It takes time to build something successful!

Since SaaSx second edition, I have never missed a single edition of SaaSx. The 5th edition – SaaSx was recently held on the 7th of July, and the learnings and experiences were much different from the previous three that I had attended.

One primary topic this year was bootstrapping, and none other than Sridhar Vembu, the CEO and Founder of Zoho, was presenting. The session was extremely relevant and impactful, more so for us because we too are a bootstrapped organisation. Every two months of our 4.5 year-long bootstrapped journey, we have questioned ourselves on whether we have even got it right! If we should go ahead and raise funds. Sridhar’s session genuinely helped us know and understand our answers.

However, as I delved deeper, I realised that the bigger picture that Sridhar was making us aware of was the entrepreneurial journey of self-discovery. His session was an earnest attempt to promote deep thinking and self-reflection amongst all of us. He questioned basic assumptions and systematically dismantled the traditional notions around entrepreneurship. Using Zoho as an example, he showed how thinking from first principles helped them become successful as a global SaaS leader.


What is it that drives an entrepreneur? Is it the pursuit of materialistic goals or the passion to achieve a bigger purpose? The first step is to have this clarity in mind, as this can be critical in defining the direction your business would take. Through these questions, Sridhar showed that business decisions are not just driven by external factors but by internal as well.

For example, why should you chase high growth numbers? As per him, the first step to bootstrapping is survival. The top 5 goals for any startup should be Survive, Survive, Survive, Survive, Survive. Survival is enough. Keep your costs low and make sure all your bills are paid on time.  Cut your burn rate to the lowest. Zoho created 3 lines of business. The current SaaS software is their 3rd. They created these lines during their journey of survival and making ends meet.


Why go after a hot segment (with immense competition) instead of a niche one?  If it’s hot, avoid it i.e. if a market segment is hot or expected to be hot, it will be heavily funded. It will most likely be difficult to compete as a bootstrapped organisation and is henceforth avoidable. Zoho released Zoho docs in 2007, but soon as he realized that Google and Microsoft had entered the space, he reoriented the vision of Zoho to stay focused on business productivity applications. Zoho docs continues to add value to Zoho One, but the prime focus is on Applications from HR, Finance, Support, Sales & Marketing and Project Management.  Bootstrapping works best if you find a niche, but not so small that it hardly exists. You will hardly have cut throat competition in the niche market and will be able to compete even without heavy funding.

Most SaaS companies raise funds for customer acquisition. Even as a bootstrapped company customer acquisition is important. As you don’t have the money, you will need to optimise your marketing spend. Try and find a cheaper channel first and use these as your primary channel of acquisition. Once you have revenue from the these channels, you can start investing in the more expensive one. By this time you will also have data on your life time value and will be able to take better decisions.

Similarly, why base yourself out of a tier 1 city instead of tier 2 cities (with talent abound)? You don’t need to be in a Bangalore, Pune, or a Mumbai to build a successful product. According to Sridhar, if he wanted to start again, he would go to a smaller city like Raipur. Being in an expensive location will ends up burning your ‘meager monies’ faster. This doesn’t mean that being in the top IT cities of India is bad for your business, but if your team is located in one of the smaller cities, do not worry. You can still make it your competitive advantage.

Self-discipline is of utmost importance for a bootstrapped company. In fact, to bootstrap successfully, you need to ensure self-discipline in spends, team management, customer follow-ups, etc. While bootstrapping can demand frugality and self-discipline, the supply of money from your VC has the potential to destroy the most staunchly disciplined entrepreneurs as well. Watch out!

And last but not the least – It takes time to build something successful. It took Zoho 20 years to make it look like an overnight success.

This blog is authored by Ankit Dudhwewala, Founder – CallHippo, AppItSimple Infotek, Software Suggest. Thanks to Anukriti Chaudhari and Ritika Singh from iSPIRT to craft the article.

Build On IndiaStack – Venture Pitch Competition

Announcing ‘Venture Pitch Competition: #BuildOnIndiaStack’

Dalberg and iSPIRT invite applications from early-stage ventures that are tech-
based solutions leveraging the India Stack platform at the core of their business
model to bring financial or transactional services to the underserved in India.
Pitch to some of the leading investors and thinkers in the Indian start-up ecosystem,
including the Bharat Innovations Fund, Omidyar Network and Unitus Seed Fund.
Winners will spend an hour of 'Think Time' – a mentorship session with
technology evangelist Nandan Nilekani.

Who are we looking for?

We are open to all innovations that use the India Stack to unlock new business
models or reach previously underserved new customer segments across sectors
such as financial services, education, healthcare and others. Some core focus areas
for the competition may include digital lending and supporting activities, such as
alternative credit scoring; sector specific affordable digital finance services such as
health insurance or education loans; sector specific digital services such as skilling
and certification, property registration agreements, patient-centric healthcare
management; and SaaS platforms “as a service” that support the development of
other India Stack based innovations such as Digi-locker or e-sign providers.

 

Who is eligible?
All applicants should:
1. Meet the 3-point criteria: tech enabled, leveraging India Stack Platform and
serving the underservedBe

2. Be a part of two (minimum) to four (maximum) members team including the
founder of the companyBe early stage start-ups that have received only seed (or limited angel)

3. Be early stage start-ups that have received only seed (or limited angel)
funding, if at all

 
What is in it for you?
The investor group, comprising of Bharat Innovations Fund, Omidyar Network and
Unitus Seed Fund, is a network of investors and operators, entrepreneurs and
technologists, designers and engineers, academicians and policy makers, with the
singular mission to solve some of India’s toughest problems.

Through this event you have an opportunity to receive:

-Exclusive focus on tech innovations that leverage the India Stack platform
and have the potential to address the underservedFlexible

-Flexible, insight driven, funding of up to Rs. 8 lakhs for early stage, innovative
modelsStrategic

-Strategic business support, through their specialists to support investees in
their strategy and growthA chance to be a part of the India Stack ecosystem through partnerships,

-A chance to be a part of the India Stack ecosystem through partnerships,
pilots, workshops, conferences and network building exercises

Visit www.buildonindiastack.in and send your pitch now.

