Building a ‘great’ product from India
Let me first explain what I mean when I say ‘great’ products. These are the products that you as a consumer or as a business, love. They solve your everyday problems in a way that they become indispensable. They focus on you and your problems, and with their design, simplicity, and seamless flow, create that aha! moment by exceeding your expectations. Creators of such products ensure that using them is less of a task, and more a memorable experience.
Some widely known such examples are products like Apple, Google, WhatsApp, Uber, AirBnB, Medium, et al, which not only simplify daily tasks but also have hooks to pull people back (as described in Nir Ryal’s Hooked ATARI model). These products have accruing benefits and mounting losses for the user. However, enough has been written and discussed about What makes a product great. I would now move on to the question at hand.
An interesting thing, that I found common among all these products, is that very few were created in India.
India has the best of minds, the best designers, the best engineers, the best product managers, still we are not able to produce great products and the same people, go abroad and work in teams there to create these brilliant products. What is happening differently, What are we missing ?
I will break the article down in two parts. Part 1 will focus on identifying the problem, collating thoughts of other people, and Part 2 will focus on how we will be building a great product using our existing leverages and keeping all the problems discussed in Part 1 in mind.
Part 1: Identifying the problem
Understanding this issue would require multiple perspectives. The viewpoint taken below is that of a product owner or of a founder. As a product owner, I have found the following challenges while creating a great product, which in no way are exhaustive.
So, why are we not able to create such products from India ?
1. Moving Vision
I don’t need to emphasize enough on how much important knowing your vision and mission is. Founders most of the times don’t know what they stand for, and even when they know, that vision keeps on changing every three months.
The products that are created, are the extension of the founders. The clarity, the focus, is translated in the product. So if you, as a founder are confused and not sure why you are building what you are building, high chances are that the same will be reflected in your product as well.
On the other hand, if you have clear goals, the simplicity appears in the product being designed as well.
2. Jugaad Innovation
We, in India, are all about jugaad innovation ( a word taken from Hindi which captures the meaning of finding a low-cost solution to any problem in an intelligent way) and while the whole world is praising India for this.. what we have done unknowingly to achieve this low cost optimization, is stripped off the products from some essential elements as well.
We need to understand the difference between creating products in minimal cost and spending wisely on the product to not compromise on quality.
Example: We, and I mean majority of people in startups still think of design and UX, as beautifying the website, as an additional cost. As long as the users are able to complete the core business flows, like buy from the website/ app, we don’t care. Task completion is all we design around. User experience, User emotions are not at all a business priority.
At the end of the day, remember, teams who will make a difference, are the ones who really care for their user.
And if you want to build a skyscraper, the tallest in the world, you will have to invest in the foundation, the base. You cannot create a cheap jugaad base and think of creating a 1000 story tall building. Jugaad base will make the building just crumble and fall.
You should know and understand where you can do the jugaad and where you can’t.
3. Quality Standards
Our standards of quality in terms of people and products are nowhere comparable to global standards. We are fine with good. We are fine with mediocre.
Sometime back I had written an article on similar topic why you should never hire a ‘good’ product owner emphasizing on the issues with mediocrity.
As long as we are good with good, we would never be great.
This needs to change.To create globally best products, we need to set global benchmarks, global quality standards.
4. Business first vs Customer first
Hiring talent is a huge issue. Great talent is rare and is either working with big companies or running their own startup. This mentality of ‘being your own boss’ is not helping anyone and this is wrong on multiple levels.
People forget that you are always working for someone. Even as a founder of your own company, you are working for your customers, and are answerable to your investors. If you are trying to be your own boss and not working for, not caring for your customers, you are anyway doomed to fail.
The other challenge is that in conditions of limited great talent, companies hire average people, and that is where the downward spiral begins.A people hire A* people but B people hire C people. If you hire few B people, your company eventually will be full of B, C and D people. That is where the culture, the product and the company goes for a toss. When you work with great people, the cumulative output is much greater than the sum. You will realize it only when you work with a great team.
To Summarize, following are some of the things we need to keep in mind to create brilliant products
→ Have a Strong Company Vision
→ Have a clear value proposition — Do 1 thing but do that really well
→ Really Really care for your Customer
→ Don’t settle with good, Strive for great
→ Work with brilliant people
This article has been written from a single perspective, and is in no way trying to focus on the flaws of the industry in current times. It is just an emphasis on issues I feel strongly about, and I wish to collate similar information from multiple stakeholders, like, users, marketing managers, business development managers, operation leads, product owners, product managers, founders, students, and subject enthusiasts.As only when, we realize that there is some problem and identify those problems, will we be able to improve.Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Part 2 of this article will be posted in a month, post I collate all the thoughts from people.
On a separate note, we also are on a quest, a journey of building a great product from India and like I have mentioned, great product cannot be made without great people.
We at TravelTriangle are trying to solve for holidays. This concept is so complicated and has so many moving components like cities, hotels, Itineraries, cabs, activities. How do you show it to the user so that he understands the package and can take a call without any confusion, is still a huge problem and not solved anywhere, globally.
Like google is for search, our mission is to create great products that TravelTriangle becomes synonymous to Holidays.
“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” ― Ellen Johnson
If you are a designer, developer, product manager on a similar mission, similar dream of building a great, world class product, or if travel domain interests you, and would want to be a part of this mission, I would love to hear from you.
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