Understanding Your Customers And Building For Them – #99PlaybookRT

Building great products requires us to understand customer needs and its nuances, are more often than not, counter-intuitive to our assumptions. The Design Thinking Roundtable session by Deepa Bachu helped us identify methods to bridge this gap between building great products and understanding customer need. I was lucky enough to be part of the small group of product managers, designers, and fellow entrepreneurs to have an engaging discussion onimportance of design as an innovation strategy. How well do you know your customer?

How well do you know your customer?

Deepa’s opening question “Do you know your customer?” probably got all of us thinking on do we really know our customer. Personally, I somewhat know my customer. Just for that veryreason I am sitting at my client’s front office to fulfill the basic requirement: that of understanding my customer better. Working with Enterprise businesses requires us to learn and appreciate that we have 2 types of customers: 1> Management 2> the Actual End-user. We build our assumptions from our conversations with the management team who are the decision makers, but it’s the end-user that matters. The end-user, who is the employee should stand to benefit equally or probably more than the management, for our product to succeed. Every designaspect, needs to be geared to make the daily user happy. Understand your customers

Understand your customers

After knowing who your customer is, the ascent for a better product begins with sitting down with the end user in an amicable environment to learn about their challenges and their day to day experience. Deepa pointed out the importance of empathy, active listening and observation to help capture the end-user’s experience. Her role play exercise with one of the participants around the difference in the approach on asking open-ended questions while actively listening and observing delivered a completely different set of answers, in comparison to when as an interviewer she was asking closed ended questions and was not actively listening. In short, let your customer speak & take notes!!

Participants in the middle of the interview role play exercise 

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Developing Insights

Remember that the customer is only explaining their challenges or sharing their activities. Value addition to our product comes with inferring from these observations to identify insights. To find that hidden customer need, we will need to introduce adequate structure to the information collected from the customer / end-user. Some of the tools for us to use are:

  1. Empathy Maps to record our observations, which helps us split the talk and action of the end user that we can use to interpret the observations
  2. Ecosystem Maps help us understand the customer’s environment and his / her ecosystem. A map to tell us the sequence of events that are leading upto our solution or after the solution.
  3. Problem Statement helps us see the customer’sview point and their emotionalconnect to the problem. From a product point of view, we can turn a poor customer experience into customer delight by evoking the right positive emotion after using our product. Mind you, these folks are your product advocates. 


Customer Benefit

The core of design principles is not nailing your UI/UX, it is matching your customer need, the problem they are facing in the environment they are using / will use our product. Only when the experience matches this customer need will we really see true customer benefit. Value addition of this benefit requires the need to collect the right metrics to understand if we genuinely made a difference instead of vanity metrics like just increased downloads / users.

By understanding our genuine impact, we can course-correct our product with continuous improvement coupled with rapid prototyping to help us slowly move towards our product goals and vision.

What’s the one thing participants will do differently after the #RoundTable?


Overall a great learning experience thanks to Pensaar and iSPIRT for setting up this session.

By Rohit Krishnam, Co-founder of Lima Payments.

Editor’s Note: This #RoundTable happened to the 99th one and there was a small celebration on this occasion. It’s been a great journey so far and we’d like to thank all the participants, facilitators and volunteers who made this possible. Here’s to making India a Product Nation.

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PAY-IT-FORWARD PARADOX… The More You Give, The More You Receive

PAY-IT-FORWARD PARADOX… The More You Give, The More You Receive

Ever noticed how the busiest of people are often the ones that find time more easily than others?

It is about making the time versus having the time!

When you make time despite busy schedules and packed days to share your experience and perspectives it helps so many people, definitely more than you could individually imagine. In the process though, you get so much back, more than you could individually imagine. And, I am not just talking about the ego boost you get from your audience, it is the whole process. Deciding what to share allows you to spend time reflecting, perhaps even researching. You learn and remind yourself of what you knew and could have forgotten. The prep certainly helps you articulate and verbalize your thoughts. When you hear your audiences’ perspectives, another learning opportunity. When you get asked a question you couldn’t answer at first, yeah, another learning opportunity. It is the gift that keeps on giving. You very quickly see that making the time to share your thoughts and experiences is a really good way to learn.

