If you’re a product startup, you’ll agree that narrowing down on your product roadmap, and trying to find that perfect product-market fit are things that will be extremely critical in the early days of your startup.
True to the lean approach, you’re most likely to focus on getting out of the building, and keep testing your hypotheses to ensure that your product roadmap reflects the value proposition you aim to offer your customers.
We’ve recently gone through the same journey and wanted to share insights on how we validated, changed and in some cases dumped our assumptions, to adapt our approach based on what the customers were telling us:
People would pay us to help them be more efficient
While in theory this one was a no brainer, and even our customers agreed that there were several opportunities where technology could help automate their current processes and be more efficient…what we soon realised was, that with technology, came transparency, traceability, and accountability. And this is not something our customers were ready to sign up for just yet. The markets that we currently operate in are fairly unorganized and there’s a huge amount of money that changes hands, where the colour is not always green (if you know what I mean).
Result: We now better understand our boundaries, and do not intend to make a tool whose success depends on a market reality that we cannot influence.
Come on, this is India, you can’t go wrong by developing first on Android
Based on various reports, and a general sense of the market we thought we can’t go wrong by starting development on Android, and later expand to other platforms. To a certain extent it was the right call. However, as we penetrated deeper into certain markets, we realised that iOS ruled the roost. Around 70% of our customers who had an iOS device, and gave an Android device to their employees. It was more of a status symbol, than anything else. So much so that, one guy used a simple CDMA phone to talk, but an iPhone 5S bought from the grey market at Rs. 1.5lakh just for WhatsApp.
Result: We’re now accelerating our iOS development, and should be live on it soon.
Indians are more “Do It For Me” vs. “Do It Yourself”
We thought, look here’s a guy who doesn’t have time to try new stuff, and would mostly prefer if we did things for him. So we started out by offering our customers’ complementary services, hoping it’ll minimize the inertia to come onboard. Boy, did we not get a reality check on this one. On an average our target customers are hounded by at least 5 guys a week, who promised them an online presence, free listings, dreams of getting new business etc. with hardly any differentiation.
We quickly learned that our customers did not like too much dependency on 3rd party vendors, are tired of calling up customer service teams to even make minor changes, and have given up on keeping their B2B listings updated. They preferred to have control with the ability to make changes when they want, where they want and how they want it…and all this directly from their mobile.
Result: We’re rolling out features that take us out of the equation, and let the customer take control of their digital presence.
It’ll be difficult to beat WhatsApp, as it’s “Perfect” in all sense
From the day we started NextGenCatalogs, we knew that our direct competition was not a company who helps create online catalogs, or someone who creates websites by sending SMSes, or large B2B listing services…it was WhatsApp.
After spending days in local markets, we realised the extent to which WhatsApp is entrenched into the daily lives of these businessmen. Some people estimate that, 80% of trade in the garments industry is via WhatsApp. People have found their own unique ways of using it…some use it to share product pics, some for order management, some for delivery confirmations, and some for negotiating prices across multiple suppliers.
So, while WhatsApp is a fantastic communication tool, it was only after talking to our customers, we realised that it posed some inherent risks to their businesses. The following customer comments, would tell you how eagerly these people are waiting for something that combines the power of WhatsApp along with the ability to apply their business rules…
- “When I send an exclusive product pic to a buyer, I can be assured that within an hour that pic has travelled (being forwarded to) the entire city, and come back to me…”
- “Buyers today ask for product pics, only to send it to other sellers, and before you know it, my competitors have manufactured the same design, at a lower cost, lower quality, faster time, and unfortunately, I can’t do much…”
- “Let’s say I send around 10 new product pics every day to my existing customer. We spend most time figuring out which pic we’re talking about. If the discussions spans a few days, invariably there’ll be unwanted forward message between these serious discussions, making it all extremely difficult to manage…”
Result: We’re continuously learning, innovating and creating a differentiation in the market. We’re excited by the opportunity in front us, to combine the power of our enterprise grade messaging platform with the ability to apply business specific rules. Our journey to build NextGenCatalogs as the de facto communication platform between manufacturers, distributors and retailers has just begun!!
Do you relate to any of these at your startup? Have an assumption that got thrashed for good? Do share your feedback and insights in the comments.
[About the author: Vikram Parekh is a Director at IIT-B alumni founded startup WireddIn Interactive, the company behind NextGenCatalogs, a B2B mobile platform where product manufacturers and distributors can create product catalogs, integrate them with their customers’ phonebook, and have product centric conversations.]