Keep Calm and Attend PNcamp 2.0

You’re a dreamer? You’re a doer? You’re a doer-turned-dreamer? You’re a dreamer-turned-doer? If you are some or all of that, you are quite likely an entrepreneur!! It is no secret that a start-up’s journey is action-packed—identifying the right problems to solve, validating possible solutions, getting the product-market fit right, building an awesome product—figuring out the roadmap items to say yet to and say no to, scaling growth—and the challenge is to yet do it in a focused way. Sounds familiar? Worry not, we have one advice for you “Keep Calm and Attend PNcamp 2.0”.


If you are a discovery stage start-up, we have something specially tailored for you at PNCamp 2.0. Here are 5 reasons to NOT miss PNcamp 2.0.

Zeroing in on the product fit:

One of the biggest challenges a start-up faces is the right problem to pick to get product fit correct. There are many viable paths and how does one find the one. Learn to use the effectuation framework to help with entrepreneurial decision making in unpredictable environments.

Building the right product, building it right:

Having gone past the initial problem-solution fit validation, it’s extremely critical to build the right product, and to build it right, to build it fast. How do you define your MVP, how do you build a compelling yet rapid to build roadmap, how do you prioritize, how do you rapidly iterate? A track on building the right product for B2B companies by Suresh Sambandam address will cover “Building the right product”.   

Getting traction tips:

Finding right prospects, reaching them and converting them are key to getting early traction. Get insights from experts into mastering the sales funnel and process, campaign strategies, and hiring the right sales and marketing teams.

Product teardown sessions:

Beyond insights, tips and practical advice get ready for some coaching format feedback where selected companies will do a quick pitch for 10 mins and get feedback from experts. An excellent opportunity to not just learn from practitioners but also your peers and from their experiences and challenges! An immersive learning opportunity!

Building your own product tribe:

Join a social evening to meet and network with the experts and peers; and to make connections for life.

There are few seats left and you can grab yours here.

Product Leaders Forum brings PLF 2015 to create and celebrate product leaders!

There are two things that ring loud in my head whenever I think about PLF. The first is the teaching by renowned Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And the second is the quote “Celebrate what you have accomplished but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed” by Mia Hamm a leading soccer player who has many firsts to her name.

At iSPIRT we dream of making India a product nation. In it’s 2-year journey so far (yes #iSpirtturns2!), the dream has taken shape in different ways! It is great that there are others who share the dream and the passion! Product Leaders Forum (PLF)—a not-for-profit is one such catalyst working in the eco-system in the same direction. PLF’s mission is to build an active forum of product leaders helping build stronger product mindsets and skillsets in India. This journey is going to be made of many steps and as a part of its early steps it brings an upcoming event PLF 2015!

As a product citizen I am very excited about “Product Leaders Forum – 2015” a 4-day event coming up in Bangalore between 17-20th February 2015! True to it’s core, PLF’s promise for the event is to bring together product heroes and sheroes—visionary practitioners who have successfully run product centers for global companies or transitioned to start-up on their own; gurus—product management, leadership and design gurus; and practising and aspiring product citizens.

A key goal of PLF 2015 is to help create product leaders and to celebrate product leadership! As we know a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and the Indian eco-system has made a bold start in the last few years. As the country was fast thriving in the Indian services industry making a global impact, the product journey slowly but surely began! With the vibrant eco-system of MNC companies and local start-ups, it is only going to grow further. Start-ups have an appetite greater than ever to get bigger and the R&D centers want to go beyond being R&D centers to become product and business centers! This shift in appetite and need to move up the value chain calls for a greater role of product management, product leadership and product leaders in the play.

