How Naukri Builds Products: Interview with VP of Product, Puneet Verma

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InfoEdge has been running successful products at scale and importantly, given the churn in the audience, the product teams really need to stay agile and keep building for the new audience and their evolving taste.

Here is an AMA we did with Puneet Verma, VP of Product at Naukri on the product management process they follow.

How can anyone make sure that they are diversifying the products along with making sure that it is aligned to the common vision of a company. ?

Organizations usually have core pillars around which they weave their vision and hence product offerings. Once you have solved the core problems which you started with then you tend to jump on the second set of problems. Usually, these problems are not entirely orthogonal to your core product Eg. LinkedIn started with professional networking and then moved towards job opportunities. Similarly, Glassdoor has primary offering as Ratings and Reviews about the organization, and secondary (which perhaps would soon or already has become primary) are job openings.

Puneet Verma AMA
Puneet Verma AMA

Whenever you go for diversification you usually try to leverage the existing offering this helps you in getting a strong runway beforehand. Hence, if one would like to diversify then one should primarily look into extending the core pillars of the vision. Having said that, companies with deep pockets tend to diversify in orthogonal directions as well like Snapdeal and Paytm had done.

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How do you prioritize your product features / roadmap?

Usually the journey starts with settings the directions for next entire fiscal. Multiple factors viz. Areas we want to attack basis current economic condition (like COVID or IT boom or Make in India), Areas where business is willing to invest to achieved next set of growth, Data from existing set of features and consumer journeys on the platform to identify leakages in the funnel, Sales Team input basis what clients are asking for, Interview/Feedback session with users, etc. aid in deciding the directions. We believe that idea can come from anywhere within or outside the organization hence we keep doing brainstorming meetings with internal stakeholders as well. Once all these have been explored then we design our Annual Product Roadmap which then further split into Quarterly ones. Thereafter Tech team come into picture for T-shirt sizing. Once these high level estimates are available then we take the final call on the basis of RoI.

Do you guys follow the Scrum process? What are some of the modifications you have done to the process?

Yes, we do religiously follow SCRUM. While we try and stick to the traditional process however this doesn’t keep us away from experimenting basis observations and team’s input. Most of the modifications are project and circumstances driven viz. during the start of COVID since it was unexpected for everyone hence to pull off a useful product for all impacted jobseekers that too in a quick time we went into a start-up mode and thus a bunker sort of was created to complete the entire project from conceptualization to Go LIVE state in less than a month.

How do you hire product managers? What are the core qualities you look at?

We hire both from campuses and market. From campus perspective we go to Tier 1 B-Schools only while from lateral the condition of Tier-1 B-School gets an extension of relevant work experience as well. Usually we go for people who are engineer turned management professionals and have worked as or at least with developers during their job post engineering. This helps PMs to communicate with developers and even data scientists more effectively. These are just proxies and of course doesn’t guarantee one’s success in a PM role. After this screening, a few most valuable traits that we check are empathy, comfort with data, understanding the right problem from entire gamut of issues, etc.

Do you guys follow the north star metric principles? I mean, Naukri is a big company with many businesses – so each biz unit has its own metric? How does that work?

Indeed, since Infoedge has multiple companies under its umbrella like Naukri, 99acres, Jeevansathi, Shiksha, Naukrigulf, etc. and each of the brand is focusing on a different Domain x TG hence metrics are bound to be different. However, similar to most of the other organizations in the market a few metrics are holy grail and thus being followed well by almost all brands.

Usually, each business track metric which is directly or indirectly related to the revenue. Let’s say for Naukri an important metric is active user base which factors in 3 major set
a) Acquired Users/New registration
b) Engaging existing users
c) Reviving dormant users

Since Naukri has nearly 5% of Indian population registered on it’s platform hence revival of users become equally important as acquiring new ones.

Coming to other metrics which are more around funnel level and essentially explains the health of different levers which eventually help grow active user base hence revenue.

Are the new companies focusing more on Me too features more than implementing new?
For example – the most common features in every product we use are stories, likes, shares, or anything on such. If product A is implementing a feature, Product B will surely be implementing it. Are we trying to create generic products in search of generic features? How can we focus on creating new features and making our customers adapt to them instead of switching to the other platforms which have the me-too features?

Broadly features are originated from one of a few sources including
a) Internal data basis the opportunities or leakages you observe
b) Customer feedback
c) Competitors
d) Innovation

In above, 4 sources D is one of the riskiest yet rewarding, and usually, companies which are in early-stage or mid-stage tend to play conservatively unless they have strong financial and advisory backing.

Usually, the founders I have spoken with or start-ups I have been advising are more inclined to follow a success recipe which is to put some traditionally accepted and supposedly trending features on their platform, at times even without thinking twice that if it would really add value to their platform or if it’s contextual to their audience and solution. The driving factor is FOMO here.

Coming to the last sub-question of your set of questions these days retention is quite difficult especially when you try and retain each and every cohort of users on your platform therefore you need to decide your battles first and then work towards fighting them. Usually, companies become uneasy when they start losing some market share of the set of audience that they don’t want to primarily focus on and then they start building features to retain them. This results in a placebo effect for the companies and thus doesn’t help much in long terms growth and vision.

How do you look at acquiring the new generation audience, given that products like Naukri has been around for many years – and there is an age bias to it.

You rightly said since Naukri has users from various segments and each segment has its own expectations. While few are still comfortable or I’d say habitual of usual job search platform which they have been interacting with for ages and they don’t want to get into learning curve again. On the other hand, we have a new-gen audience that has slightly different expectations.

Being a market leader it is expected from Naukri to have a solution that can serve the needs of both worlds. That’s exactly what we have working on and thus you may have seen and would see some exciting features in near future.