At Pensaar, we are crazy biased towards design thinking as a mind set and a process to innovate.

We are practitioners and have used design thinking in our own jobs to innovate and are able to share war stories, trials and tribulations from our experiences. Being less than 6 months old, this August we took on the arduous task of putting together the Design Thinking Summit. The first draft was a vision more than a plan. Here’s what was serendipitous… as we shared our vision, many good people came to support our vision.

NSRCEL-IIM Bangalore, Intuit, iSPIRT and YourStory gave us their support. Many friends and fellow practitioners gave us their time, ideas and mentorship. What was the result? 70+ people went through a 3-day experience of applying design thinking to a real problem and 250+ people spent 1-day in large discussion formats learning about design thinking from each other.

It was truly inspiring and motivating to see so many people pay it forward, we were blessed to have that kind of support. Gave us more passion and energy to realize our vision to spread the awareness and application of design thinking.

Paying-it-forward is wonderful but then you imagine doing that for a bunch of people you have no vested interest in, it is pure humility.

The magnanimity with which they approach knowledge sharing is humbling. There is recognition of the notion that there are millions out there waiting to interact and hear their encouraging and inspirational stories. We asked a few design do-gooders we have had the honour of working with about why they work pro-bono. Here is what they had to say… we are indeed grateful to all the pay-it-forward individuals, makes us want to do more!

“One of the most wonderful experiences in life is to see an idea evolve into a feature or a product and then into business. There are a great many ideas out there that are ready to take this journey. Helping others navigate and experience this journey is what addressing larger audiences is all about” Tridib Roy Chowdhury, GM | Sr Director Products, Adobe

“I do it to pay it forward to peers, practitioners, designers & society at large for better ways to solve problems by design thinking. It is great to be part of something, where it is not driven by the idea of an individual but as a collaborative effort for change.I also get to be part of a platform where I can exchange idea/thoughts/ methodologies and more importantly learn, since there is no single right/wrong way to do design thinking” Harshit Desai, Design Thinker | Digital Transformation Lead | User Experience Strategist, KPMG India

“I see two extremes in the practice of Design Thinking. One pretty serious and offering the best for innovating for better lives. The other is lighter and sometimes belittling the practice. I am a pure play Design thinking practitioner and like to spread the message that for some DT is life changing and for some it betters lives. I have been part of such experiences. It is inspirational! Whether it is pro-bono or not I have been doing this for some years and will continue to do so, to reduce the negativity about design thinking to my best possible ability” Lakshman P Seshadri | Strategy | Innovation & Design, SAP

“Success for individuals or organizations is about what we can do for others as well. I consider it valuable to make the time to share knowledge. Empowering outfits and individuals is just as important. Pensaar’s mission to evangelise and spread design thinking at a nascent stage ties into my belief of sharing is learning” Venkat Kotamaraju | Growth & Strategy Leader, Pensaar

The joy in knowing that that they are changing lives is what makes evangelizing the methodology so important. Also, it triggers a beautiful snowball effect of only inspiring others to do the same.

Guest Post by Deepa Bachu, Pensaar 

Mavens are Everywhere

Playbook Round Tables were created with an intention to orchestrate the coordination and exchange of tacit knowledge. Thoughtful Founders acted as facilitators in this sharing of tacit knowledge. We call them Mavens. For them, their contribution to #PlaybookRTs was a labor of love. It is a selfless contribution to making India a Product Nation.


Thanks to the Founder Mavens, PlaybookRTs went on to become very successful. The topic coverage grew. However, we were not able to find Founder Mavens for topics like Design Thinking and Inside Sales. We wondered if we should look for Mavens who were not Founders. But we were skeptical if they would be animated by the Product Nation mission. And, even if they were, would they contribute selflessly in a pay-forward manner that the Founder Maven did? Would they sign the Maven Code-of-Ethics?

Then we ran into Deepa Bachu. 