Implications of GST Bill on Startups

The much-hyped Goods and Services Tax (GST), after years of stagnation and lack of political consensus, was finally passed in the upper house of the Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, on 4th August this year, almost a decade after it was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in the year 2006-07. It is the biggest indirect tax reform post economic liberalization of 1991.

implications-of-gst-bill-on-startups

The economists say, a double-digit growth in GDP, which seemed too surreal, will now be a reality. This law aims to give a boost to the new age start-ups and make India a conducive place to conduct business. Currently, India is home to around 4,200 startups growing at an exponential rate of 40% yearly. It is predicted that, with further relaxation of rules, India will be home to around 11,000 startups by 2020. This can be corroborated by the fact that India was ranked poorly at 142nd in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ survey conducted by the World Bank in 2015. With relaxation in the rules and regulations of setting up a business and lucrative schemes like ‘Start-up India, Stand up India’, India went twelve places up and ranked at 130 in 2016.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how beneficial will the new law be for startups, it is important that the basics of this law are first looked into. GST, as mentioned above, is an indirect tax reform also known by the moniker – ‘One India, One Tax’. Different states have different tax structures which make the taxation structure very cumbersome and complex. This is a major reason why many start-ups are hesitant to expand their businesses to different states leaving the state concerned with little industrialization and low creation of jobs. GST aims to bridge the gap by integrating all taxes, making only one tax to be paid by everyone. As a result, the tax calculations will be simpler, saving time and energy for entrepreneurs and start-ups to focus on their respective businesses instead of investing time and energy on compliance and paperwork. However, just passing the bill is not the end of the story – there are rules to be framed, tax rates to be fixed, the central and state governments must reach a consensus, and proper infrastructure needs to be put in place. Hence, the implementation of GST still has a long way to go and is likely to happen in mid-2017.
Implications Of GST Bill On Startups

How Does the GST Help?

The Act is deemed to benefit all types of businesses but start-ups and SMEs are to benefit the most. It has been structured in a way keeping in mind the concerns of the small businesses. This is elaborately explained in points mentioned below –

Simple Taxation – Instead of adhering to different tax regulations in different states, GST simplifies the process by making it simpler and clear by integrating all taxes into one so that not only money on taxes are saved but time on compliances are saved too.

Ease of Conducting Business – Registration of VAT from the sales tax department of the state concerned is an imperative to start a new business. A business intending to establish in different states has to apply for VAT registration separately. Not only this, the VAT fees in different states is not uniform, making this one among the many other issues regarding the problems faced by startups and existing businesses in India. To fix this anomaly, the GST Act has provisions which will make VAT registration centralized, uniform and simple for companies. The concerned company/business would just need to get a single license valid pan India and pay taxes regularly. This will further help startups to establish, expand their business hassle-free.

Integration of Multiple Taxes – In addition to the VAT and service tax, there are other tax regulations that must be complied by the businesses like Central Sales Tax, Luxury Tax, Purchase Tax, Additional Customs Duty etc. Upon the implementation of the GST, all such taxes will be combined into one.

Lower Tax Rates for Small Businesses – At present, VAT is applied to businesses having an annual turnover of INR 5 lacs and above. GST aims to cap this limit to INR 10 lacs only and businesses with turnover between INR 10-50 lacs will be taxed at low rates. This move will not only bring respite to the start-ups but also help them invest the money saved on taxes back in their business.

Improvement in Logistics efficiency – Seamless movement of goods is currently a problem with border taxes and checks at state borders which delay the movement of goods which, in turn, results in delayed deliveries and enhances the product cost. GST aims to eliminate such inefficiencies making the inter-state trade less time consuming. With an uninterrupted movement of goods across the border, the costs associated with maintaining the goods will significantly reduce. According to a CRISIL analysis, the logistics cost of non-bulk goods can go down by as much as 20% once GST is implemented.

Other Side of GST: The Cons

While there are other advantages for the start-ups as well other than the ones mentioned above, the new Act also comes with implications, not necessarily for the start-ups. Start-ups in the manufacturing sector with lesser turnovers might have to bear the brunt of paying duty. As per the existing excise laws, any manufacturing business with an annual turnover of less than INR 1.5 crores is exempted from paying duties. But when the GST comes into force, the chances are, this limit could be reduced by six times to INR 25 lacs. This can have a detrimental effect on the growth of start-ups.

There are high chances that the inflation might rise after GST implementation. Also, whether ‘mandi tax’ would be included or not in the GST is ambiguous. Such causes can adversely affect the food startups.

Critics also say, the implementation of GST would also affect the real estate business and add up to 8% of the cost in new homes and as a ramification thereof, reduce the demand by 12%.

Despite its implications, GST is the most important and business friendly tax reform in India which will lead to a double-digit growth. It seeks to unify, integrate different tax structures so that there will be transparency and efficiency in the way businesses operate and the government levies taxes. This won’t just reduce the cost of the products but also create employment opportunities as more startups rise and India becomes the startup capital of the world!

Guest post by LegalDesk.com, a Do-It-Yourself legal platform for making legal documents online. LegalDesk helps startups with incorporation and legal documentation services. It also provides Aadhaar-based eSign service to businesses.

Customer Purchase Insights for Hotel Management Software

SoftwareSuggest is an online platform exclusively dedicated towards Business Software Discovery and Recommendation. We analyze every aspect of the software trends for the customers so that they can purchase the best software from hundreds of such products thronging the market. Since we value the satisfaction of our customers highly, we analyze their requirements with extensive research, and ultimately compile our observations and conclusions in the form of a report.

Here is an exhaustive Research Report on the “Customer Purchase Insights For Hotel Management Software”. The following are the conclusive findings of our Research Report.

Key Findings

– Most hotel management software buyers were from Maharashtra, followed by Delhi and Karnataka. With 8.5 percent, 7.5 percent and 7.3 percent software buyers respectively, these states tower over other states..

– Requirement for Installation-based software was more than Web-based software; the former crossing the mark with a whopping 64 percent.

– The Budget preferred by a majority of customers was in the range of INR 0-50,000, with around 65 percent of them belonging to the ‘First time User’ group.

– Around 40 percent of the customers prefer 3 demos before taking the purchase decision.

Let us have a detailed look at the figures as per our research results.

Geographic Spread Of Hotel Management Software Buyers

We found that 8.5 percent of hotel management software buyers were from Maharashtra, followed up by 7.5 percent in Delhi and 7.3 percent by Karnataka. Rest of the sections in the Graph is shared by other States.

Prefered Deployment Type: Installation-based Vs. Web-based Software

More Software buyers preferred installation-based software to web-based software. The former attributed to 64 percent of the total software buyers.

The Estimated Budget Preference (in INR) Of The Customers

Around 49 percent of customers preferred to buy their required software in the Budget range of INR 0-50,000. This is followed by 28 percent of customers, who preferred the the Budget range of INR 50,001- 1,00,000. The percentage of customers decreases gradually as the Budget range increases and this is clearly demonstrated in the Graph.

