Key takeaways: Product Meet-up with Rahul Ganjoo (VP Product, Zomato) hosted by Matrix Partners
Product Meet-up at the Matrix Partners Office in Aria Towers, JW Marriott, Aerocity, Delhi
More than a century ago, Henry Ford said — “Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” — We believe this holds true today more than ever.
Bringing together the brightest of the early stage community is not only a privilege but also an activity that gives us immense happiness and we hope, that we can continue to contribute in bringing people together, in whatever little way we can.
It is in this spirit that we recently hosted a Product Meet-up at our office in Delhi, inviting product folks from across NCR to come and share their experiences, their thoughts and most importantly the questions that pervade their mind — with our guest speaker, Rahul Ganjoo (VP Product @ Zomato) and the consumer team at Matrix Partners — Sanjot Malhi and Nikhil Singh.
This post has been written in an attempt to share some of the key takeaways from that discussion with a larger audience — we hope you find it useful and as always encourage any feedback that you may have.
1.Know what problem you are solving
Take out time very early-on in your journey to figure out ‘what business problem you are solving’. This extends beyond just an understanding of what problem’s plague the sector/sub-sector you are operating in, but instead require you to be able to — very crisply and clearly articulate what value you are adding to the user’s life, how many times/how often you are adding this value and why you’re uniquely positioned to add that value. If you can’t defend why a user should be using your product over the next 10 alternatives, you should be rethinking what you’re building.
2. Knowing customers is under appreciated and over simplified
A great understanding of your customer is critical to the success of your product, but how you understand your customer is even more so. Reading customer feedback and making calls is very different from sitting with you customer, face to face and understanding how they use your product in their context — As Rahul Ganjoo mentioned in his talk, “Even if they say the same thing they would have written on a form or said over a call, the lightbulbs that will go off in your head will be very different when they’re sitting right in front of you”. Put in the effort to get a pulse of the customer — the heavy lifting you do upfront will feed into your product roadmap and strategy and you will reap dividends later.
3. Building a consumer product is a dynamic experience and hence requires discipline
You can sit and make a roadmap for the next 8–12 months, but often you will find yourself having to re-write the whole thing a week later.
Hence it is imperative that you strike a balance between — the flexibility of changing/moving things around and the discipline of having a process. A good process reflects your clarity of thought in the goal you are working towards. As the famous quote goes “Plans are useless but planning is essential” — A strong process will allows you to absorb a lot of the information/feedback that you will receive in your journey and will help you incorporate it into your product. A lack of such a process means you will find yourself getting frustrated every time you receive a new piece of information — no matter how valuable it may be.
4. Build for speed not scale
‘Don’t build for scale— early on, you don’t have traction, you don’t have customers, you don’t even know if it works’— focus on understanding the consumer. In certain sectors like Healthcare, Security, Financial services where the margin for error is low, you have to think about scale but for regular consumer internet businesses, you are trying to psychologically decode the customer and that requires a focus on agility not scale . Optimize for getting the product out there and getting feedback — in fact you don’t even need a product to do it. ‘Lots of consumer electronics company will only make the packaging and place it on the shelf at a Walmart and stand there to see if consumers are drawn to it/buying it’.
5. You have PMF when you don’t have to ask if you have PMF
There are a number of methods available for you to get a sense of PMF such as NPS, C-SAT etc. as well as heuristics floating about such as — ‘If 68% of people say that they cannot live without using your product at the desired frequency’
Product Market Fit
The net of it continues to be — listen to your consumers, listen to what the data is telling you and you will know if you’re moving in the right direction.
6. Think from first principles and make cheap mistakes
First principle thinking is especially powerful while building consumer tech products for it allows you to cut through the noise and tonnes of information/feedback that is thrown at you daily. Your goal should be to learn as quickly and cheaply as you can and then use your intellectual horsepower to think through what needs to be done to achieve your goal.
7. Over-communicate with your product team — always!
8. Even the most scaled up consumer internet products have their blind spots
From his days in Silicon Valley, Rahul Ganjoo gave us some insight into how even the most scaled up and successful products such as Twitter can have it’s blindspots:
New User Experience is still broken: Twitter is still not considered a ‘mainstream product’, primarily due to the on-boarding journey for a new user. The proverbial ‘Aha moment’ tends to happen after investing 3–4 months into the product — building your followership, timeline etc.
Articulation of what it stands for is still weak: Unlike Facebook which has a very clear message about connecting and staying in touch with your friend circle, Twitter still struggles to explain itself — as it stands somewhere between a short-form text based live broadcasting services to a medium of intellectual discourse to a way to rant about your daily life
Failed to localise effectively: Didn’t have a very strong international focus in the initial years
9. Being data-informed can be more powerful than being data-driven
There are two sets of extremes — One, where people are purely data driven and ignore their intuition/natural understanding of the consumer. The other where entire product teams have been driven by the gut instinct of a single individual. The answer lies somewhere in-between — In the mid-2000s when the Apple product team was building the iPhone, every single data point was against a pure touch-based user experience.
Being purely data driven here would have led to Apple discarding the product and us not enjoying one of the most revolutionary products the world has ever seen. In the words of Paul Saffo, ‘strong views weakly held’ — this maxim will serve you well here. It will ensure that you have the discipline of listening to what the data is telling you, but at the same time help you gain conviction around what you’re building.
10. Some key observations which hold true across consumer tech companies in India
When you talk to Indian consumers in their context, in their homes — a lot of things that you knew theoretically will become real and hence there is value in doing that. As Rahul Ganjoo spoke about his experience with Indian E-Commerce — “When we spoke to Tier 2 and Tier 3 consumers, buying a phone for them was a lot more than just buying a phone — it was upgrading their lifestyle, they would get excited about when it would come, how it would be packaged and how this purchase would translate into access to a better life overall”
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Sanjot Malhi and Nikhil Singh are a part of the investment team at Matrix Partners with a focus on consumer investing (Marketplaces, E-Commerce, Private Labels, FMCG, Social, Media, Gaming etc.), and are actively looking to engage with great founders from across the country. Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
About Matrix Partners India
Matrix Partners India is an investment firm with INR 4,500 crore under management. The firm invests in companies targeting the Indian consumer and enterprise market at the seed, early and early growth stages. Matrix India has invested in several market leading companies such as Ola, Quikr , Practo , Dailyhunt , Treebo , Mswipe , Five Star Finance, Razorpay, OfBusiness, and Limeroad among others. Matrix Partners has a global network of funds investing in the US, China and India with US $4 billion under management. Further information is available at www.matrixpartners.in
Please Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Matrix Partner.