Her commitment to making India a Product Nation was there. Yet we wondered if she would be willing to pay-forward in PlaybookRTs. We knew this was not an easy call to make. After all, it meant forgoing workshop revenue from product startups for the foreseeable future. As we talked, we realized that Deepa’s dilemma wasn’t whether she should make this selfless contribution! Instead, she was worried if the PlaybookRT attendees would value something that was free!  

This led to a couple of experimental PlaybookRTs.

And here we are! Deepa learned that Sometimes Free Is Valuable. And we learned that there are contributors to the product ecosystem who will put the cause before their business. We find that the Practitioner Mavens are as vested in the pay-forward model as Founder Mavens. We cherish and value both of them.

With inputs from my colleague Rajan.

Because Sometimes Free is Valuable

Whenever I have helped someone I believe their thanks is sincere and heartfelt. Can’t beat that wonderful feeling, so I do my best to make time and pay-forward.

Amongst the many that pay-forward, I was really intrigued by the iSPIRT community. A group of best-in-class entrepreneurs (and one could say even, celebrity entrepreneurs) coming together to share their knowledge with fellow and new entrepreneurs. With the hope to share some of my knowledge I started my engagement with iSPIRT running design thinking roundtables.


I have had the great fortune of having exceptional mentors teach me what I know about creating solutions that delight customers; design thinking – a mindset and a process to get inspired by customers, focus on trying things quickly and learn as you go to create solutions that will create awesome customer experiences. It was now my time to pay-forward. What started off as a pro-bono effort has brought me to today where I can proudly say that I am amongst the few privileged to be a part of this highly trusted iSPIRT Maven community.

Practitioners like me synthesize and create new-knowledge in a specialized field. This, in my case, is in Innovation & Design Thinking. A large part of such specialized human-knowledge, however, is stored as experience. It is tacit knowledge. The more you teach, the more you learn. Your knowledge gets refined almost everyday. So of course I wanted to share my knowledge fully expecting that I will be learning by teaching.

I was requested to do it pro-bono and sign into their Maven-code of Ethics which fundamentally is to commit for a pay-it-forward model, not expecting any payback in any form from any participating startups.

Do our audience even trust a Practitioner who is providing pro-bono services to be of high-quality, I wondered?  We live in a culture where often quality if assessed with price and I wasn’t sure at first what I should expect. However, after just doing a couple of Round Tables I realized that trust is indeed created when people give selflessly in a pay-it-forward model. And, it is this very high degree of trust that allows entrepreneurs who are a part of the roundtables to provide open feedback to practitioners (aka Mavens) like me to continue learning and refining our craft. This is indeed priceless. Add to the this, the satisfaction of working for the cause of building a Product Nation together with many spirited Entrepreneurs.

Design Thinking- The UnConference way

Gerard Butler and his army of Spartans walking down the stone corridors of the beautiful and mythical surroundings of IIM-B paint a beautiful picture. It’s really not too hard to picture them there, blending in beautifully with the surroundings too.

Designthinking‘Preparing for glory’- Like the Spartans, Pensaar too is setting stage for the ultimate revolution. The UnConference, Phase-ll of the Design Thinking Summit is gathering traction and building from a 60+ gathering at Phase-l to now include 300+ participants.

Our existence being rooted in Design Thinking the day of reckoning, 26th August is going to be an action packed day covering various topics. It begins with Pecha Kucha and workshops followed by exciting interaction formats like fishbowl, socratic dialog, market place and world café. Tying it all together will be design thinking experts from diverse backgrounds, wielding their own special weapons and skill sets ( Added bonus- they decide to show up in their greek robes. We have sent them the memo)

Embodying the mission to raise awareness about design thinking and its impact we are thrilled to bring to you just that. Join us and our partners IIM-B and Intuit to take advantage of this unique gathering of people, after all it has been designed keeping you in mind.

Click here for registrations: designthinkingsummit.com and help spread the word #DTSummitBLR

Guest Post by Deepa Bachu, Pensaar

Design is about Love and Empathy towards the customer

The Design RoundTable last week lead by Deepa Bachu and Rajan, was not what I expected. By and large, design to me was either a part of an application (UI / UX) or a concept which i did’nt know much about. But, when we went in depth with Deepa, I realized that design is an integral part of who we are and what we see around us.