First time Software Buyers Against Existing Users Looking To Upgrade

It was observed that 65 percent of the users were first time software buyers and and 35% were looking to upgrade their existing software. For such buyers, the existing hotel management software was not quite up to the mark, and they wanted to try another software, with more functionalities and better quality standards.

Time Consumed By Customers Before Making A Purchase Decision

40% of customers usually take 2-3 months before finalizing which Hotel Management Software they want to purchase. Around 15% of the software buyers take the purchase decision in less than 1 month’s time. These are usually first time buyers with a new property.

Number Of Demos Taken by Customers Before Purchasing the Software

Around 40 percent of customers took 3 demos before opting to buy the paid version of Hotel Management Software. While 20 percent of users were satisfied with just 2 demos, around 30 percent used 4 demo sessions, before they were actually convinced to purchase this software.

Features Customers Look For In Hotel Management Software

features of hotel management software

As per our research, customers look for the below-mentioned features when it comes to buying a Hotel Management Software. Among these, Channel Management, Front Desk and Book Engine are the ‘must-have’ features in a Hotel Management Software.

All the above-mentioned facts and statistics have been generated from the data collected by SoftwareSuggest team.

We welcome your valuable thoughts or suggestions in the comment section below. You can find a list of Hotel Management Software here.

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3 Levels of Product Training for growth

prodtraining2

 

You have crossed the initial milestone of proving your product has seen some initial success, covered the MVP and now its time for growth…what is one key ingredient for growth ?

You are the rockstar founder or product manager…you have the urge to be omnipresent in every customer discussion or support call…you do a good job on this…but it’s a major deterrent for growth as you become the bottleneck…

The best solution for this problem is to put together a strategy for your product training.  Based on interaction with a startup growth entrepreneur’s request I had put few things, and sharing that in this post.

I plan to cover 3 levels of product training that I have personally learnt or done over the years to make products scale and be successful, the examples are more relevant to B2B but some of this can be used for B2C as well….

The analogy i have used here is of movies

Level 1 : Trailer – Targeted to people that engage with the Decision Makers who buy the product

Level 2 : Movie – Targeted to people that interact with users of the product

Level 3 : Making of Movie – Targeted to people that interact with administrators or consultants that configure, implement or support the product

Lets look at each of them in detail

Level 1 : Trailer training

This training is usually provided to Sales & Marketing teams who have the responsibility to engage and influence the decision makers, to buy the product. Certainly while the content stays high level , I have come across 3 questions to be covered in this training, that will help Sales to effectively position the product and get the interests

The three questions

Why buy ?  – This question establishes what is the real need for the product. What is the real problem that the product solves and why is it important for the customer

Why me ? – Having established the need to buy, the next question that needs to be answered is why me, why your product vs. other choices available in the market, what are differentiators, how is your product better in solving the problems and other objection handling

Why now ? – Assuming the need is established, and the fact that your product is the best fit, the next convincing part is the timing of the buy. The “why now” training should facilitate content that will help the trainee to engage with establishing the urgency, to get the decision to be made in a realistic time.

Coverage of the content

The content should cover the following to help with the above three questions

  • Benefits – the benefits of using the product , to improve the process, derive top line or bottom line savings or any others
  • Customer case studies – this is an amazing content to help sell. How are other customers using the product, their experiences, quotes, videos and other documents
  • Competitors – its important to know your competitors and how your product differentiates from them, this is an important area of coverage in your training
  • Unique differentiators – the product may have 100s of features, but there maybe certain ones which are the outliers or differentiators, there should be specific focus to highlight these in the training
  • Pricing and ROI – how is your product pricing done, what are the flexible options, what is the discounting policy, how do you combine products , how do you optimize revenue opportunity are some of the things that should be covered. Creating presentations and videos to explain the pricing with examples would be an important tool. In addition you also should have ROI templates that can help sales to justify the ROI for the customer, using relevant metrics that is aligned to the product’s benefits
  • Short demos – 2 to 3 minutes – This is the eye catcher demo (The Trailers), as its typically done to the decision makers, the demo should highlight the most important capability and it should also try to cover the overall value proposition of the solution. Remember this is the main tool that can help sales to create the initial interest or close the opportunity for approval.
  • Role plays – This is another extremely successful way to train people – the role play enacts how a customer facing person engages with the customer, bringing in relevant questions and dictate the engagement style to bring out answering the 3 questions
  • FAQs – you know answers to several questions, but its important that this knowledge gets out. A Frequently Asked Questions document or video should be a must have.

 

Level 2 : The movie training

This is to do with the actual product in more detail on how the users would use them. So this is essentially a training that is usually provided to Sales Consultants , Partners and Others who are likely interacting and engaging with the customer users – both during pre-sales as well as post sales.

Coverage of this training

  • Product feature functionality – going into details of the features and functionality of the product, focused towards customer users
  • Use cases – talk about different use cases that the product solves, every product may solve 100s of use cases, so its important to highlight different usage scenarios
  • Benefits in detail – while you cover the benefits already in level 1, this could further explain the details with more deep dives and examples
  • Product differentiators vs competition – detailed product differentiators, on various facets of the product and how this can help especially to cover the functional scenarios
  • Detailed demos (like the actual movie) – 30 minutes to 2 hours focusing on end user functionality
  • Role plays to explain usage of the product – detailed role play videos or depiction of how customers will use the product or how you can convince the users, for them to become influencers

 

Level 3 : The making of the movie training 

The third level of the training is for the people that engage administrators, implementer, partners and consultants. This covers variety of areas and really detailed and deep dive into the “how to aspects”. This is usually done to consultants , support staff and Business/IT administrators. This training is for mostly people who engage post sales, but essentially they should also have good understanding of the level 2 training, before getting here.

 

Coverage of content

  • How to configure the application, security, data, master data etc
  • How to trouble shoot
  • Detailed functional and technical architecture
  • How to demos or videos – detailed 2 hours to a day or even multiple days
  • Technical FAQs

 

So as you can see, if you can create the above training content and start training, it will certainly help you in your growth endeavors.

Offcourse you will also have to keep updating these content as you enhance your product.

Product Training , these days can be delivered in different formats – in person, webcast or through videos. But its essential for you to understand the importance of this and make it as a priority if your goal is growth

 ProdTraining1

Startups!! Do You Know Your Customers Well?

