Archive for the 'General' Category

Demystifying consumer hardware product development

While there is a great deal of excitement generated by new consumer products – smart glasses, activity trackers, smart watches, arm bands and companies that make them – jawbone, google, square, leap motion, etc, entrepreneurs and investors still are shy of venturing into the space. There are some common misconceptions but I won’t get into that right now. What I wanted to show is a 30 part series that engineers, product managers, manufacturing, marketing and servicing teams in my company have created to show how consumer products are designed and developed from scratch. Hardware product design is influenced by not just user experience requirements, but also by industrial and mechanical design considerations, electronics design, test requirements for mass production, and manufacturing processes. I have personally learnt a lot in the last few years and I hope you find these short videos useful. They are not thorough tutorials or anything of that sort but they show all aspects of building products from scratch end to end. I also do not want to spam readers of this blog every day, so I will add videos in this post itself. You can also follow us on facebook and twitter or post a question here if you have one.

Content Marketing for SME’s

A Smart Marketer knows that Traditional Marketing no longer holds sway – Today is the Era of Digital and Content Marketing – Developing Relevant and Engaging Content for your Target Audience to drive a Profitable Customer Action(On Web and Mobil).

If Content is King , Digital Marketing is Crown. Digital Marketing Strategies are closely connected with Content and Consultants with experience in Online Advertising , Social Media Marketing , Search Engine Optimization optimizes Digital Media with Right Content to Deliver Tangible and measured Results.

As an SME (Small Medium Enterprise) , you have to figure out how the content developed by you gets engaged with the customer. You have to think like a Publisher , Media and work on great story telling.

First and foremost think about what customers you are targeting and what are their pain points your product/service is addressing.Based on that you should start engaging with them on different social sites. Facebook , twitter , pintrest etc.

Content would need to have following components depending on your product/service and make it part of Marketing strategy.

Blog Articles
Data sheets/Factsheets
Brochures
Leaflets / Flyers etc
Electronic Data Mailers (EDM’s)
Video Scripts

Content Development is an Art and engaging with customer is need of the hour. As there is lot of content available on Web , how you differentiate is by doing SEO , Keywords and engaging with the Right audience and make that specific to their Pain Points.

Thanks
Virendra Sarna

Contact :::
virensarna@gmail.com

What is the role of a Product Manager?

When hiring, I have quite often seen people confusing the Product Manager’s role with that of a Product Development Manager. These are two distinctly different roles and it is important to clearly understand these roles to avoid confusion and heartburn.

The product manager is the owner of the product and plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between the product and customer needs. His role includes:

Identifying Customer Needs: Understand the existing processes, pain points and the reasons, what it is costing the customer and what would help to establish that customer delight in terms of measurable business benefits.

Translating needs into product functionalities: Work with the development team to help them understand the functional processes and features that would help to address the pain points and establish business benefits.

Testing: Conducting product POC’s and customer trials to help fine tune the product and make it more customer- relevant

Marketing: Developing the customer conviction stories and enumerating the business benefits. These would include product presentations, white papers, case studies etc. to help sales.

Product Pricing: Understand what the customer would be willing to pay, with first understanding the business benefits that the customer would derive from the product and convert these into measurable financial metrics and thereby build the ROI. It is only ROI that would help to determine what the customer would be willing to pay.

Competitive Analysis: Understanding competitive products and help build the competitive barriers. 

Building the product road-map: Constantly interacting with customers to gauge product experience and track changes in requirements to help product development team to manifest the changes in time and stay ahead of the curve.

The Product Development Manager manifests the product definitions into a set of functional features. This person will work very closely with the Product Manager in the development and evolution of the product through its entire life cycle.

Being a crucial role in a product company, the product manager should ideally have deep domain knowledge and a feel for customer’s business processes.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on helping start-ups to grow. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . Please visit www.nodiva.co.in for more information.

The 5 P’s of great presentations

A quick cheat sheet for you to start making great presentations now.

Plan: For both the audience size as well as their expectations. Pitching your idea to a set of 5 investors is completely different from getting 500 people to vote for your start-up in a large competition. Do your homework to make sure that your intended audience is deriving value from what you have to say.

Attention is the commodity that’s in shortest supply in today’s twitter enabled word. Make sure that you are constantly exchanging value for the audience’s time.