Through detailed discussions, we were made to think about what design is and what design meant to individuals, communities, startups as well as our customers.  The first task started with a a simple question, what is design? One can come up with several ways to describe it and the audience described it as – Design is something that solves a need, brings convenience, humanizes products (i.e. bringing human touch to products), explores empathy, understands customers and is about continuous learning.  What stood out for me was that design is all about Love and passion in order to bring out the best products/services to address a customer need, in a manner that creates value with ease and convenience. This would enable the users to be at ease and fall in love with what it represents. If a design is thought through with love, compassion and empathy, the user’s journey and experience improves.

The first task in the workshop was to work in a group and explore design features (good vs. bad designs) both within and outside a room. This enabled us to look at things from a design lens. The group came up with very interesting insights of how people dry their clothes in modern buildings differently from those who dry clothes on their balconies or how badly the electric poles in India are designed or how cobbled streets are an interesting design element than traditional tar roads.

IMG_20160409_145508This experience made us understand and be aware of the small and subtle difference between good and bad design. I was able to realize and conclude how crucial it is to be empathetic to customer needs and when, where and how they experience a product / service. Hence, it is essential to understand things from the customer’s perspective which eventually helps us improve the utility of the product and services that one offers.

This applies to all our products and services. We are all trying to build a product around enhancing the customer experience and thinking through each aspect from the users point of view is crucial. How does a user discover your product or hears about you? How do you ease the process of sign ups? How important is the design of your website or application? What does the product do for the customers and what are the benefits of it? These are just few examples of how we can think from the customer’s point of view. By allowing ourselves to think from the customer’s perspective, we are enabling us to re-imagine the product and user’s journey through various channels to engage and enrich with the user.

Another interesting insight was around humanizing products as consumers are humans. Adding a human touch to design can make an experience great. For example, addressing consumers in emails by their names or to have a real person to sign off at the end of an email.

There were many other aspects we covered in our conversations. We discussed the importance of elegance in design and a belief that “UI without UX is Superficial”. We also discussed the importance of creating that WOW factor or customer delight in making customers your brand ambassadors. For creating customer delight, one has to first answer what benefits a customer will get and how one can create customer experience through positive emotion. The combination of these simple three stage processes will help us to think through the various customer delight experiences that we can design.

Another tool that Deepa spoke about and is quite helpful is an Empathy Map. It is a 2×2 matrix to understand the journey of a customer. Four questions need to be asked.

1) What do customers say about your product,

2) What do they do while experiencing your product,

3) What are they thinking while they use the service and

4) How do they feel over all.

This is an experiment which should be done periodically with various sets of customers which can make each member of the team sensitive to the customer journey. An interesting point learnt is that every time we have an insight on one of the four touch points — Say, do, think and feel , we could use this as a starting point. For example, while booking a flight online, how is the customer journey when they first login, are they looking for the cheapest price if so what do they say about that experience, what do they think while looking for the cheapest price (will they get the cheapest price on this website and will the price change later) and what do they feel (lets pay it by it before it changes).

By following some basic templates we can rethink our products and imagine the customer journey in a manner that we could live it on a daily basis. The love / empathy towards our customers, which results in benefits for the customer and eventually helps in designing the WOW (delight) moments are what makes a lasting impact and creates a bond between the brand and the customers.

Hence, design is one of the main pillars of building a successful product and I hope we all can make design an integral part of the organization. Our thinking should bring compassion and love to customers through Design.

Thank you Deepa and Rajan for wonderful session on Design thinking

Deepa is a design and product leader who most recently worked at Intuit as the Director of Design and Product Management. Deepa’s passion is to transform customers’ lives by creating products that solve their biggest unmet needs.