A business exists only till the time it has paying customers. The day your customers cease to exist, or have no reason to pay you for your products or services, your business is in deep trouble. So, if we consider all the stake holders in a corporate, an i.e. employee, executive management, investors and customers, the customer is the most important. Now the chances are that you know all other stake holders reasonably well due to daily interactions in the office or board meetings. The question is that do you know your customer well? If not, what can you do to know them well?

Especially important for a startup to know, as his starting up, sustainability and scaling up are directly dependant on the customer !

There are several stages of knowing one’s customer. What business they are in and which industry they belong to are the easier ones. The more challenging aspects are:

  • Who are your customer’s competitors in the industry? What are the competitor’s differentiators vis-a-vis what your customer is offering?
  • What is their vision of the industry that they are a part of? Where do they think the industry will be in 2 years and 5 years from now?
  • What is preventing your customer to secure a larger market share in their industry?
  • Who is your customer selling to, i.e. your customer’s customer. (By the way, this is the end customer from your perspective). What is his ask? In which industry is he sitting and how’s that evolving?
  • How is your customer’s roadmap evolving with respect to the developments in the end customer’s industry? Are the two aligned or are they diverging? If they are aligned, you are in good shape but if they are diverging, you may go out of business because your customer will go out of business.

To summarize, knowing your customer is a three-tier process: I) knowing the immediate (paying) customer, II) knowing your customer’s industry and its trends and III) knowing the end customer’s (your customer’s customer) industry and how it is evolving?

The problem is that in most of the organizations sales owns the customer and acts as a heavy-handed gatekeeper for any and all customer interactions. Since sales is transactional by its very nature, knowing the customer stops at the very first step of knowing who is making the purchase decision, who will issue the purchase order and release payment. Mostly knowing the customer stops here! Unfortunately, none of these guys can give you long term visibility into the customer’s business which is so essential for long term sustainability of your own organization.

What you need is a three-tier customer relationship, each focusing on one aspect of knowing the customer.

Starts with sales at step (I) where a relationship is built around a transaction and customer organization is mapped.

Then your product manager (for products) or domain expert (for services) has to focus on step (II), i.e. reach-out to its peer at customer’s end and engage him on a product and industry-centric discussion.

The common pitfall here is that product managers tend to get far more engineering (inside) focused in delivery. Their external interaction is mostly limited conferences and exhibitions to collect generic inputs about the industry. They really don’t spend enough face time with their customers directly to get to know customer’s industry, competitors and the customers’ customer industry. Most of the time they depend upon sales to provide the inputs against questions (a)-(c) above, but that’s a wrong expectation. It will never happen.

Now coming to step (III), i.e. knowing your customers’ customer industry. This is where a free exchange of ideas at the executive level starts to matter. The CTO/CEO of your company has to engage his peers at the customer’s end (could be CTO/CEO or BU head) and understand the industry trends. Your executive management needs to collect this information from threads picked across all of their key customers and then make a sound call on how they expect the very end customer (customers’ customer) to evolve. It has to be more than a gut feeling or some internet-based research. Their assessment has to be based on hard data collected from discussions done with your customers.

Once you have a sense of changes in end customer’s industry, address the question (e) above, i.e. is your customer helping to shape the industry or is he trying hard to catch-up? Once you know which customer is sitting in which bucket, you know what to do for your own long term growth and survivability.

Unfortunately, what happens in CXO-CXO meetings is that it gets limited to resolution of tactical issues which couldn’t be resolved at lower levels like price, contract legality, delivery issues etc. It rarely goes outside of this sphere, of never-ending business issues and any discussion to get a deep understanding of their future gets sidelined. In turn, your future gets compromised as it is directly dependent on your customer’s future!

Everything starts with the customer – June Martin

Gues post by Suresh Kabra – Founder, PriceMap

Need for automated revenue assurance in telecoms

The practice of revenue assurance has evolved from simply identifying leaks to being the process through which continual improvement could be driven.

  • TM forum (Revenue assurance – quick insights)

*A single person uses 3-4 different types of telecommunication services in a day. Let’s consider India that has a population of around 1.2 billion with 2 plans being offered by a telecom service provider (TSP) and 2 telecom services are being used by each person. 4billion+ bills are generated considering each service and each plan differently. Imagine the bills generated by TSP’s around the globe.

The revenue assurance team comes into picture due to the possibility of overbilling and under billing. Revenue assurance team audits few bill from each batch to maintain bill accuracy. But the team cannot audit all the bills generated. Apart from the fact that the manual audit is a costly affair, the possibility of erroneous billing still exists.

TSP cannot create a positive experience with an overbilled monthly statement. And if the same situation repeats, the customer would go ahead and avail the service of another TSP. Now, if a telecom subscriber was under billed for the services availed, the TSP is losing its revenue.

So, the big question for the TSP’s is how to ensure it doesn’t under bill or over bill its subscribers. Transform your manual revenue assurance into an automated process.

The automated billing assurance system:

  1. Eliminates human errors in misinterpretation of plans and services activated for each subscriber. Thus, ensuring accurate billing for the different services availed by a subscriber.
  2. Automates the audit of bills by referring the services availed by the subscriber, and validates the same with the billing system. Thereby eliminating any computational errors in the bill presentment.

Accordingly, by ensuring error free bill presentment, the TSP is in compliance to the regulations of metering and billing, and the assurance of accurateness is also established. This would certainly be a game changer for Telco’s in the field of revenue assurance and would aid the TSP in battling the subscriber churn rate due to erroneous billing. The automation of revenue assurance would be a cost effective way of putting a lid to the revenue leakage for the TSP’s.

*Values were considered to show importance of revenue assurance. No real time values were used.

Acknowledgement – special thanks to Praveen Y (Analyst at Intense Technologies) for providing information on this domain

The time is ripe: Indian product start-ups are geared to disrupt IT adoption across the enterprise

For most food enthusiasts in India, the start of summer signifies the beginning of the much awaited mango season. The “King of fruits”, as it is most aptly described, is in the market for a few weeks before it completely disappears. Drawing a parallel, it’s an equally good time to be a technology start-up in India as well – of course, the season will certainly last more than a few weeks but tech start-ups are certainly the talk of the town and the opportunity is here and now.

A recent report by Helion had three key pointers that give a boost to the software product ecosystem. Significantly, CIOs and top IT decision-makers keen to look at start-ups. Though common belief may be otherwise, 90% of IT decision makers said that they are likely to see a demo, implement on a trial basis or conduct a review of new technology products. As many as 72% of respondents said they were likely to invest in a limited implementation of the solution, while 54% are willing to invest in a full implementation of the solution. IT Decision makers also recognize that newer technologies would increase the agility and flexibility of their organizations. Surprisingly, cost is not a major factor that is driving the adoption of these new technologies as less than half the respondents (43%) strongly believed that it had impact.