Tip: Start strong, have a solid middle & a memorable ending. If movies can do this for 2 hours, you can do it for 20 minutes.

 

Plain: Too often, people get carried away with using Powerpoint’s features. Remember that any software is just a tool. Simplicity is also the ultimate sophistication. The real impact of a presentation is what the speaker is saying, how they say it & most importantly, what the audience understands.

Tip: Ensure that you follow the 30-20-10 rule. 30 point text in your slide, 20 minutes for the entire presentation & not more than 10 slides. This forces you to use graphics on the slide, keep it short & more importantly – your audience is now listening to what you have to say, not reading (faster than you) from your own slides.

 

Practice: The default behavior for most presenters is to put their thoughts down on a slide & then land up on D-day & throw up content on an unsuspecting audience. The difference between good & great presentations is practice. Think of a presentation like stand up comedy. What looks effortless & spontaneous on stage is actually the result of studied practice & timing.

Tip: For every minute of presentation run time, you should ideally put down 10 minutes of practice. In front of the mirror, with helpless friends & a mock run at the actual venue before the audience arrives are great iterative options.

 

Pause: Since public speaking is ranked second in most surveys as the thing that people fear most (Death being first), some butterflies in your stomach are par for the course before going on stage. A quick sip of water & a few deep breaths should take care of most palpitations. Thinking of the audience as a group of friends that are keen to hear what you have to say helps too.

Tip: Pick a few friendly faces (even if you have to look really hard) spread through out the audience before you get on stage. Keep maintaining eye contact between them by turns. Helps you smile plus the majority of the audience thinks you are looking at them.

 

Passion: After all the preparation in the world, truly great speakers love the idea or concept that they are trying to communicate. If you are passionate about what your are saying, it will shine through. No technique or shortcut can make this up for you.

Tip: Don’t confuse passion with emotion. Being angry is not the same thing as being involved.

 

V C Karthic is an entrepreneur (whose latest crazy idea is this) based out of Mumbai. He works with start-ups & incubators across the country on their presentation & pitching skills. This article appeared earlier in the year in the SINE (IIT-Mumbai) newsletter.

When should a start-up go to an investor?

The unfortunate fact is that though being in the business of risk investments, most VC’s and Angel investors in India are highly risk-averse. This is why start-ups in India struggle to get off the ground. Past experience has made investors extremely careful with their investment decisions and despite such extreme caution still end up with a dismal success rate of less than 20%. So I guess that makes them even more cautious.

So what will make an investor take that leap of faith with your venture? Put yourself in the shoes of the investor and critically appraise your venture and decide if you will invest money in the venture. It would help to give you a different perspective and help you plan accordingly.

So when do you know you are ready for investments?

Any investor will want to know if your venture will help him get good returns and in how much time. To be able to give some reasonable answers to these reasonable questions, the venture should be able to clearly demonstrate its ability to help the investor take a considered decision. For example:

  1. Is your target segment large enough to ensure sustainable business growth over the next 3-5 years?
  2. Have you validated your product with some customer experience? Even if it is not a paying customer, has your product been tested in real time?
  3. How has it fared? Does it really address a problem? Please remember, a problem is a problem only if a customer recognizes it as a problem. Not because you think so.
  4. Is the customer willing to pay for what he has experienced with your product? This will move your product from a ‘good to have’ to a ‘need to have’ product.
  5. Does your product offer a clear ROI? In other words, does your product or solution help to clearly address an existing problem and have you been able to quantify the benefits that the customer will derive from it? This is what will make the customer take that investment decision.
  6. Do you know your competition? What competitive barriers have you planned to ensure you stay ahead of competition at all times? How have you planned the longevity of your product and your venture?
  7. Have you put in place a credible and actionable business plan?
  8. Do you know how much investment you require and for what?
  9. If you have reasonably good answers to the above set of typical concerns that any investor would have, then I guess you are ready to go looking for investment with reasonable chances of success. Ofcourse, if you also have a set of paying customers who are willing to stand up and talk for your product, then the chances of success are even better.

Moreover, if you actually have a unique product with a set of USP’s that makes yours a ‘me-only’ product and/or if your product or some part of what your product does is patentable because of its uniqueness, then investors would not mind overlooking some of the factors mentioned above. But please remember, just because your product is me-only or patentable it does not necessarily mean you will have a paying customer. I have seen some of these patentable or patent-pending products remain just ‘good-to-have’ and struggling to find a paying customer. However unique, it still has to demonstrate clear ROI before the customer digs into his pocket.