Deepa has 20 years of experience in the Tech industry where she has played a variety of roles across Product Development, Experience Design, Product Management and General Manager. Deepa’s experience has given her expertise in creating and taking global products for both emerging markets as well as developed markets across multiple domains.
What is Design (Iteration 1)

What is Design (Iteration 2)


What is Design (Iteration 3)


What is design iteration4 ?



Guest post by Gaurang Sanghvi

Awesome By Design – Going Broad to Narrow

Creating intuitive products used to be enough but not any more. Now customers demand awesome product experiences…the ones that they tell others about. ‘Design awesome’ – we use these words a lot, but what does it mean? And how do you go about it?

It’s not about delivering awesome products; it’s about delivering awesome experiences that deliver unexpected delight. Design for Delight is grounded in deep customer empathy, going broad with ideas then narrowing with possible solutions and finally, rapid experimentation with customers. In my earlier article on creating awesome by design, I wrote about the first of three important principles.

  1. Know your customer
  2. Go broad to go narrow
  3. Iterate with customers, frequently

In this post, I’ll focus on the second principle: go broad to narrow

The first step in design thinking is to understand your customers, identify their pain points and being really specific about the pain point. It’s when you fall in love with the problem and not the solution that a new sense of objectivity comes in.

Start with all the pain points you see your customers face. Don’t stop with the first one you see, observe all the pain points. Go broad and identify them all. Then, you narrow down to the pain point that you feel customers really struggle with. The one that you know you can solve well and in a way that you can build durable competitive advantage… one that others will not be able to copy easily.

Try this… Give your teams 2-5 minutes to write down their ideas for the problem identified, one idea per post-it. Ask them to read it all out and group them on the board. After you go through them all, throw away all the ideas on the board. You will see everyone’s surprise. If it took a team of folks 2 minutes to come up with the idea, don’t you think others outside your company will do it just as easily? Now, ask them to build on earlier ideas or come up with new ones by combining the earlier ideas.

Go Broad

Our first solutions are often our most obvious ones. In fact most brainstorming techniques I use involve throwing away the initial ideas to get to the good ones that will come later. The ones that come later build on earlier ones and tend to be more thoughtful. It is as if we need to flush out the basic solutions before we get to the better and significant ones.

As human beings we are genetically predisposed to solving problems. We often jump into the first solution we get and then, fall in love with it. You will be far more successful in delivering awesome if you fall in love with the problem and not the solution.

Often, you will have to help teams suspend their judgment and think beyond what is accepted as possible. We call this fodder. Give your teams ideas and analogies they can draw from and discover truly disruptive solutions for solving the customer pain point on hand. For example, when we were thinking about mediums of communication for our product to engage the customers, we thought of Morse codes, pigeons, personal messages, and even telepathy!

One good tip would be to ask yourself “what else did we/I look at”, every time you review a solution. Most teams I have worked with only detail out one idea. My magic number is three. I think it is important to explore 3 great solutions (at the very least) and then narrow down to the winning solution. My only rule is that these 3 solutions need to be distinctively different and not just small deviations of each other. If you are having difficulty going broad use this simple 7-to-1 tool.

“To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas.” – Linus Pauling


Once you have a number of ideas on the board, the next step is to evaluate them and narrow the focus. Narrow down to the handful of ideas that you think you can really solve well with durable competitive advantage.

When you brainstorm, you come up with unique and bizarre ideas from a variety of perspectives, each of them with its own spin and inspiration for the solution. It is easy to discard those but wait, those are probably your most disruptive ideas!

There are several ways to narrow; I will share two ways that I tend to use:

  1. 2×2 Narrowing Technique: Use this method when trying to narrow across several dimensions that are important to you and your customers
  • Label the axis with criteria that lead to some tension and/or criteria that you would like your ideas to have. Place your ideas written on post-its into the relevant quadrant. The ones that you are interested are often in the top, right quadrant. You can decide that you want to look at multiple criteria and go through several rounds of these 2X2s. You may also decide that you don’t have enough ideas that are say, innovative and look to build on existing ideas so that it will be innovative.
  1. Target exercise: Put all your ideas on the target. The idea that solves the pain point best (with your individual or teams’ judgment) in the middle. This is a great exercise for you to involve your (potential) customers and ask them what idea they would think solves their pain point best i.e. what they would use. The discussion to have needs to be around how you can build on many ideas and combine them into one so you can bring it into the center circle.