The other key fact to note is that Indian product start-ups are geared to disrupt IT adoption across the enterprise: As many as 82% of the respondents have developed and deployed applications for various business use cases. Business analytics and big data solutions are being offered by 46% of start-ups that responded to this study, enterprise services on the cloud by 30% and mobility solutions are served up by 21%.

Key functions targeted by these solutions include sales (73%), business development (70%), service delivery (66%), HR (51%) and supply chain (48%).

The third heartening fact is that Technology buyers keen to fuel the start-up ecosystem. The survey shows that IT DMs are demonstrating a new-fangled willingness to help start-ups. 85% of respondents stated that they are willing to work (and play an advisory role) with the start-up to help evolve or improve the product. A majority of respondents (82%) are keen to provide customer references while 68% agree that being one among the first five customers for a start-up is acceptable.

But start-ups also need to realize that IT decision makers primarily worry about the reliability of the solution (78% cited this as a high risk) as well as the long-term quality of support from a start-up vendor (72%). Scalability of the solution and its performance are also aspects which IT buyers believe that start-ups must fine-tune in order to seal the deal. As long as tech start-ups can build on the trust element they are sure to have a clear growth trajectory ahead of them.

 

The trouble of selling to BigB

I was talking to one of the CEOs of an enterprise product company who sells to CIOs of enterprise. The typical industry classification for them would be B2B, a business selling to business.  When you read it that way it seems like a fairly balanced relationship between the two.  However as we discussed his situation further and I learnt about the realities of what he has to go through I realized that it was not just a simple B2B but it was SmallB to BigB. He wanted to target big enterprises with at least 1000+ people, as a result he was selling to IT departments and CIO’s had to sign off on the purchase on business value basis.

In his mind my friend had a innovative product, it would lead to significant business value and cost savings and there should be a desire to make the paradigm shift.  As he explained his value proposition I was convinced of the same and the thought that struck me was that  he must be  very successful and for sure is raking in huge bucks.  To my surprise he hardly had any POC candidates let alone real customers. I was shell-shocked.  After more conversations over a few beers I realized that it doesn’t matter what product or value proposition you are selling to large enterprises when it comes to SmallB selling to BigB is a huge challenge.  The major reasons why it is a challenge (definitely not an exhaustive list) are:

    • Getting to meet CIOs is a herculean task and to be able to navigate the murky waters of the organization before you get to them is very time consuming(and expensive). From an experience basis in most situations getting to meet them at a client’s place for start-up solutions has a 1 in 20 probability.
    • There are not even a handful of events that have Indian CIO’s focused on Innovation, Most of them are very expensive when you calculate the total costs incurred by start-ups. Entry itself is north of Rs 50,000, then to add a stall and have staff there to man it and put up collateral costs upwards of Rupees. If you do not have a stall then one is left chasing people and handing them business cards – that surely does not lead to sale. You add travel and other costs to it, the costs go up so much that it is impossible for a startup like ours to participate (most events happen in Mumbai, Delhi or Goa)
    • There are many other inexpensive smaller events and they promise CIOs as part of their promotion. However the reality is that mostIndian CIOs never turn up for such events and in tune they send their IT folks who generally don’t have the decision making powers.
    • Assume somehow you did make contact to these CIOs and you were able to mention the value proposition and they liked it, you later need to do several trips to their head office to meet several stake holders, get all their approvals and finally get a nod to do a pilot; all such trips add up huge to your expenses
    • Worse inspite of the value propositions you show, remember the tag line – you can never lose your job if you go with IBM. Even when you manage to get through that almost insurmountable barrier the progress of pilots is slow. One ends up making trips to demonstrate commitment and to push for progress on the the Pilot. Unfortunately sometimes the start-ups get play to justify other purchases as they will never pass the smell test of strong financials or references for procurement departments of large enterprises..
    • On the other hand big brands have deep pockets, large sales force, strong reseller base and reach out to these clients easily. The clients find it easier to trust them due to their relationships and safety trumps agility and foundation of innovation of startups.

 

If these are a sample of challenegs that you have to go through to try to get a Pilot then imagine the travails of having international clients take you seriously. Imagine trying to do all of the above for potential Global customers.  Also one of the situations he ran across was people in the Indian IT departments advising him to try and get some global customers for credibility.. It seems contrary to the saying that says win at home first to win outside! –To be able to do the same would require significant funding or leap of faith!  Interestingly some of the VC’s loved his product and were ready to invest but with a caveat – they say can you possibly get some Pilots in US and demonstrate success there –  – WHAT????

Just a return ticket to Mumbai and a couple of days stay costs me more than 25K and these people are talking about attending CIO events in USA and then doing pilots in the US market.  Interestingly attending CIO events in USA is not cheap and most of the big ones there (Evanta, HMS, CIO Summit etc.) require vendors to pay hefty sponsorships (starting at US$20,000 to attend)Does this mean that SmallB with small budgets should just not have the vision to build enterprise products even if they have the ideas to solve some of the pressing problems?

Wish there was a way to enter bigger markets that were more focused on innovation and were willing to try out new ideas to make a big difference. . Wish there was a way to showcase to Global CIOs in a manner that did not mean dipping into all the savings in one trip. Keep wishing…

Thankfully I got to meet another CEO of a successful product company from India who passed this litmus test.   He was a case in point that a SmallB can actually sell to BigB. Today his revenues are upwards of $100M but it takes time, patience & money.  He achieved it by doing services on the side and investing that money into marketing the product. His mantra is, there is no shortcut for a SmallBto sell into BigB.  You have to spend quality time with CIOs who are willing to see the vision of the start-ups and drive decision making to make things happen.  Face time and getting early customers is the trick and he concluded by saying that SmallB selling to BigB is where the real money is 🙂

That’s when I ran into InTech50.  They are bringing  25 Global CIOs and 25 Indian CIOs , Product M&A folks, VC’s and media all under a single roof.  They are also bringing the entourage to Bangalore and will utilize their skills and knowledge to select the 50 that get to be at the event to present to them.  In effect they have already expressed an interest in your company if you are selected to be there.  There is no cost to apply!

I think we – the enterprise product companies from India should grab this opportunity and make every effort so that we make it to the list.

