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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Diversity with Collaboration Unlocks Innovation and Drives Business Growth

“Diversity is an intellect multiplier, especially when the diverse groups can collaborate well” – Mark Sareff

This year the International Women’s day was a different experience for me, no panels stating gender diversity facts most people are painfully aware of. Instead I had the proud privilege of being invited to do a fireside chat and explore new dimensions of diversity and its impact on innovation and business growth.

We are familiar with dimensions of diversity we are born with — gender, age, race etc. but less familiar with the dimensions we acquire in our lifetime — culture, life experiences, domains worked in, education background etc. These interesting dimensions set your thinking patterns, beliefs and problem-solving approaches.

Diversity is an intellect multiplier but, only when diverse groups can collaborate. We need a common language that helps diverse groups come together and collaborate. We need an inclusive environment that fosters diverse perspectives without judgment… here’s where design thinking comes in!

Design thinking in its application celebrates diversity, when done well allows you to go broad try many, diverse approaches before narrowing down to one solution. It can also change how people work together for the better, introducing a deeper level of collaboration, appreciation of diversity and creativity.

Sharing a few key tools to help you create an inclusive environment that fosters diverse perspectives and hence innovative solutions:

1.   Don’t brainstorm; think Independently, together While we are not against brainstorming, we believe brainstorming can lead to HiPPO decisions (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) and can exclude out-of-the-box thinking because the facilitator or the group naturally judges all ideas being generated. Instead have everyone think independently and write down their ideas individually and review every single idea. Similar ideas get grouped together, no idea gets left behind or judged right away. Instead we build on existing ideas to make them more diverse and disruptive. It is a powerful process that celebrates diversity and creates an inclusive environment for disruptive ideas to form and persist.

2.   Narrow ideas using clear criteria – The 2×2 tool is a narrowing tool, allows you to choose ideas that the team will filter down to. The team identifies 2 key criteria to narrow ideas (ideally, customer benefits) that would make massive impact on the business. Ideas are then plotted against those dimensions relative to the benefits it brings to the organization versus making Caesar-like decisions. Again allowing diverse teams and ideas to collaborate well hence leading to innovation and business growth.

3.   Facilitating large group dialogues – The World Café is a structured tool intended to facilitate collaboration, initially in small groups and then linking ideas within a larger group to access the collaborative and collective wisdom in the group. Each person interprets the world differently, based on his/her perception. Sharing the viewpoints of others is essential for understanding alternatives and adapting strategies to deal with environments. Environments that recognize the contribution of all will foster a strong commitment to achieve common goals.

Diversity offers different experiences and novel perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. It opens up new conversations pushing the boundaries on unrestrained thinking which enables breakthrough innovations.

At Pensaar, one of the things we celebrate is the differences we all bring to the table. Each of us comes with unique experiences having worked in varied industries and lived very different lives. It allows us to recognize each other’s strengths and learn from each other while also being sympathetic to each other’s weaknesses. Our different experiences and perspectives help us foster innovation to beat and not just meet the needs of our increasingly diverse customer base.

So much has already been written about this amazing topic, go here to read more:

·   To Make Diversity Work You Need Design Thinking

·   HBR’s How Diversity Can Drive Innovation

·   10 Companies Around the World That Are Embracing Diversity in a BIG Way

·   Why diversity matters


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 

Design Thinking: Building a digital brand #PlaybookRT in Bangalore – 19th Nov

In a highly competitive marketplace we all depend on nimble creative thinking to solve problems. The center of design thinking is the end user experience – which in turn reflects the brand philosophy and ideology.  The process starts with the people that we are designing for and ends with creating products, services and experiences that add value to the lives of people.
Design plays a critical role in the image of your product and your business. For instance, when you browse a website, it takes nothing more than a few seconds to make a judgement on whether you like ‘how it looks’. In a few more seconds, you have created a perception about the brand, deciding if you will trust the brand and if you would like to buy the brands product. Design plays an important role here, it talks to consumers like you and me; it helps create and image, change perceptions if need be, and creates the unstated experience for consumers.The ‘Design Thinking‘ session will focus on the power of design to solve problems with creativity and an interest for the customer, while building a brand. The session will cover all aspects of design – from brand design, to experience design, to marketing design but will largely focus in-depth on user experience design. There will be many examples from the Urban Ladder context across our journey, and a sneak peek into our next evolution. The session will also leave you with specific metrics to measure the impact of design thinking and develop appropriate implementation plans for new solutions.

