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Being obsessed with your customer can lead to great things - Sanket Atal of Intuit India

Team YS
6th Oct 2018
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Be obsessed with your customer. Really try to understand the problem you're trying to solve. Be obsessed with the problem, and not the solution. Solutions might change while the problem is the fundamental thing you're trying to address. And as you're addressing the problem, do it in a manner to delight the customer.”

This is what has made Intuit tick for the last 35 years, said Sanket Atal, Vice-President and Managing Director of Intuit India. Sanket was talking on ‘Powering Prosperity, One Customer at a Time’ at TechSparks 2018.

He spoke about two fundamental concepts that are helping the leading accounting software company in its mission to power prosperity around the world: CDI (customer-driven innovation) and D for D (design for delight).

When the problem is not actually the problem

He went on to explain how customer-driven innovation works through a well-known example. When astronauts wanted a pen with which they could write in space, people spent time and money trying to design a pen that could be used upside down. The solution, however, was simpler - they could have just used a pencil.

These people were solving the wrong problem. So, first understand the problem deeply. Sometimes what the customer says is the problem is not the actual problem. You have to truly understand the situation, go behind it and figure out the crux of the entire situation. Also, equally important is to understand yourself as a company and whether the solution to the problem you're trying to solve lies within your core competence. Next, you’ll need to evaluate whether the solution will give you a competitive advantage. The intersection of these three areas can guarantee success,” said Sanket.

An open mind can open doors

Apart from being customer-obsessed, Sanket also spoke about the need to empathise with the customer and understand their situation by looking at all aspects of how they run the business. Then he advocates coming up with solutions that “break out of the box”.

“Don't put any guardrail on your thought processes. You have to think big, think crazy -- that's when great things happen. Keep an open mind and you can come up with great solutions with which you are able to actually help the customer.”

The next step, according to him, is to whittle down the probable solutions. “Once you have narrowed down the solution space, do your best to solve the problem like nobody else can. Implement a solution, work with the customer, experiment on it and refine it. Do it over and over again until it's the best.”

It’s this relentless combination of CDI and D for D that is the special sauce that Intuit has, and the secret behind the company’s resilience, said Sanket.

Powering prosperity by nurturing startups

On the occasion, he announced that Intuit was about to launch a programme to work with startups. “Most startups, almost 90 percent, fail within three years of founding. Everybody starts off with a great idea but the fundamentals are what determine the success of a company and not just the product.” A majority of these failures are related to how these startups manage their finances.

Intuit’s goal is to help startups with the best and easy to use solution that will help them take care of their finances in a structured manner while at the same time being able to focus on their core competency. “This way, the chances of success go up exponentially, and if you don't do that you're heading for disaster.”

Sanket said the details of the programme would be available in a few days and added that it was absolutely in tune with their goal to power global prosperity.


YourStory's annual extravaganza TechSparks brings together the best and the brightest from the startup ecosystem, corporate world, policymakers and, of course, the investor community. Over the years, it has grown to become India's most loved tech and startup platform for knowledge sharing and networking. The ninth edition of TechSparks also marks YourStory's 10th anniversary. A big thank you for all your support over the years and keep reading and watching YourStory.


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