In most cases, I have found that the entrepreneur does not have answers to most of these concerns and therefore, the difficulty in getting investments. The investor is willing to invest. You only have to give him the confidence that his investment will perform for him the way it is expected to.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on helping start-ups to grow. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . For more information please visit www.nodiva.co.in .

Should start-ups pay for Mentoring or Advisory services?

This has been a much debated point in various forums and is a question that plagues start-ups all over the world. Having taken part in numerous such discussions and understood different points of view, I felt that this would be a topic that would interest first-time entrepreneurs in India.

So, should a start-up pay for mentoring services?

In most cases, a mentor is someone who has successfully set-up, run and exited businesses, probably several times, and is now looking to give back to society by sharing his/her experiences with others wanting to do the same. Monetary considerations do not play a big role in such engagements. Some equity stake at some stage may be considered. Therefore, the common refrain is that a mentor should not charge for his services, as the concept of mentoring is to work with and evolve people, be it the CEO/Founder or some of his key people. A mentor works with people to help them understand their environment, evaluate options, identify with issues that affect them professionally and personally and generally act as a sounding board to help the person/s become more effective in, both, their professional and personal life. That is the basic concept of mentoring. It is more person-specific and for the mentor this is an opportunity to share his/her life experiences, successes and failures, and give back to society to help others become more successful.

Ofcourse, in the course of the mentoring he/she could share business ideas and experiences that could have an impact on the business itself. But the primary purpose is to help the individual get more effective and aware. If the start-up gets to be a success, then at that time the CEO/Founder may think of sharing some of that success with the mentor, if it is felt that the mentor played a significant role in the success story.

This is quite clear and I have heard enough people from across the globe expressing similar sentiments. Then why the debate? Why is the mentor still looking for remuneration for his/her services?

The problem lies with confusing the term ‘mentor’.

The young enterprise is looking for someone to help overcome its inexperience in running a business and putting in place business strategies that will help take the company to the next level and achieve short and long term business objectives. This is the primary objective of the start-up.

But unfortunately we do not have so many success stories to mentor the entire start-up community. Plus, even the one’s looking to mentor start-ups, can handle only that many and no more. So the wannabe ‘mentors’ looking to offer exactly the services that the start-up is looking for are actually Business Advisers. Not mentors. A business adviser in most cases does not come from an entrepreneurial background, but brings years of experience, skills and knowledge to help the business achieve its short and long term business objectives.

Now the million dollar question. Who should a start-up engage with – a mentor or business adviser? In the absence of so many mentors, the start-ups have no choice but to work with Business Advisors, who call themselves mentors, which is a very good thing as most first-time entrepreneurs are looking for the business experience that they lack, since most of them do not come from a commercial or marketing background. Since most are technology start-ups, in most cases the CEO or Founders are from a technology background lacking the background for running a business.

Working with an advisor is extremely critical for a start-up as they will help to significantly improve the chances of success and reduce wastage of time, effort and money by bringing their experience to the table and helping to anticipate all the typical mistakes that start-ups make and provide that objective external view point. Therefore earlier the better. Preferably at the ideation stage itself. Most start-ups have to pivot at some stage because they did not try to establish that product-market fit at the ideation stage itself. They did not ask themselves those critical and mostly uncomfortable questions, probably because it did not occur to them or it could have meant going back to the drawing board. An advisor could be of great help here.

So, should a business adviser be paid for his/her services?

Ofcourse, Yes. Such services have to be paid for because the adviser has invested years gaining that experience and this experience and knowledge has significant value. They are offering their service to monetize that experience and knowledge and is also probably a source of living. This cannot be expected to be offered for free. Ofcourse, there could be multiple engagement models that they could discuss and agree upon, which could also include retainer only, equity only or a mix of retainer and equity. That is left to the comfort level of both parties. Most important, the entrepreneur needs to consider this as an investment and not an expense, as this engagement is expected to have long term impact on the business.

Continuing to look for a mentor, just to avoid such investments, could mean losing precious time and money. Start work with an adviser at the earliest. Every start-up CEO is running around just to generate revenues, atleast enough to pay the bills. The sooner this happens the better it is and one way is to engage with someone who can give you those critical inputs that could pave the way.

