedback? : We have already spent 10 or 20 months, including X no of Dev & QA engineers effort & all our members have decade or two long decades of experience including abroad. These are the guys who have run multi-million dollar projects & based on our brainstorming session, we have built it.
  • In case product Demo is already conducted: So what is the feedback? Are they going to use it? : They liked it. They have appreciated us.
  • What is next after that? : They would like to go ahead with it later. Or they have some requirements, which we have to add/change/delete & re-build it in next 3/6 Months.
  • Are they ready to put for pilot on trial basis or free of cost for a month? : The answer is not known.
  • What are your future product plan, at least for next 2 quarters or 1 year? : We have built almost 35 features & as we get customers we would be happy to add new features.
  • What is the price of your product? Is this licensed based/subscription based or 1 time full & final payment?: We will see to it.
  • Who else have built the same or similar product? : The answer is either we don’t know. Or for others, the answer is “Others who have built but there are only 5 features, we have 35”.
  • What is the plan to brand the product? : Well I have got an astonishing answer once saying “Our employees would built the brand”. In other cases, the answer is still not known.
  • What are your sales method? : We are going to have 2 sales guy on commission basis initially & later we would add the sales workforce.
  • Are you targeting only India market or globally? : We will start with India & if it works then explore overseas. That is the most common answer.
  • How is your product different than others? : Well, we are giving at half price that of others & we have free maintenance for 1/2 years (Such answer is not prevalent, but off course present).
  • For the start-ups which are already in market since 3 or 4 or similar no of years: What kind of challenges do you face? : We have to change the UI & workflow almost once in a year, sometimes more than once in a year. Customer does not know & does not have clarity on the usage/technology in India.

  • Well, those were just few. The space might not be adequate to pen down my observation. At times, it is painful that, we are not only unaware, but also clueless about how we have to move ahead from a typical project driven industry to product driven mind-set. Neither this space is adequate enough to provide a magical tough to such ventures. But the need of the hour is we have to gradually shift our mind-set keeping few aspects in mind:

  • Behind every product there is at least one problem or there can be a list of problems.
  • Every product must have a name. We cannot have an anonymous product.
  • Before we build a product we must know our customers, spend hours with them & get to know what they need & what they want.
  • It is good to go only by gut feelings of experienced team members, but there is high risk of failure. Adopt a systematic, risk free approach & avoid re-engineering effort to rebuild the features.
  • Please remember, even if they have liked it or gave a positive signal to build something, there is no guarantee that they would buy it.
  • A product resolves a problem & problems are ongoing. Let us make sure, we address them gradually over a period of time & we have a product plan in place.
  • Let us take one or two basic features to our target customers, spend time with them, design & implement coming features based on priority.
  • Unlike project requirements, product requirements are very different. Don’t add what your customers ask for. Reject that if it does not align with the vision of the product.
  • Derive the pricing before you build it. At least have an approximate figure decided. We can alter/change it on need basis.
  • Let us study our competitor before we build something. At least know what are they building & why are they building it. It is not necessary that we would built all they have built.
  • Branding is equally important as planning, roadmap development. Make sure we have an expert with us.
  • Managing sales workforce is a challenge for early stage start-ups, but knowing the sales mechanism is important. In most of the cases, it follows once we have a heavy product built up.
  • Have a clear segment of customer profile in our mind before developing it. If we don’t have that now, we have nothing left for future.
  • If pricing is the only differentiation, we cannot have long lasting future. Tomorrow others would follow our path & we would have to make an exit.
  • If we have to re-design the workflow, probably we have failed to prioritize the problems.

  • P.S.: Any resemblance to any company or product (existing or out of business) is purely coincidental. The suggestions provided are purely based on my experience & learning. There can be much more beyond these points mentioned.