Would love to hear comments form entrepreneurs who are playing in the enterprise product selling into big enterprises.

100 minds – 8 mins with each.

In simple maths, every one of the 100 who saw the videos, was kept engaged for at least 8 minutes. Assuming they didn’t see all of the videos – a sales guy was around to continue conversations.

Humans have recently surpassed the attention span of a goldfish. And you thought keeping a goldfish engaged was easy….

Knowcross sells a service automation and management software to Hotels. It’s called Triton. Some of the world’s reputed hotels are their customers. For good reason – the tool is just remarkable to see at work.

Recently they attended HiTec – world’s largest and most expansive hospitality technology event.

“We were one of the last to book our space and we missed the best spots on the floor. Even with that, we managed to get about 200 people to the booth in 3 days. And about half of them we kept engaged through a touchscreen that played the 8 videos.”

Neha Singh | Senior Manager Marketing at Triton

 

Here are the 8 videos in their glory.

Triton EngineeringTriton MobileTriton SupervisorTriton Attendant

 

 

 

Content is one of those things a marketer has to spend money on. The pursuit, however – is to find the highest ROI from content. 

Here are 3 things that made their conference content investment a high return exercise:

1. Spray it. Don’t just say it.

Pepper your audience with multiple small bite sized information.

When you are expecting guests – as in a trade show particularly – try to put up more than a single piece of information.

So 100 brochures is great. But a choice between 20 each of 5 types of brochures – is a better idea. Within the first audience set (5 – 10 people), you’d know which brochures to send the mascot with.

“The 37 inch touchscreen had an application running. So after they see one video, they’d be presented with another one, and then another. This allowed us to comprehensively cover the product and its propositions without them getting bored with one long video. ”

– Neha Singh. senior Manager Marketing at Triton.

2. Address different causes.

If you can solve my problem – tell me how much you’ll charge. You’ve got 8 seconds. Go.

So Engineering has its own problems. Housekeeping has its own problems. The management has its own problems. And individuals within these units – have their own problems.

For Engineering – they made a different story – connected to the engineering’s cause. See this.
For Housekeeping – they made a different story – connected to the housekeeping’s cause. See this.
And for Senior Management – they made a more overarching story – connected to the business’ cause. See this.

So if Joe the CEO wanted to check with Bob the CTO – they would both just huddle at the booth. There’s a bunch of smartie pants ready to answer questions.

Instant gratification as many cultures call it.

3. Consistent and simple visuals

We eat with our eyes – as taught in culinary schools. That’s why plating is important.

Did your eyes catch the variation in the color RED above ?

In their case, the characters were simple with little detailing. So there was no distraction. And the colors and icons are consistent.

See the image to the left – there are 3 slides one below the other.

Did your eyes catch the slight change in color?

Imagine how distracted you’d get if the characters, scenes, music, or even narrator’s voice changed on each video. 

They got this done from a single creative team. A set of minds that didn’t change during the production process. This ensured visuals and audio and the look n feel and the sounds and voices – were all synchronized. Everything looks and sounds in sync.

Its like Ballet.

So the costumes were same colors. The characters were similar. The situations and icons were similar. Think different episodes of a television series.

If you have dabbled in Video marketing, what kind of results have you got from your initiatives? I would love to hear your thoughts.

We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning!

In India retailing of jewellery is undertaken in various small and large jewellery shops. Whether the retailer is a large shop in metropolitan areas or a smaller rural shop, the adoption of Software and IT both for back office operations or for business growth, is almost negligible. Why has the change not occurred?

On September 22nd 2013 at Royal Orchid Central, Bangalore, some of the most inspired minds from the Jewellery Industry and the Software and Technology industry had the opportunity to go on a journey of inquest. Are there gaps in the Jeweller’s perceptions about the benefit of Software and Technology? Do Jewellers have the right external eco-system to enable them to overcome the barriers to adoption? Are Jewellers happy with whatever Software and Technology they have used and adopted so far? Is there fire in the belly of every jewellery business owner, to objectively seek answers to these questions, or do we have to ignite a new spark?

More than three hours of engaging, entertaining and educational experience. A 100+ jewellery retail business owners got the opportunity to interact and seek answers to many of the questions from industry leaders Shoaib Ahmed, President of Tally Solutions and full-time fellow of iSPIRT (Indian Software Product Industry Round Table) and Mr. Ramesh Davanam, Secretary, Jewellers’ Association of Bangalore. Not all elements of the seminar can be reproduced here, but below are some of the key highlights and learnings.

Making of the Event – The key ingredients

We at SchemesCentral set out to answer many of the adoption related questions about 10 months ago, so that as providers of Software Platforms and Information Systems to the Jewellery community, we empathize with the jewellery retailers, understand their real pains and provide solutions that best address them.

What is required for the transformation of the Retail Jewellery Industry? As owners of family businesses, do retail jewellers realize that change is inevitable? If yes, then what are the real barriers to adoption? What can catalyze the endogenous change within business owners as individuals? These were some of our fundamental questions.

Almost in parallel, nearly around the same time last year, iSPIRT, through its SAI (Software Adoption Initiative) has gone through a similar journey and had put in place a transformative guide that enables all jewellers (whether retail, wholesale or refiners) to become informed buyers of Software and Technology. Sometimes, an entire industry, as a complex collective, can get into a state of equilibrium/inertia, and will need an external shock, to enable radical transformation. Such an external shock is enabled by new policies, new structures and new leaders. In our casual conversation with Mr. Shoaib Ahmed, what occurred to SchemesCentral was that, iSpirt was clearly addressing the exogenous change. What are the factors that can enable the exogenous change in the entire ecosystem, as a collective?

When we marry the two, what is the outcome? A framework that encompasses

  • Focused Solutions for changes that are needed from within, as individuals & business owners and
  • Broad Solutions for negotiating the external factors that influence the whole ecosystem.

It was this dichotamous synergy that gave SchemesCentral the confidence to organize the first seminar in close collaboration with 2 industry associations. The Jewellers Association of Bangalore (JAB) and Indian Software Product Industry Roundtable (iSPIRT).

The idea for the Seminar was concieved less than 3 weeks ago and Mr. Ramesh Davanam, Secretary of JAB, was the first one to give his complete vote of confidence. It was whole-heartedly seconded by the President of JAB, Mr. G.V. Sreedhar, and very ably supported by the members of the association. Within the next week, we had the theme for the Seminar in place, “Enabling Retail Jewellery Businesses to grow exponentially”.

