This article is sponsored by Institute of Product Leadership.
“I didn’t know there was something called product leadership,” chuckles Ajay George, who is now a product manager at Satmetrix, a customer experience management company.
After putting in five years in an IT company, he had been looking for a change: either start off on his own or explore a new area that promised more growth and tangible value. He didn’t want to be just another anonymous engineer working for yet another multinational on a seven-figure annual salary; he wanted to grow and do something to challenge himself.
Ajay studied the many available options to pursue to his MBA when he came across an Executive MBA Program in Product Leadership. Intrigued, he explored the course content of various leading business management institutes, spoke to alumni, and then knew for sure that this course would give his career the desired stimulus he was looking for.
He couldn’t have timed it better.
Today, Ajay is one of the many professionals who are part of this shift in the Indian industry, where the focus is transitioning from services to products. A new generation of enterprising professionals from India is keen on owning the product rather than just provide relevant services. Additionally, the market is ripe with opportunities and business potential for creating home-grown products that can scale globally. This newfound interest in product leadership or product management, as it is called, is in fact a big mind-set change in a country where you can’t throw a stone without hitting an engineer!
This video tells you more about what a few professionals felt when they found themselves at the crossroads and why they chose to become product leaders.
Moreover, government programmes such as Make in India, coupled with the easing of regulations to start new businesses, are providing fresh impetus to create, nurture, sustain and arrive on the world product economy map. India is known for its technical talent and its great pool of project managers, and is thus a hub for execution of outsourced projects. “In the past, the IT ecosystem in India thrived on the business model of outsourced services. However, low-cost services don’t offer a sustainable advantage unique to India. That’s why the ecosystem is steadily shifting to building and owning complete products,” explains Rahul Abhyankar, a certified lean startup educator and cofounder of the Institute of Product Leadership.
At a global level too, the world is witnessing an unprecedented pace of innovation – where not only new products and services are being created but also new business models being defined. At the heart of these innovations lies the ability to have a clear understanding of customers, their needs and challenges, and the ability to define the right solutions they are willing to pay for. And, for creating these great products, you need great product managers.
“Product managers play an important role across the entire spectrum of innovation because they execute things well. They are in tune with customer needs and market trends, and they look for opportunities for the business to create and deliver better value than the competition,” Rahul points out, adding:
“A product manager is a cross-functional leader, someone who orchestrates the product, manages key stakeholders and has a vision for the product.”
Inspirational, successful leaders
In today’s business environment, which is characterised by rapid change, it is observed that some of the most successful products or companies have strong product leadership. Such leaders think big, are known for their passion for the product and product experience, and come with great decision-making skills and functional knowledge. They know which is that one idea they must invest in and which one needs to junked. Striving towards perfection, they are constantly searching, brainstorming, critiquing, and shaping product decisions. In short, they are entrepreneurial at heart.
Brahmanand Patil, Managing Director and President, Vector Informatik India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Vector Informatik GmbH, Germany, says, “Having a product manager’s mind-set helps one to gain in-depth understanding of the productising process, even for services and other solutions.” A keen understanding of product leadership helped him get a grasp of product positioning, design thinking and defining the product roadmap for the organisation in his current role at the Vector Informatik, a company that makes products for automotive embedded domain.
Challenging the status quo
India is in a remarkable place right now, slowly gaining the pride of place as the hotbed of innovation. With a talent pool brimming with entrepreneurial energy, Indians are challenging the status quo and creating innovative solutions, building products for the emerging as well as global markets. Homegrown products like Zoho, InMobi, Paytm, all less than a decade old, are now competing with giants like Google and Salesforce. These young companies are being led by people who are no longer satisfied with building something that someone else has defined. Rahul observes, “As the ecosystem shifts from services to products, we’re no longer content with knowing what needs to be built. We want to know why and for whom we are building products. This requires an end-to-end understanding of the product lifecycle: from the customer all the way to the internal stakeholders. This needs a different mind-set and skillset, different attitude and aptitude. This is increasingly what employers - be they startups or MNCs - expect from their employees.”
It was to enable professionals meet these new expectations that Rahul and Pinkesh Shah founded the Institute of Product Leadership, inspiring the likes of Ajay and Brahmanand, who enthuse about how it truly helped steer their careers in new and rewarding directions.
Says Ajay, “Today, in my current role, when the company expects me to work on enabling the product to enter new markets, I know what exactly has to be done. The term ‘new market’ is a very broad statement and it would have seemed to too vague had I not studied product management.”
As for Brahmanand, “Beyond just theoretical knowledge and experiential learning, the course teaches you leadership in practice. It breaks traditional thinking barriers. It connects you to cross-industry professions and mentors who really show you how to position and productise an idea. And you get an understanding of running a company. From organisational planning to intricacies of finance, learning all this gives you confidence to even challenge your own self.”
As India is at the cusp of redefining itself again, the success of this transformation will depend to a large extend of how it is able to develop right products for the right people.