As Peter Drucker rightly said, ‘The purpose of business is to acquire new customers’. It is one thing to have a great idea, but an entirely different ball game to get a paying customer for that idea. Getting a paying customer, for a start-up, is easier said than done. This is the challenge for most start-ups and that is why they need Advisers more than they need Mentors. This is my considered opinion.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on helping start-ups to grow. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . Please visit www.nodiva.co.in for more information.

 

Pricing Strategy for Start-ups – Value Based Pricing

Apart from dealing with the unknown factor and building credibility, pricing is one other hurdle that most start-ups find hard to overcome. How much to charge? Am I overcharging or am I leaving money on the table? Questions that plague every entrepreneur.

When it comes to pricing, a simple cost-plus strategy may not work because it’s dependent entirely on your ability to produce cost-effectively. Then how do you fix your margins? Will the final price meet customer approval? At the end of the day the customer will only pay the price which he believes is value to him.

This whole process can be made easy if you have correctly identified what your product does for the customer, ie. What value does it bring to him? Build some metrics around this value and convert the same into actual monetary benefits that the customer will derive from it. You will then be able to convince both, the buyer and the user, who in most cases are not the same person. More often than not, the user, who derives the functional benefits, ends-up not convincing management only because he is not able to convert the benefits into ROI for the company. What will the company get for the investment? This is what the CEO or CFO would be interested in. This conversion of benefits to financial numbers will help to push your product from a ‘Good to have’ to a ‘Need to have’.

Let me try and enumerate this with a Use Case.

Company ABC has built a Process Automation solution to enable the customer to bring in business process efficiency. Business processes could include internal processes like on-boarding an employee, financial approvals, HR approvals etc. or external processes like sales process, dealer management, vendor management etc. Through process automation the solution promises to bring about repeatability, scalability, on time and within budget performance.

There is Prospect X who is in the business of setting-up retail outlets for retail chains, which is a repetitive process requiring a high level of planning to ensure that all stakeholders deliver on time. They follow a set process which involves interaction between various groups including real estate agents, interior designers, interior execution company and warehouse for finished goods to reach the store before opening.

The big pain point here is that the outlets are never opened on time. This obviously results in incurring dead rent (rent paid beyond the target opening date, which is not budgeted) and loss of revenue for the period of delay.

The process automation solution of Company ABC promises on-time performance by ensuring that each stakeholder completes his/her task on time through a process of pre-emptive alerts, reminders and escalations. Any task that needs to be completed in a particular timeframe is captured in the process map as well as the name of the person responsible to complete the task.  The moment the details are entered a task mail is sent by the system to the concerned person and this mail will remain in the ‘Inbox’ until the task has been completed, ensuring the person does not forget. Based on pre-set criteria, the system will also send alerts and reminders to the person’s mobile to make sure the person does not forget the task. In case the person still misses the deadline, an automatic escalation mail will be sent to his superior. Alerts and reminders are meant to ensure the person does not forget and escalations are expected to instil the fear that the boss will know of any slip-ups and be made accountable. Over time people are expected to fall in line and tasks completed on time at very stage in the process.

The team at Company ABC went about first understanding the typical process that Prospect X followed for each store opening, the delays at each stage of the process, typical reasons and bottlenecks. They also got a feel for the expense incurred for each store opening towards dead rent and the average revenue loss due to the delays.

This way they could safely presume a 10% reduction in delay per store using their solution and knowing the store roll-out plan of the customer for the year, they were able to quickly compute the savings that the customer can expect in Year 1.

Company ABC then fixed a price derived from the savings and were able to convince Prospect X to invest by projecting the ROI. The price gave value to the customer as well as good margins to the vendor.

So it is important to understand the value that your product brings to the customer and convert it to tangible and measurable benefits, based on which you could then arrive at a price that the customer would bite. You would have then created the ‘NEED’ for your product.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on helping start-ups to grow. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . Please visit www.nodiva.co.in for more information.

Finding ‘Product-to-Market Fit’ starts at ideation

In the course of interacting with so many start-ups I have found one common factor. Problem with articulating the problem statement. If you have understood the problem completely then defining it in two sentences should not be a problem at all. But therein lies the problem!

A problem is a problem only if it is recognized as a problem and this is where I find most entrepreneurs getting confused. You may think there is a problem, but does the prospective customer think it is a problem? Is it actually a problem for him or a way of life?