This Playbook Roundtable is scheduled for 19th November(Saturday) in Bangalore and will be led by Rajiv Srivatsa, Founder & COO at UrbanLadder & Prateek Dixit, UX designer, UrbanLadder. This Design Thinking Playbook is open to innovative start−ups and passionate entrepreneurs who are ready to accept one of the first challenges in Design Thinking: Your user knows best!

Who should apply?

This roundtable is ideal for innovative startups who are looking to understand their customers deeply and create awesome, by design experiences for them. Life changing experiences! To apply please click here

Key Takeaways from The Design Thinking Roundtable

When it comes to building a product, I had absolutely no experience before Pricebaba. While building Pricebaba.com I did learn many nuances and tricks for growth. I am grateful to the friends and mentors who have always helped us understand users better and how to build a great product. It was a pleasant coincidence last week when I got two opportunities to understand design better — first, I attended the Design Quicky Mumbai event hosted by 500 Startups and later in the week, iSpirt organised a roundtable session on Design Thinking. Deepa Bachu who is currently running a design consultancy firm Pensaar shared her 15+ years of experience working in the industry with brands like Intuit. Here are some key takeaways from that session.

Tracking Customer/Consumer Benefit Metric

According to Deepa, the key metric to chase / track is customer benefit metric (CBM). It’s simply how do you make your customer’s life easy. For Google, customer benefit metric would how be quickly it’s able serve the result and how relevant they are with user’s search query. This makes so much sense. If you look closely, all the updates Google has made are around that — be it with the Panda or Penguin update, to give the best result in minimal time.

Once you start thinking of serving your current users better, if they are truly benefitted with your product, they are going to use your product again. This leads to increase in MAU, decrease in bounce rate. All of your other metrics will fall in place automatically. Take marketplaces for example, they are serving two kind of customers — Merchants and Shoppers. Their key to success would be to make sure Merchants sell goods regularly and efficiently. They can enable this by reducing returns, empowering logistics and customer support. Whereas on the other hand making sure users get what they want at the right price and their journey to checkout is as smooth as it can be. For us, at Pricebaba it’s quite similar to marketplaces. Our customer benefit metric would be to make sure the returns on the partner’s platform are under control (thereby making sure conversions are higher). On other hand for users it would be how effectively we help them choose the best product for their needs. On Pricebaba a user can be overwhelmed by 175 products from the same manufacturer (eg: see Samsung Phones), our advanced filters is a way to help our users narrow their purchase decision faster. However for us bigger boost comes from helping the user get the top 4 or 8 products accurately in the first fold.

Design is not art, it’s not what you see

Deepa started her talk with how India is still not there when it comes to design thinking or product innovation. We do not think Design while building our Products, she suggested. On that remark, I jumped off my seat and said “this is not true”. People are talking about design. I sincerely believed this is now a key role in the product making, which was not the case 4 years ago. But, by the end of the session I realised she was right. Amongst many missing ingredients in our startup ecosystem, “design thinking” is one of them. We admire good looking design. We love clean, plain and simple. We look at design only by its visual perspective (is it appealing to the eye?). But, we forget to see the functionality or usability. That is arguably more important aspect of design.

IMG_20160409_165323Throughout the session we had one white board on which we wrote what design means to us. We wrote apps we love and products which we consider as good examples and inspiration of good design. The participants initially thought design had a lot to do with ‘Art’, ‘Painting’ or ‘Creativity’. As we went further, our understanding evolved and ‘Emotion’, ‘Customer Journey’, ‘Elegance’ were the new keywords on the whiteboard.

Going further it was ‘Customer understanding’, ‘Outcome’ and ‘Need’. Eventually, it all boiled down to one thing — ‘Metric’. If your numbers (in our case, Consumer Benefit Metric) are not increasing, all your Dev, BD or Marketing efforts don’t matter.