A great example from my awesome journey at Intuit is Fasal. The pain-point that farmers in India faced was not knowing how to get the best price for their produce, nor what markets to go to and when. We conducted several experiments on providing the right information at the right time to the farmers, ranging from eBay-like market places to voice-based systems and text messages for providing market information. The magic number is 3… I always try at least 3 different solutions. Interestingly the solution we then built out is not 1 of the 3 but a new concept that had a few attributes of the 3 ideas we shared with customers. Simplicity and accessibility were very important criteria, and these narrowed our solution to an SMS based platform that provides farmers with reliable and real time wholesale market price.

Use go broad to narrow throughout your innovation process, starting with the pain point and ending in the actual building of the solution and support.

I hope this article was insightful to you on how to design awesome using the principle of going broad to narrow. Please feel free to share your thoughts and I would love to answer any questions on this topic.

Design thinking Playbook Roundtable by Deepa Bachu


The core idea of a startup is to tap into the previously unexplored markets, identifying unsolved problems and bringing to the market innovation that disrupt the existing eco-system. It’s about understanding complex problems and coming up with innovative, disruptive solutions…a process that requires understanding the consumers’ requirements and behavior patterns to create a well-thought out solution for the customers’ benefit.

While most entrepreneurs spend weeks brainstorming about the idea, they often ignore the key ingredient to innovation : design.

Design /dɪˈzʌɪn/ (noun) – do or plan (something) with a specific purpose in mind.

The Design thinking Playbook Roundtable organized by iSpirit and conducted by Deepa Bachu from Pensaar helped startup founders understand the importance of design thinking and integrate design into their workflow. Here are some key takeaways from the Playbook Roundtable held at the head office of Instamojo in Bangalore:

Design thinking is not just about the graphic elements, UI or tools. It is a creative approach to a problem. It is a problem solving methodology – whether it is blueprints for a building, a beautiful graphic design for a brochure, a sleek UI for a website or a comfortable piece of furniture, design helps to solve any problem, visual or physical.

While it is important to engage a professional, it is crucial that everybody on the team thinks DESIGN. Entrepreneurs should be able to step away from their immediate environment to look around and view their idea from the perception of the consumers, a process that requires creative thinking.

As a good product manager, a startup founder should be able to connect the dots in non-obvious ways to come up with a unique and innovate solution for the consumers. It is crucial for entrepreneurs develop a deep insight of the problem they are seeking to solve and be passionate about it before coming up with a solution. More startups focus more on the solution and forget the initial problem statement. You must never lose sight of your problem, constantly revisiting it while fine-tuning and tweaking the solution.

A product is valuable only as long as the consumer users it. It is thus important for entrepreneurs to understand customer behavior in order to make their product user friendly. Usability studies though interesting, aren’t always reliable. Startup founders thus have to seek out customers and work with them closely to understand what they need, what they think, how they use the product and how they feel about it.

Customer behavior v/s customer intent – it is important to understand the difference between the two. While a user may want to do something in the ideal world (intent), she may not be able to do it in the real world (behavior). As entrepreneurs it is important to differentiate intent from actual behavior. If this is geographically impossible, startup founders should not hesitate to use data analytics to tap into the users’ behavior patterns and modify the product.

Design thinking allows entrepreneurs to look at their idea holistically and come up with the best possible solution for their users. Design after all enables people to create and come up with the unimaginable and unexpected designs.



Design Thinking: When creativity and process come together

Design Thinking as a mindset and process that is starting to get its’ due attention in the US. In India however, it is lesser known and in most cases, an after thought.

What is Design Thinking, you ask? It is a creative process of building products that people simply love to use! Products that not just meet but beat customers’ expectations and bring in the element of unexpected delight!

There are several versions of the design thinking process, having practised design thinking for ~10 years now, here is my interpretation of it.