The product leadership evolution has become a revolution and it stands on two key pillars—product mindsets and skillsets to make the shift! At PLF 2015 all sessions and speakers have been hand-picked to exclusively focus on that. Here are just a few of the many exclusive things that can be expected at PLF 2015:

  • 11 CEOs, 1 stage, 1 topic — Panel discussion on Product Leadership’s journey from evolution to revolution!
  • Series of career tracks, workshop tracks and best practice series carefully hand-picked for product leaders to build the mindset and turbo-charge career paths
  • Candid conversations on a spectrum of topics ranging from intraprenuership; product management; design and experience; leveraging emerging; transformative technologies; and organizational championship to build great product teams!
  • First hand success stories from accomplished stalwarts on their journey from product leadership to intrapreneurship to enterprenership
  • Actionable takeaways
  • An exposure to a bagful of unexplored possibilities to become a product leader and a great one at that!
  • Form lifelong, meaningful connections in the eco-system not just at the event but ones that open up dialogues beyond it as well

This is a not-to-be-missed event by every product leader, and anyone who’s in the business of building products needs product leaders!

  • If you’re a product company making global products, you need product leaders
  • If you’re a service company with thriving services business, but are looking to build great platforms that not only allow you to take the best to all your customers, but also monetize it better; you need product leaders
  • If you’re an entrepreneur running a start-up for local or global customers, while you are focussed on managing funding and selling of the product as you build it, you need to also play the role of a product leader! And as you grow, you need a team of product leaders!

Being part of both families, I can see and feel the passion; and visualize a product nation for all us product citizens; and inspired and upskilled product leaders; and it is this visualized dream that keeps me marching one step at a time every day in that direction! Before we continue on the journey ahead, I do plan to stop by at PLF 2015 to celebrate product leadership and become a champion product leader! Given the way the iSpirt family is a fan of building great products, definitely hope to see many of you there J!! To find out more about the schedule, speakers and registrations check out the PLF website before the bus is full!

A perspective from the other side – Seema Joshi, Lead Product Manager – BMC Software, #PNHangout.

In this #PNHangout, Seema Joshi, Lead Product Manager – BMC Software, shared with us her insights about Product management and the challenges and scope on the road ahead for Women Product Managers.

Why did you choose to be a Product Manager?

There are two aspects to why I chose to be a Product Manager. The first is related to the evolution of the Indian IT industry and the second my personal journey.

The Indian IT industry, after its beginnings in the 1980s, saw good growth in the 90s with the economy opening up primarily due to high cost arbitrage. During this time the industry was dominated by the services sector. In the 2000s, the industry was maturing rapidly due to economic downturn pressures and consequently margins were eroding and cost arbitrage decreasing. The services industry still dominated the IT sector as the cost arbitrage play was becoming increasingly competitive. We also began to see larger R&D centers, mostly captive, setting-up base in India. Now, in this current decade, the focus is shifting to total product ownership. With increased expertise as well as domestic markets, startups and VC eco-system expanding, product management is becoming a critical part of success. It is more critical than it has ever been. While we do have a growing leadership presence across companies in India from a R&D product and project delivery stand-point, product management and product leadership focus needs to be stronger to deliver great products to local and global markets through entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship. Product management clearly has a large role to play in shaping the course of the Indian IT Industry.

I am a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and I began my career as a structural engineer after graduation. While I loved my work building peoples’ dream houses, factories, bridges, etc. I knew that I was more productive and happier working with people. So, I took up an opportunity with eGain Communications- a product company in Pune in a customer facing role where, after sometime in this role, I moved to the sales team as I thoroughly enjoyed working with in a customer oriented role. We were a small team targeting new territories which meant wearing various hats from lead-gen, pre-sales, solution consulting, account management all the way to acquiring business. It wasn’t always easy, but it was challenging and educating work. After a few years in this role, I was offered a position in the product management team and the decision to move wasn’t difficult. I think I always was and still am a sales person at heart. So the proximity of working with customers to find solutions for their problems was important to me. At the same time, I had seen typical enterprise sales cycles span anywhere from 6-12 months. I now had an opportunity to bring to the table my experience of working with customers, their needs and expectations from solutions, etc. and, with the outside-in perspective to help build the product, I could indirectly contribute to getting business from a greater number of customers beyond my sales territories! The product management role was like a win-win.

It was both the opportunity and the challenge to be a Product Manager that got me into the role nearly a decade ago and it still continues to be my passion!

Great, you’re a Product Manager. So what do you really do?

