Interakt – an all-in-one customer engagement platform, Sudhanshu Aggarwal – Product Manager and Founder @ Fizzy Software, #PNHangout

Fizzy Software was founded in 2007 when I was doing my under-graduation in the US. Back then the Facebook platform had just come out and we saw that this could be an excellent opportunity to build some interesting apps on their platform and the first Facebook application that we built exploded well on the market resulting in us developing more Facebook and I-phone applications. We eventually sold most of those applications because those platforms were very new and we weren’t sure what this would end up resulting in. So we saw an opportunity and we cashed out our applications. I then decided to join Zynga as a Product Manager, where, for over a year, I worked on their internal gaming social network initiative which was developed to compete with Facebook. This turned out to be a great learning experience – lots of very smart people, lot of insights, focus on scale, speed and analytics, etc. However I chose to return to India in 2010 and resumed operations with Fizzy Software where I started a team in 2011 which focuses on design, analytics and feedback to build products and solutions for ideas that we came across.

The idea for Interakt arose from a recurrent pain point that we observed while developing our products at Fizzy Software. Just to clarify, Interakt is an all-in-one customer engagement platform that brings lead capture, user data, email automation, live chat, web notifications and feedback under one dashboard. Over the previous years when we’ve built products, our goal was always to solve some problem. So we would find that one simple problem or pain point that we were facing and we would build solutions around that.

interaktAcross all these products that we built there was one underlying theme namely “customer engagement.” No matter what product we built, whether it was a B2B product or a B2C product there was always an angle of customer engagement involved i.e. how do you capture customer information, how do you understand what are they up to, how have they used the product, etc. Typically you would engage with your users by maybe sending a marketing email, automated email, informational email or transactional email. They might also have a query so you would want to respond to their support queries, get their feedback or engage in live chat. So there are currently a lot of different methods that websites and mobile apps use to engage their customers. Once we had built a number of products we saw this as one of the main underlying issues that we had to deal with every time we built a product. That is when we started diving deeper into what other solutions were out there and we learnt that we could build a solution which was probably better and more comprehensive and delivered the right value because of which we decided to build Interakt as a central customer engagement platform to allow you to capture, engage and entertain users.

Picking and Choosing

Currently, in terms of customer acquisition for Interakt, we are doing a number of things as I think it is too early to predict what is going to be the biggest customer acquisition driver in the future for us but content writing is a very big thing for us. We are also now trying to formulate a social media strategy where we use Twitter, Quora and other tools to generate more leads and reach out to more people and get their feedback from there. Other than that we are constantly parsing and collecting information about start-ups from blogs and other sources and putting that in our database and reaching out to them. Another big segment for us is our integration partners. We’ve integrated with Shopify, Prestashop, bigcommerce and we are going to be going after their customers and will hopefully win some partnerships and cross promotions with those platforms where we sell it to their customers. People are already used to SaaS based platforms and they understand the value of having everything in an integrated solution. So just like Shopify handles all the inventory management, sales, payment transactions for e-commerce stores, etc. hopefully Interakt could be the place where you manage your customer engagement, supporting your customers, sending them more personalised offers, etc.

At Fizzy software, we have a diverse portfolio of products. So when building a product, we first ask ourselves if we are building this as a viable business or are we building this just because we see a problem and we are really passionate about it. This is something that has helped us determine things going forward. Consequently, we have built products like, LaunchGator, etc. where the idea was we wanted a simple solution where it just did something for us where other solutions didn’t satisfy our need, irrespective of generating revenue from the product. In these cases we built these products almost as hackathons and just opened up these products other people. We sometimes even open source the code if we think it can be beneficial to others to see how we’ve done things. In the extreme cases where we do come up with ideas where we think these are really models or opportunities that could be big, then that is when the decision is to see if this a B2B product or a B2C product and based on that the revenue model decision or the business model decision comes in. We have clearly defined that any B2B product will be a SaaS based play and with respect to any B2C product we want to stay away from advertising. This is an internal decision that if we are doing a B2C product it should be something where there is an alternate source of revenue rather than just advertising dollars because in order to make a lot of money on advertising dollars you need millions and millions of hits on a daily basis.

While building our products, what has been important for us is being clear about the objective. What I have noticed through various discussions that I have had with regards to a MVP is that people have over thought the scaling aspect of things. For example, when I have 100,000 users or 500,000 users I should be able to do this which, in reality, is technically not part of your MVP. The whole idea of your MVP is just to put something out there and figure out your product market fit because getting to a 100,000 users is a very big challenge and it takes probably lakhs of rupees or a brilliant product or some other product features in there which will allow you to grow that rapidly. Dropbox had its own referral system. Evernote just had a great product to capitalise on. So a lot of people focus on scaling which is one thing that we’ve never thought of. Whenever we are building something we prefer to just plug-in basic features that work for that moment and if we have to re-do it once the product goes live, that’s fine. So scaling is definitely one thing we pushed back at.

Product Roadmaps are driven by customer feedback

The core philosophy has been about being able to build that basic MVP in addition to having transparency across the board. We want to make sure that whenever someone is building something they have a clear vision in mind and that everyone in the team is aware of what the other person is doing. Before we build anything however, we require thorough research into the competition and what tools are available in the market in order to enhance and build our product at least on par with what is out there today. I think doing enough market research and gathering enough feedback from people that is basically what should be your first step before you decide to build anything because unless you have Steve Job’s capability of just envisioning something and coming up with a break-through product on your own, most people rely on customer feedback and there is really nothing better than that. So just getting out there and talking to people and figuring out what their response is in order to shape your product’s future is important. A lot of times we’ve been guilty of not doing that. We just went with our gut instinct when we thought that the idea would make a cool product but then we’ve realised, from a big picture perspective, that customer input and feedback from all the stake holders is ultimately what should be driving your product roadmap.

#PNHANGOUT is an ongoing series where we talk to Product Managers from various companies to understand what drives them, the products they work on 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 email me at appy(dot)[email protected](dot)com.