IMG_20160428_105735There is this simple pyramid which is quite self-explanatory for product making. Bottom to Top it reads,

  1. Benefit I care about: What is your service about? What is that one benefit you are serving your users with. The value proposition of your product. Nail that first. Achieve excellence. For my product Pricebaba, it is how a user get the best deal of a gadget suitable to their needs.
  2. Ease: How easily your users are able to get the benefit we talked about. How are you making things simpler for them. UX has a major part to play in phase. For us, it would be how easy are the choices we offer our users to narrow down on the right gadget.
  3. Positive Emotion: This is the part where actual UI comes into play. Users Delight will be the positive outcome of great UX and UI.

To sum it up, focus on what your business has to offer. What is that one benefit you are giving your users for which they will keep coming back to you. Create a good UX to make their journey to avail that benefit easier with great UI. There, you’ve got your “Ahaa!” moment from your users.

Users don’t know what they want

While building a product we often tend to build it the way we perceive things. We build a feature / flow in a certain way we think is the best. So many times we assume we know what users want. Taking some decisions from the gut is good. But building an entire product without interacting with actual users is not. You need to validate that gut-feel by talking to users. Observe them as use your product. We did a exercise where entire company went out on streets and interacted with users. We called it ‘Project Dragon Scroll’. We gave our potential users a simple task to search best price of a mobile phone. We were surprised to see so many of our myths and biases were getting resolved. Deepa shared tons of examples with us, making us realise that it is too difficult for a product to evolve if you don’t include your users in the process. For that you need to go and talk to them. Even understand what they are not saying. Ask questions. There are tons of tools for that. Just asking them question via surveys, making sure your Net Promoter Score is high might not help. Those online activities are needed, along with offline activities too. Also, you need to see the data on interaction, deep dive into metrics, logs, analytics to get a 360 degree view of things. Taking decisions based on only one of the above factors mentioned won’t help. You need to get out there on the streets, deep dive into analytics (GA, Clevertap, Mixpanel) and use online tools to see how users interact (A/B testing, Heatmaps and Surveys).

I am thankful to iSpirit for organising such wonderful event. I learnt a lot of things from this event. Thanks to Deepa who shared her experience and tools with us. It gave a new perspective to look at Design. If you want know anything more about this, feel free to catch me on Twitter @GanatraT

Tirthesh is co-founder of Pricebaba, one of the biggest product research and price comparison platform in India. A developer at heart, Tirthesh had the pleasure of being part of a journey since 2011, where a two-person team grew into a strong workforce in a matter of three years.

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

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.

Design Thinking Playbook

Inventors like Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs were quintessential innovators who used a problem-solving process called “design thinking” to revolutionize entire industries and establish an enviable competitive advantage for their companies. Organizations, big or small, require to re-invent themselves almost constantly to establish an enviable competitive advantage for their companies. Successful organizations like Pepsi, Apple, Airbnb have all used a problem solving process called “design thinking” to revolutionize entire industries. Read about how Pepsi is reinventing itself with design thinking here

Design Thinking is helping entrepreneurs in our time directly approach complex problems and innovate disruptive solutions that change lives! Awesome experiences start with developing deep insights about your customer, creating a clear and well understood customer benefit.

This Playbook Roundtable is scheduled for 28th November(Saturday) in Bangalore and will be led by Deepa Bachu from Pensaar. This Design Thinking Playbook is open to innovative start−ups and passionate entrepreneurs who are ready to accept one of the first challenges in Design Thinking: Your user knows best!

Who should apply?

This roundtable is ideal for innovative startups who are looking to understand their customers deeply and create awesome, by design experiences for them. Life changing experiences! To apply please click here

Does Mobile Only strategy point to lack of Design Thinking?

The runaway success of Indian e-commerce show is driven by the single biggest attraction of hefty discounts available almost on all products! More than any other value proposition of e-commerce such as more choices, convenience, 24×7 availability, payment options and faster deliveries, the Indian customer was lured to e-commerce by the sheer scope for discounts she would not get elsewhere! The intense competition over market share among the e-commerce players ensured that there is always a counter offer for any blockbuster offer from one player. The eternal discount chasing customer is smart enough to sense this opportunity to compare prices of every item on offer with other vendors and settle on the maximum discount offer. While this was the modus operandi of the average online buyer, e-commerce players were sweating out on how to better their offer by attempting to do enormous scales that would only push their quest for profitability farther and farther.

