Cleartrip has been an early adopter of m-commerce in India. How have you been involved in taking Cleatrip’s mobile offerings from a MVP, to the product that it is today. How did you ensure it was scaled the right way and it grew?
A) Cleartrip launched its mobile site 3 years ago and was by definition, a minimum viable product: In the first version, users could only book a one-way ticket for one traveller and nothing more.
When we launched Cleartrip for mobiles, smartphones weren’t as popular as they are now and anything we earned wouldn’t have a large impact on our revenue. So we took small steps to make our mobile offerings market ready. We did not want to overwhelm the user with too many options, and we slowly scaled the product with more features as the market grew. Today we have apps for all major platforms and one of the most comprehensive mobile site, with mobile contributing over 25% of the traffic for us.
My first priority has always been to deliver the very best products we can, for our customers and it is very gratifying to see it getting recognized within the country as well as at international forums.
You’ve been in product management for over 8 years now, what do you think is the role of a product manager in an organization?
A) Envision, Evangelize, Execute, are the three key roles a product manager has to perform in any organization.
This means having a clear picture of the problem you are trying to solve, the solution and the strategy that will lead you there. It requires deep understanding of target users, the existing solutions and competitors in the market and a compelling case for why your solution will win over the existing alternatives.
An equally important aspect of my role is evangelizing your vision to your team. The more you focus on thisthe easier it’ll be to executeAnd once the team is convinced with your vision, you’ll be amazed to see the change it’ll bring to the output.
Remember the quote from The Social Network, “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”
It is one of the most critical aspects of product management and means doing whatever it takes to ensure your product ships.
How do you organize your week and what are some of the tools you use to manage your work?
I try planning my week ahead by setting broad goals that can be achieved by the end of the week. My weekly goals could include tasks like calls, meetings, interviews, data analysis, and every little thing that I can foresee for that week. Planning for each day is usually impractical so I set a broad theme for each day and try and stick to it; for example, Marketing Monday’s is when I spend more time understanding impact of marketing campaigns, or Competition Wednesdays where I try to catch up on the competitor’s activities.
I also dedicate at least one day every two weeks, purely to plan future releases and to do a postmortem on our recent releases.
How do you go about understanding your customers and his/her needs?
We get a lot of feedback from our users through emails, app reviews, complaints, tweets, Facebook comments and by talking to them directly. But while collecting this feedback, my focus is always to understand why users want a certain feature(instead of making a bucket list of what they want) or else you’ll end up building ‘faster horses’.
Analytics is the other very powerful source of understanding and predicting market needs and for fixing critical bugs.
It’s a mix of the two(feedback and analytics) that gives a good base for prioritizing releases. Making decisions by looking at just one side of the picture can sometimes prove fatal for products.
Product managers spend much of their time communicating ideas, plans, designs, and tasks to their teams. How do you ensure that it is done effectively?
You need to champion the three levels of communication between the teams.
Long term: By conveying your vision to the team and making sure that they are aware of the problem you are trying to solveis extremely important if you want a self motivated team. Even if they find it repetitive, you need to communicate it often, so that they don’t lose sight of it.
Short term: This includes communicating to all the people who will help in achieving this vision. It is mainly in a form of a product roadmap. You can share a broad yearly plan and a detailed quarterly plan that will enable everyone to plan accordingly. Make sure to keep all the stakeholders as involved/informed.
Immediate: This would include the day-to-day communication that is required for a smooth functioning of your roadmap. SCRUMs, feedback on designs, prioritizing bugs, discussing & closing blocker issues, reviewing marketing plans, communicating deviations, escalations, all fall under this category.
Q) Any tips for aspiring product managers?
Your products can only be as good as your relation with your teams, so invest time in building a long-term relation with them. By spending time with your team you build trust and respect, that will keep them equally excited & help you achieve your goals.
Editor’s Note: Every member of the product team is important. To succeed, a company must design, build, test and market the product effectively. That said, there is one role that is absolutely crucial to producing a good product, yet it is often the most misunderstood and underutilized of all the roles. This is the role of the product manager. #PNHangout is an ongoing series where we talk to Product Managers from various companies to understand what drives them, the tools they use, the products they work on, how they go about their day and the role they play in defining the products success.
If you have any feedback or questions that you would like answered in this series feel free to tweet to me: @akashj