After having invited more than a 100 jewellers, reserving the venue, and working through more than 3 hours of engaging content for the session, we were anxiously hoping that we hit the right chords. Then another magic happened, Mr. Shoaib Ahmed volunteered and gracefully accepted to be part of the Seminar too. And with his natural charm and flair he was also clearly the man-of-the-match on the Seminar day.

Event Unfolded

22nd September 2013 in Bangalore witnessed the beginnng of a new journey. As the session commenced and the clock began to tick, more than a 100 guests and delegates, crowded the pinewood hall. With a full-house, the audience were treated in the 1st session to a new way of thinking, to first as individuals, transform themselves. The intention of the session was to motivate them and nudge them, into accepting certain realities like,

  • The reach and power of the internet,
  • The benefits of engaging with the connected consumer and
  • The implications of being in an Ecosystem of Technology partners.

By the start of the 2nd session, most retail jewellers started to open-up and wanted very specific focused answers to all their software and technology challenges, trust being the most important of them all. It was at this moment, a couple of testimonials from iSpirt and an inspired talk by Mr. Shoaib Ahmed, encouraged them to further explore answers to most of their problems.

In the final session the SchemesCentral.com platform as an idea in-itself, gave the delegates very specific focused answers on their challenges for maintaining and tracking payments for Jewellery Savings Schemes, it was only but natural for them to understand that there is now a community of software developers and partners, just within their reach, in their own neighbourhood, who are willing to help them in their quest for business growth.

Conclusion and Takeaways!

If we tell our customers about our solutions they might forget, if we show them they might remember, if we involve them, they will understand. So start your seminars or workshops today. The Key-takeaways from the Seminar on 22nd September are,

  • If you have a revolutionary software product or platform, seek avenues and opportunities and reach out to established institutions to collaborate and grow.
  • There is fire in the belly of every business owner to grow his business and break new boundaries, jewellery retailers are no exception.
  • We in the software community have to find both endogenous and exogenous ways to nudge them and motivate them, so that we can catalyze the spark within them to become a wild-fire for software and technology adoption.

The Who, What, When, Why and How of Consumerization of the Enterprise

Users of enterprise software marvel at the ease of use of facebook, twitter and gmail on their mobiles, tablet computers and desktops! Then they wonder why their enterprise software should not be as easy to use or at least be available from their own devices. The CEO wonders why she cannot see the company graphs and charts in vibrant colors on her iPad at home on her sofa, while watching TV! This is where the consumerization of the enterprise sets up expectations of mobility, flexibility, ease of use and at a minimum, just being able to access enterprise applications from these other devices!

Consumerization of the enterprise is exciting from an end user point of view, but brings with it a number of new issues of security, availability, and application responsiveness that need to be addressed by the enterprise software maker or the IT department. Enterprise software product start-ups need to take this trend very seriously since mobiles and tablets are getting only more powerful, less expensive, and ubiquitous. By the time they mature and emerge from a start-up stage, this may not be a nice to have but a must have. So, here’s a Who, What, When, Why and How of Consumerization of Enterprise Software. This is a rather involved subject to be covered in a single article. I will cover the basics and provide links to additional material as appropriate.

The Why

Users of enterprise applications like the mobility that comes with smartphones and tablet computers. They see fairly sophisticated things done with these devices in their personal lives and are wondering why the same should not be true of their enterprise applications! They see that these devices are powerful computers in their own right and are wondering why they should not be using them for work.

The What

Consumerization results in a number of new expectations of enterprise software – use of inexpensive commodity servers for hosting the application if on-premises or a Software As a Service (SaaS) model, browser based interfaces, access from mobile devices and ease of use that matches consumer applications like Google, Twitter and Facebook. Consumerization involves the design and implementation of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies where employees use their own devices to access enterprise applications and data. What happens to the enterprise data that may be stored on them,  if they lose this device or it gets stolen? What happens when this employee leaves the company? How do you make sure that the company data or the applications are no longer accessible?

The When

In many developed countries, smartphones and tablet computer penetration are near saturation already with many individuals and households having many of these devices, each. In India, the annual penetration and total market saturation may be lesser but it is only a matter of time. Even in India,  at the C-Suite level usage of these devices may be pretty much near saturation. So it’s not a question of if, but only a matter of when. This is especially important to enterprise start-ups that will face all of these issues by the time they have their products ready and achieve market fit.

The Who

Consumerization involves a host of policy and technology issues. Not all of them could be resolved only with the software product maker or the IT department. Access to applications and data may be policy issues to be determined by management and implemented by the IT security folks within the company. Software designers may need to address the ease of use issues that bring the enterprise applications closer in user experience to popular consumer applications like Google, Twitter and facebook.

The How

Consumerization involves making the user interface of the enterprise application on mobile devices, easy-to-use like those of consumer applications, native or HTML5 based. Bring Your Own Device policy implementation may involve the use of Mobile Device Management (MDM)  software which allows organizations to register and allow only authorized devices to access enterprise applications. In case employees need to be allowed access only to certain applications and not to others selectively, Mobile Application Management (MAM) software may need to be used. Chris Swan presents these issues in a very organized and understandable fashion in a video here and a presentation here, in case someone wants to dive deeper into the technology issues.

Consumerization of the Enterprise is about managing the expectations of the users of enterprise applications properly; answering questions such as – why can’t I use my smartphone or tablet to access the company’s application? Why shouldn’t their interfaces be as easy-to-use as my Gmail, Twitter or facebook? The technology and the design approaches for making this happen are already there. It’s only through careful analysis and addressing of issues that these objectives can be met, while at the same time balancing other issues such as security of data and applications!

Water cooler chatter 15 years ago used to be about what happened on Seinfeld. Now it’s ‘Look at what I’m doing on the enterprise network with my mobile device. – Bob Egan, vice president of mobile strategy at Mobiquity

First B2B Bootcamp for product startups – last day to apply

The last date to apply for this bootcamp has been extended to 16th August especially for Product Nation subscribers.

TiE-IQ Bootcamp is a no contract and free  60-day bootcamp where the participating startups will have an opportunity to create products, launch companies and walk away with their spoils and a lot of learning.