Gme Changer or - Image_1As the dog fight continues to grab market share, e-commerce players are trying to outdo one another by introducing newer business models and innovations; the latest being Mobile Only format. Though there have been many successful experiments that defined the online buying culture in India such as Cash on Delivery, easy hassle free returns and EMIs, the latest experiment’s success is not pronounced yet, while many of the digital enthusiasts are upbeat about it.

Sorry, Mobile Only -Image_2Here comes the Mobile Only strategy!  While all the arguments for Mobile Only strategy evangelize the potential of the native app technology and innumerable values it promises to the marketer, an honest assessment of the anticipated compromises on the side of the customer is yet to come i.e what possibilities it takes away from the customer in order to cut short longer sales cycle.  Ironically, the deterrents for marketers to sell more are also the very value drivers for the consumers to buy more!

What is undisclosed about the real motive behind the Mobile Only strategy? Is it just Customer apathy?

During the years Indian e-commerce players took their baby steps to entice the buyers, this space also spawned innumerable deal aggregators and price comparison sites in empowering the value hunting customer to gleefully snap the best deals in the online space because of customer’s sheer capability to compare and choose across multiple vendors offering products of same specification. While online customers enjoyed this newfound freedom and capability, e-commerce players dreaded this unfettered nature of competition. This had made e-commerce players’ life a nightmare and the only possibility to woo customers was to settle for lowest price and provide faster delivery – both demanded extreme back-end efficiency and truckloads of money to operate at wafer thin margins; if not at loss.  Every e-commerce vendor had been eagerly looking for an effective way to fortify his customer from being weaned away by a better offer from competition. In these circumstances some enthusiasts find the Mobile Only format a perfect antidote for limiting customer’s newfound capability.   Lets look at how the Mobile Only format plays out!

  • In a Mobile Only format, the ease and speed of operation make the customer blind to the loss of the market options- i.e. to compare and weigh the market offers and to arrive at his maximum discounted vendor decision!
  • Deprived of option to compare the customer would be less confused about product choices with other competing products – the bliss every marketer longs for.
  • Customer decision cycle will be relatively short and quick compared to an open market situation like many players offering competing and comparable products as in the case of web.

Thus, effectively marketers are trying to cage customers to the controlled environment of their app and subtly cut off customer from the open market and invisibly condition and constrict his buying behavior for the benefit of the marketer, hoping that customer would fall in place as per their design!

However, what boggles the mind is the unpredictability as to how the customer would react to this stealth move by marketers!

The Mobile Only format yet to sink into the customer mind!

Hostile UX- Image_3
The inevitability of Mobile Only customer experience

Despite all hype around personalized content spiced with data analytics, the user experience remains the single largest bottleneck for going Mobile Only format. A large section of online users, especially those who have access to PC still consider viewing the products on large screens and doing one’s own market study before placing orders. A lot of online buying is driven by such consumer behavior born out of web format capability, but this turns out to be a huge challenge in Mobile Only format as SEOs are still at nascent levels in indexing app pages effectively to provide actionable comparison. Moreover for the user it becomes quite tricky to compare different sites considering the smaller screen of mobile device, while for the marketer app based approach opens up plethora of possibilities. That brings us to the cross roads in deciding how to navigate between marketer opportunities versus customer centricity?

The behavioral profile of online buyer and the Mobile Only format – a case of mismatch?

  • One of the main characteristics of online buyer is his appetite for best deals with maximum discounts available across vendors.
  • He also derives satisfaction that the deal is actually the best by comparing it with other offers. Therefore he is a value hunter and much less brand loyal.
  • Similarly, the app only promotions may not entice the buyer as buyer may feel the buying experience to be incomplete without going through this essential buying process or may remain non impulsive to respond to a targeted notification in the app.
  • The idea of enhancing personalized buying experience and brand building may be misplaced here, as there is a mismatch between vendor offering and customer expectation.
  • Majority of the mobile Internet users have been using online buying just recently and are yet to realize the compromises they have to make while on a Mobile Only format. Eventually they would conclude that the benefits of web may outweigh those of the Mobile format.
  • When the buyer realizes that marketers are effectively limiting the possibilities of the buyer, the disenchantment may lead to a lot of anguish in the minds of customer and eventually she may look beyond Mobile format.