Typically, any product or service helps to:

  • Alleviate a pain point
  • Enhance a pleasure point
  • Achieve an aspiration

There is also a fourth type of product or service that helps to improve business benefits by disrupting existing practices and processes. Here articulation is very critical because you are seeking to change status quo. You need to understand what is the change, why the change and how the change will benefit the customer.

So what does your product do? As an entrepreneur you need to clearly identify what is it that your product or service will bring to the table for the customer. What is it that will make the customer put money on the table? At the end of the day, any idea is a great idea only if it has a happy customer!

Start with the customer. You have an idea but let the idea take shape from the customer’s perspective. For example, you want to start an online store. Here the questions that need to be answered before you even start manifesting the idea are:

  1. What category of products do you want to cater to?
  2. Do these category of products require ‘touch & feel’ before buying or just a description will be enough for someone to buy?
  3. Why the need for an online store for these products?
  4. Are there brick and mortar stores for these products?
  5. How will you compete with these stores?
  6. What will you offer that will make the customer buy from your online store?
  7. What is your customer profile for those products? – geographic, demographic, psychographic etc.
  8. Will this profile of customers actually buy online?
  9. Do they have access to internet?
  10. What will you do to ensure repeat visits and purchases? Repeat visitors and customers are the lifeline of any online store, as continually getting new customers will mean having deep pockets for marketing.

These are some of the questions that need to be dealt with in detail before you start devoting any more time to the idea. This is applicable for every type of product or service.

Most important question to be answered is ‘How will the customer benefit and why?’ Your product or service should evolve only from the customer’s perspective. Only then will you have a product that will have a customer. Once you have your first set of paying customers, because you have done your homework well, then the product or service can actually go through the product-to-market fit using real time experience.

Unfortunately most entrepreneurs start this process after having manifested their idea into a product or service and then go through the pain of having to revamp their offering almost completely or actually revisit the original idea itself.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on helping start-ups to grow. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . Please visit www.nodiva.co.in for more information.

Ideas Pitched / Prototyped at In50hrs Pune 5

1. InstaMe
Digital Business cards that are easy to share via Mobile – aimed at freelance professionals who want to build a following, the less tech-savvy way. They prototyped a way to build and share a passbook file that you can keep on your phone and share.

The app even lets you track how many people have your contact on their phones – and you can update/send a message if you are doing a new dance class batch etc.

2. LetsshareRide
A mobile app that allows anyone – with a car or motorbike to become a carpooler, on the go. Turn on “Carpool mode” and commuters can coordinate with you for a pickup and share a ride.

3. Slambook
Nostalgic about the slambook era where friends wrote about their fond memories of you? Well, now its online in Digital form.

4. Pracly
Pracly allows entrepreneurs, product managers and anyone who is creating value to find the right support they require, by connecting them to mentors and experts. You book a time, pay for it, and you get a fixed timeslot with a mentor/expert to get personal advice for a specific issue. Live at www.pracly.in

5. OfferBol
Allows you to find deals of local stores nearby.

6. Obhiyo
Been in a situation where a friend sold his used book. And you went and bought the same book for new and didnt know someone in your own network had it for sale? Well, Obhiyo aims to solve that.

7. Hackreward
Hackreward is solving the problem of recruitment and talent search by leveraging the github repository, setup by companies, aiding applicants to collaboratively build “systems”, not write modular code or solve mathematical algorithms and use the community to spot the best talent. Live at www.hackreward.com (the final codebase yet to be uploaded)

8. Narad
A Hardware based prototype that is like a portable NAS (Network Attached Storage) that you can use to move files between SD Cards, USB drives, Camera , Mobile Etc. What do they solve – well those times when your camera is running full and you need to dump it into a storage device, but cant do it without a PC nearby.

Next Event – in Chennai on Sept 27th (www.in50hrs.com/chennai)

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The Three Ideas that didn’t move to the Prototype Stage.

1. A Solution for screening Fraudulent Resumes
2. A peer to peer rental platform
3. A Local platform for buyers/sellers

The teams will be announcing when the prototypes go live, via the In50hrs Facebook Group – you can join, if you’d like to be kept updated and want to give feedback to the teams.

Integrated Sales Process — Pictorial View

Integrated_Sales_Marketing_Process