This first edition of the TiE-IQ Bootcamp is restricted to B2B technology product startups. It builds up on the successful bootcamp conducted by IQ earlier this year. Selected startups will walk in to the TiE-IQ Bootcamp with just a minimum viable product (MVP) and take back the following :

  1. Mentorship and Workshops by entrepreneurs leading successful startups to help you.
    • Refine and finish the minimal viable product (MVP) into a ready to buy product
    • Market your product
    • Get the first few customers
  2. Peer Learning
    • Learn from some of the best startup brains developing B2B products alongside.
  3. Working Space for two months in the heart of Mumbai.
  4. Software credits with some of the bootcamp partners
  5. Interaction with some of the best brains in the venture investment world.
  6. Demo Day: Your chance to pitch to investors in Mumbai  (and Bangalore – to be confirmed)

Who should Apply?

  • Enterprising (co-)founders and technology enthusiasts who want to build disruptive technology products or services for the Indian or global market.
  • Teams with 2-3 members that are capable to design, code and release a beta version of their product to market & sell it.

How to Apply?

To apply, visit this page for more details on eligibility criteria, and how to apply. The last date is extended to 16th August exclusively for Product Nation subscribers. For updates follow the twitter hashtag #TieBootCamp.

 

SMBs and Indian Software Product Industry: Intertwined Fortunes

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. ― Winston Churchill

Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs), the growth engine of India, are on the threshold of a tremendous opportunity. Globalization of trade and the rapid proliferation of computing and communication technologies are affording them a platform to expand their reach to national and global markets and compete head-to-head with global players. But on the flip side, those SMBs that do not recognize and capitalize on this wave quickly are likely to be swept away by the stiff global competition. If SMBs are to successfully counter global competition in their own backyard and elsewhere, they need to adopt software technology on a large scale, enabling them to run their businesses efficiently and effectively. But, few SMBs have the financial muscle or the technical know-how necessary to implement customized software solutions. Therefore, the majority of 13 million SMBs would count on standard business application software that requires minimum upfront investment and ongoing maintenance, to fuel their growth. Such software is distinct from the software deployed in large corporations and I refer to this as ‘Small Business Application Software (SBAS)’ to distinguish it from large enterprise application software.

Business application software (SBAS) such as accounting software, ERP, CRM etc., offers multiple benefits to SMBs –

  • As shown by research, SBAS significantly enhances the internal productivity of SMBs as well as their ability to manage relationships with vendors and customers, leading to superior firm performance.
  • It forces SMBs to adopt standard processes and best practices, moving them rapidly up the quality and value curve.
  • Most important of all, by streamlining day-to-day operations, it not only frees up the entrepreneur’s time for strategic planning but also assists her with the tools needed to make informed strategic decisions.

 

The question now arises – How can Indian SMBs get the right fuel for their growth? This is where a vibrant Indian software product industry plays a critical role. Indian SMBs cannot realize productivity and performance gains from software that is designed for developed markets. This is because the business environment in India (and other emerging markets) is substantially different from that of developed markets. It is volatile, with frequent regulatory changes, and rife with institutional and infrastructural challenges. For instance, there were 340 updates to Indian tax laws last year. That’s more than one tax law update every business day! Therefore, SMBs need software products that can buffer them from such volatility and help overcome the challenges associated with operating in this unique and dynamic environment. This is possible only when products are designed specifically for the Indian SMBs – and this is best done by a strong indigenous software product industry.

Indian software product companies are better positioned than foreign firms to support the Indian SMB market. This is because,

  • They have lower cost structures which allow them to meet the stringent price-performance expectation of Indian SMBs.
  • Further, because of their familiarity with the operating environment, they can build effective channels to drive software awareness and adoption among Indian SMBs- remember that Indian SMBs are more like enterprise customers than individual buyers in that they expect suppliers to sell to them.

 

In summary, there is a symbiotic relationship between SMB growth and a robust software product industry in India. SMBs need the software product industry to power the next phase of their growth and make them globally competitive. At the same time, the Indian software product industry, having missed out on the individual productivity and communication software wave, can leverage the large SMB market in India to establish itself as a global leader in the SBAS space. In other words, software product industry is the fuel for the SMB engine and the SMB engine can drive the Indian software product industry towards SBAS leadership. By moving in lockstep and moving quickly, India can create a competitive SMB sector and a vibrant software product industry.

Why just ‘knowing’ your customer is not enough

Every customer support forum and blog has at least one post talking about the importance of ‘knowing’ the target customer. This is one of those well established cliche-stereotypes that David Foster Wallace points out in Infinite Jest – we talk about them so much because they happen to be true. The only question is, how true?

Is ‘knowing’ your customer really enough?

Cadbury’s knows that its customers are young parents buying chocolates for their kids or teens buying chocolates for each other or middle aged people buying chocolates as gifts. Netflix knows that its customers are strapped-for-time movie buffs who love the convenience and ease that Netflix gives them. But do Cadbury’s and Netflix really know who their customers actually are, what they are doing when they want to buy a chocolate or a movie, when the decision is made to buy a chocolate or order a movie, and so on.

The ‘ideal customer profile’ is not going to reveal the details, and these are the details that matter.

Getting your hands dirty

A month back, Economic Times ran a fascinating story on Airline bosses and the lessons they picked up from talking to passengers while travelling. They figured out how important cheese sandwiches were, faced ground-level problems, got themselves a crash course in regional culture and basically got their hands dirty. The CEOs of India’s flying corporates, though competitors and sometimes bitter enemies, all agree on the point that they learn more from actually being in the shoes of their customers than by anything else.

This is something FMCG companies like ITC and Unilever know very well. Both these companies send their fresh recruits out into the field, into the place where the product has to be sold – the rural heart of India. Even the top management heads out to the street sometimes, in search of that small and elusive insight that could take the sales charts off into the stratosphere.

Do it like Dockers

In Malcolm Gladwell’s retelling of the story, this is exactly what ad agency FCB did with the Dockers campaign of the 1980s. The campaign called ‘Dockers World’, catapulted the khaki brand into probably the most ubiquitous male fashion statement of that period. The insight that FCB used was the male baby boomers’ urge to conform to standards, and not look like a made up Ken doll. The Dockers khakis were exactly that, they came in just three colours then, and all of them were made up of the stringently similar amount of cotton. And so the men who wore Dockers ‘fitted in’, which was exactly what they wanted to do. The iconic campaign is still remembered as one of America’s greatest, and FCB still consider it one of their crowning achievements.

Look for that insight

This story again illustrates why just knowing your customer isn’t enough. And in a product marketing setting, it only makes more sense. The customer profile you have drawn up can help, of course, but it will never come close to looking at the world from your customer’s eyes, figuring out his motivations, his reasons for doing something and what he wants from the product you want to sell to him. These questions may have the most surprising answers and from these answers, will come the insight that will endear your product to the consumer.