While we have so much pointers to customers’ buying process already on the table, a complete disregard to customer behavior and expectation will have serious implications in winning a pie from the increasingly discretionary customer participation. On the one hand all the leading e-commerce players claim that 70% to 80% of their total orders come through their mobile platform; on the other hand they admit that 25% of these orders are originally discovered in PC platform and the mobile platform was used only at the clinching stage of order execution. Hence ignoring this huge market will be destroying the value they have hopefully awaited over the years.

Thus, only time will unfold whether Mobile Only format is a game changer in delivering value or a big value destroyer? The early reports suggest that Myntra had mixed response to their app only strategy. Interestingly Myntra’s parent Flipkart has put on hold Flipkart’s app only format originally scheduled from 1 September 2015. In the just concluded Big Billion Day sale in October 2015, Flipkart continued the web format and was heavily promoting the app platform by offering app exclusive launches and additional discounts on app based purchases indicating that despite all the best efforts to push consumers to app only format there is considerable volume coming from web format and marketers cannot ignore consumer preferences.

Going by Flipkart’s main competitor Snapdeal’s founder & CEO Kunal Bahl’s admission, Myntra’s app only strategy has greatly helped Snapdeal’s fashion business ever since Myntra shut down the website from May 15, 2015.   Is Myntra’s case a straw in the wind vis-a-vis the Mobile Only strategy? Industry is watching this space very keenly for more signals!

If Mobile Only is overkill, what is the right balance?

Given the growth of Indian Internet users at YoY growth rate of 32%, the 375 million users (as per IAMAI November 2015) augur well for e-commerce players. More than 60% of these 375 million users are mobile Internet users and the share of mobile Internet users are set to grow at faster rate given the continuous reduction in smart phone prices and more and more 3G & 4G network availability. Apparently, this paradigm shift in net access point very much endorses the idea of going Mobile First strategy. However the Mobile Only strategy is self-inflicting to all categories of products especially for high involvement category products. Categories those are low involvement and completely transaction based and used frequently such as taxi hailing services, bill payment services, travel booking sites, event ticket booking and restaurant services may have a case to go Mobile Only at the risk of losing a small portion of their business, as even those category demands multi channel access points simply because of heterogeneous customer behavior.

Mobile Only, does it sound lack of Design Thinking?

According to IDEO’s President and CEO; “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Where does Mobile Only falls short in integrating needs of consumer and requirements of business with possibilities of technology?

Understand your customer really well: There are many reasons cited for going Mobile Only such as better maintainability, cost savings, huge data mining capability which in turn can power data analytics driven marketing functions like greater segmentation, contextual targeting, user engagement and rapid personalization at scale. While all these are the possibilities for the marketer to embrace the new format, the same possibilities turns out to negate the possibilities of the consumer that is essential for a sustainable growth of ecommerce category. Mobile Only enthusiasts seems to be missing the plot by ignoring customer decision journeys to understand what motivates people and what puts them off and apparently loses opportunities for creating delightful experiences.

Empathize your customer with customer advocacy: While more and more businesses are waking up to the real world business need of ‘empathy’ mapping by putting the customer at the center of problem solving equation, the Mobile Only format looks highly skewed towards the marketer. Apparently we are still not finding a holistic reason for Mobile Only format apart from the ulterior motive of customer confinement, rather born out of customer apathy or total disregard for customer preferences. Building this wide gap requires rallying customer advocacy and customer centric empathy across all functions of business to deliver value and keep customer experience as the most important metric.

Device Option- Image 4Design to delight: Instead of Mobile only format, to fully capitalize rapidly growing net users the e-commerce players should repurpose all the touch points rather than limiting to only mobile touch points. Marketers should offer all options of net access points including web along with mobile, with all screen options and continuously reexamine the new touch points of value creation.

It is very important to explore all the digital channels for effective customer outreach when we are talking about bringing in all the 375 million net users to meaningful online purchases. A deep understanding of customer experience across all channels is just the starting block of the long process. To assume that customer’s interaction with a brand can be effectively managed only through an app (in an app only ecosystem as envisioned by Mobile Only enthusiasts) seems like an incomprehensive view as customers preference to multiple digital channels such as web & mobile advertising, email, search engines, social media and video are increasingly playing a decisive role in customers decision journey.   To capture the multiple touch points of customer interactions every e-commerce company should aspire to capture a comprehensive view of its customers, by implementing mature systems for collecting and organizing those deep insights. It is all the more important for ecommerce vendors of high involvement categories to provide a feel of the product through multiple and large visual interactions that is closer to actual physical experience to reassure the expectations of the product to user. Such affirmative and inclusive measures would increase the adoption of ecommerce at even faster rate.

