Saran Chatterjee, Flipkart on The Need Of Product Managers


Ask any product manager about his or her job and they will tell you its something along the lines of being - “a mini CEO for a product”. And they aren’t wrong. The job of a product manager entails looking at the big picture, business thinking and decision making, as well as doing things a project manager would do process thinking and attention to details and execution.

Not so long ago, many startups in India didn’t see the requirement of product managers. But thanks to influences from the west and success stories of Indian startups that embraced the concept, now there is a greater demand for product managers in the Indian startup ecosystem.

One of our speakers at eSparks 2013, Saran Chatterjee, VP Products at Flipkart discussed the roles of product managers at length.

Saran spent many years at Yahoo! and shared his learnings from working on successful products and more so, on the products that weren’t very successful. Titled ‘How to make successful products’, Saran’s talk at eSparks 2013 was a project management lesson, derived from various failures and successes that Saran faced through his career as a product manager.

Always solve your user’s problem: The Yahoo! Google case study

Saran joined Yahoo! during the thick of its race to capture the search market against Google. He shared the difference in philosophies between the two companies. While Yahoo! focused on having a functional tool, Google paid equal attention to create a great user experience. A defined search box in a clean page which renders results in a sorted list against a search box within a clutter of ads,

which presents search results in an unstructured form was only going to have one winner among the users. Saran revealed that Yahoo! didn’t foresee how internet would grow in the years to come and today are laggers in the 40 billion dollar search market, which Google dominates.The key learnings from this story were as follows -

  • For any product, users are of paramount importance - every product needs to identify its users.
  • Besides identifying and solving key user problems, it is also important for the product to have long term value.
  • Gut feelings can be misleading. It is important to qualify every business according to product and market.

Market and team

The second part of Saran’s presentation was based on the importance of knowing the market situation. As a manager of financial products at Yahoo! Saran admitted his error of building a product without knowing the market situation. Born on a hunch and a dipstick survey, the product didn’t do very well in the market. He emphasised that launching a project without a defined vision, only born out of gut and no data or market research is suicidal. From this vision, the requirement of a team is born. Saran believes that hiring people should be defined by the requirement to fulfill a vision. While it is important to have specific goals, Saran believes every department in a product team must be aligned to the grand vision of the product for its success.

Saran concluded by admitting that he’s been a part of many products that didn’t work, but that has also led to his success as a product manager.

You can catch up with Saran here.

We at thank E-Sparks Title Sponsor, Microsoft, Financial Technology Partner, Intuit, Associate Sponsors, ReferralCandy and Aramex and Exhibitor, Moolya.