Design Thinking → insight . dream . disrupt

INSIGHT is all about developing a deep understanding of the customer as well as the environment in which they work. Then, connecting the dots in non-obvious ways to develop clear insights into the customer needs.

DREAM helps you think about many, out of the box solutions before you choose one solution that really solves the customer need you identified. But, you wont stop till you build in unexpected customer delight.

DISRUPT helps you push your thinking beyond what is easily possible and iteratively test your ideas with your customers (no surveys, real experiences tested with fake-o-backends)

Design Thinking in India: Most, if not all individuals creating products in India tend to be engineers by education. I think of this to be a huge advantage. “It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs. Given the engineering background in India, we naturally focus on how things works. As such we need to use this advantage and focus on converting new and wonderful technologies into products that people simply love. However, we tend to be guilty of not stopping to understand the problem and simply focus the solution right away. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution — one of the many things, I learnt while at Intuit is something I think we should all apply more.

I believe this has to do with our lineage and how we’ve grown into a country that’s going in the path of a technology revolution!

IT progression in India in the ast 30 years

My message to all product and experience creators is just this…it is not enough to have designers think about customers, everyone in the company should foster design thinking.

Be AWESOME, BY DESIGN — start with discovering those deep insights, dream up solutions that push possibilities and finally create disruptive solutions that don’t stop short of delivering unexpected delight.

I’ve shared examples of insight and dream previously. Do share your own design thinking stories and challenge mine.

Designing Great Products: A Startup CEO’s perspective

I had the opportunity to attend iSpirit Foundation’s #PNMeetup: Design great products through experiments – Product Leadership Workshop on 20th April 2013 at TLabs in Noida. 

Avi from iSPIRT put together a delightful, half-day session that brought together a smattering of product people from Delhi-NCR region.  In addition to product managers, CEOs, and senior executives from a wide range of Delhi startups, the icing on the cake was the presence of a hard-hitting product team from Intuit that had travelled all the way from Bangalore to share their experiences with the assembled audience. The Intuit Team included Deepa Bachu (Director, Emerging Market Innovation at Intuit), Samarjit GhoshLalitha RamaniVivek Vijayan & ThiyagaRajan ) 

The Intuit posse had experiences working on a variety of products from the uber-popular Turbo Tax to the socially relevant Fasal and an engaging discussion on their diverse experiences exposed the audience to a wide range of challenges that the Intuit teams faced and the teams’ approach to overcome these challenges.  Many an aspiring entrepreneur has been flummoxed with multiple questions vis-à-vis product development, not limited to prioritizing features, costs, and release cycles and the Intuit team cleared a lot of misconceptions around commonly accepted best-process with their highly structured product management approach.  Intuit’s product management model is largely based around the hypotheses driven approach that, in addition to software development, is the bedrock for business decision-making from optimizing scientific discoveries to underpinning most strategy consulting engagements.  We were walked through a detailed explanation of the Intuit way and were then led to put our newfound knowledge to task with an actual exercise on the streets.

The hour spent on the streets by 25 eager entrepreneurs, braving the Noida summer-heat led to the thread baring of multiple, seemingly unambiguous truths about how we thought about product research, design, and development.  The interesting aspect of the exercise was that that like many frameworks, the Intuit approach brought out its share of naysayers and skeptics among the assembled audience but the healthy discussion that followed enabled multiple perspectives to heard and discussed. 


As a startup-CEO at Studycopter, managing the product development process is an integral part of what I do, day in and day out.  Sharing of notes and perspectives with fellow CEOs and product managers was a unique opportunity for me to test my assumptions and build a new way of looking at problems and coming up with solutions. 

I can write with a reasonable degree of certainty that all participants would share my thoughts about the utility of the aforementioned session and moving forward, I look forward to the Studycopter team and I participating in multiple such meetups to build the intellectual rigor that would be critical in delivering breakthrough product experiences for our customers.

Guest Post by Adi Jain, Founder and Chief Awesomeness Officer at Studycopter, a mobile + online learning platform to enable students to get their best possible scores in competitive exams such as the GMAT and GRE.