The need is to remain attuned to customer decision journeys and understand how to use new capabilities to serve customers better. This is possible when marketers prioritize to understand each step of customer’s purchasing journey and design and deliver best experience across all formats. Every marketer’s goal should be to continuously discover efficient frontiers of value delivery without undermining superior user experience essential for occupying the numero uno position in customers’ mind space.

First Look – #PNCamp Day 1 (Discovery Hacking)

Exactly a month away from the inaugural #PNCamp and as schedules and attendees are being finalized, we are getting a lot of questions about what exactly is going to happen on D-Days, especially since we have told everyone we are not going to have one-to-many speaking sessions and workshops that have been the norm.

I spoke to Pallav Nadhani(FusionCharts) today, who is planning and designing the first day of #PNCamp, on 4th December, focusing exclusively on what we are calling the ‘Customer Discovery’ stage, the race against time to get those first 10 customers on board.

So much depends on those first 10 customers, and all of us product pros know this. It is not just the matter of the first customers, the first 10 are a validation of the time and effort you have built, a proof of the market that you’ve bet on and the first high-five entrepreneurship is going to give you.

What Pallav has envisioned for the first day of #PNCamp is a one day experiential learning bootcamp that will take a product entrepreneur across the entire journey he is going to take, from the initial idea to his first customers in a series of closed workshops. The small teams that we have planned will enable direct conversations and peer learning like no other format can.

Exciting, yes?

Let’s dive into the program then.

Entrepreneurship is a 7 year ‘bitch’

As a product entrepreneur, are you scared? At the end of this session, Pallav wants you to be. There are so many things that can go wrong in an entrepreneurial journey that starts off looking like a dream. The people who have been there, done that, will be talking to you about what they had to go through before they got to where they are. This is the session when you will be forced to think about what you have gotten yourself into. It isn’t going to be easy. You have to be strong if you want to weather the 7 year ‘bitch’.

Picking your battles

Are you building a product because you can or because you should? Is there a market for it? How do you know? Have you tested it? How have you tested it? What are your strengths that makes you believe you can win this battle? Get ready for a maelstrom of questions. Pallav and co. are going to help you chose the battlefield you are going to fight in. This is important, and you know how important it is. You should be the Indian Army fighting in Kargil, knowing that you have the upper hand. You shouldn’t be the US Army in Vietnam, fighting in a terrain you don’t know against an enemy you don’t understand.

Customer Development through design thinking

In the business of designing, building and selling products, the customer is sometimes left in the lurch. As Pallav says, you should be asking the customer what he wants to eat, and then try to give it to him. You shouldn’t be asking him if he wants Hyderabadi Biryani, for instance. Talking to the customer will give you more ammunition than you can ever use. But you should know how to do that, what signals to watch out for, and how to use the information you have gleaned. This session plans to make you masters at this.

Experiments never killed anybody

How do you know what is going to work when you are designing a product mockup, or when you are doing usability testing, or when you are testing a new kind of email form, or when you are booking an expensive ads in a magazine, or perhaps composing a quirky email communication to send out? You don’t. And that is why you do as many things as you can, and choose the best, which you replicate and optimize. But again, how do you do that? What are the tools, the processes to do this? This session is aimed at making you the greatest judge of such experiments.

Shameless is the new sexy

This is the session that is going to put all the disparate pieces of the puzzle together. Now that you have done all you can – you have designed a product for the market, you have studied customers, you have positioned your offering perfectly, and it’s time for you to go after the first customers, you need to remember something, a principle of sorts. Shameless is the new sexy. In short, no customer is going to come use your product because you have something special to give them – if it isn’t broken; they are not going to fix it. You are going to have to convince them. And for that, you are going to have to be shameless. Shameless really is the new sexy. And yes, this is the session I’m most looking forward to.

I think this is more than enough to get you excited for what we are trying to put together. More information will be forthcoming right here, and if you have any questions, remember the hashtag #PNCamp.

If you haven’t applied yet for #PNCamp, you can do so here