I’m often asked this question and I have begun enjoying answering it, so much so that I have two versions of answers. For the people interested in a short answer I tell them – “As a PM I do lots of conversations using a ton of post-its, a set of lenses and glue.”

For the ones still with me, I tell them: a PM is responsible for the success of the product to maximize business value through the product’s lifecycle depending on the business goals—be it driving market share, revenues, customer retention or whatever the focus for that product might be in its life-cycle at that point. This requires a PM to have good understanding of the unsolved problems in the market to identify market opportunity. To do this effectively they need to bring out the post-its and engage with customers to understand problems in their context and what their pain points are.

They then need to use their short-term and long-term lenses to review this vis-à-vis corporate strategy, internal strengths, risks, funding, competitive landscape, etc. to come up with a business strategy to address the market opportunity and product strategy to build a kickass product.

With the strategy in place, they need to communicate with the entire value chain to help deliver this—right from exec approvals, working with engineering to build the product and with marketing to convey the planned product value, sales tools and processes to ensure sales is able to effectively sell to the right buyer and with support to ensure customers understand how to use the product in the desired way, etc. They need to be the glue between cross-functional stake-holders to ensure right execution.

Though a PM might not be responsible for each of these areas, it is very important for every Product Manager to still have what I call the imbibed-CEO attitude. You may not call the final shots in each case, but if you do not align and orchestrate various aspects while driving your areas of responsibilities, you might reduce the odds of your product’s success. A Product Manager really must be passionate and enthusiastic about everything related to the product to make it truly successful!

Managing a product demands multiple sources of information and skill. How can a Product Manager prepare herself for this role?

A Product Manager needs lots of post-its, glue and conversations as they do their daily jobs. Conversations are typically of two kinds—one in the listening mode to gather insights and the other communicating what to do and not to do and conveying value and ways to get there. The PM does not need to be the encyclopedia, but needs to know different ways to get this information that can go into the encyclopedia. It is really a mix of art and science!

There are recommended practices for the entire productizing process that can be used to source and communicate information effectively. Individually a PM can focus on some of the following to do this well:

  • Be a good listener: It is never about what the product can do. It is always about what the product can do for the customer. Engaging with customers and the market to understand problems in their context is critical. This involves being able to ask the right questions, understanding customers and their business and what their key pain points are as means is to identify pervasive problems.
  • Good domain understanding: It isn’t a pre-requisite for a PM to be a domain expert right from the beginning. However, to engage effectively with customers requires being able to do it in the context of their domain. So a PM needs to quickly get a good handle on how things work. Regular interaction with customers and prospects is definitely a great way to do this as well as following analysts and thought-leaders in the industry, tracking competition, attending industry events, etc.
  • Build an analytical approach to problem solving with a business-centric mindset: It is not about picking the first or the easiest solution or solving the problem of the noisiest customer. To derive the next set of outcomes, having understood the unsolved problems in proper context, requires being able to quickly analyze scenarios, potential opportunities, dependencies, financial implications, impact and mitigation plans. PMs need not be experts in each aspect but he needs to be able to evaluate options and work with the value-chain towards achieving business goals for which time and cost is critical!
  • Communicate effectively: Effective communication is the hallmark of a good PM. A PM is required to constantly communicate with various stakeholders to achieve a common objective i.e. to build a product that delivers value. For instance, a PM needs to communicate
    • Business opportunity and solution recommendations to execs for strategy and funding approvals
    • Product requirements to engineering to build the right product
    • With marketing to articulate solutions and convey the right value messaging
    • With analysts or customers to convey the solution and its value

If you fail to sufficiently communicate any of these, it could affect success!

  • Leadership and self-leadership: It is important for a PM to bring in the right vision, energize teams, influence, and be good at decision making for many a time it is about right prioritization and timely decisions. This cannot be done without passion for your product and its success. While good processes help reduce risk, even at an individual level, a PM needs to take charge and align and inspire teams towards their goals.
  • Belief, patience and perseverance: There are no two ways about it. In product management you’re in for the long haul. It is about a product’s journey towards success. If you want things to happen overnight, or view it just as a set of tasks from one release to another, you might end up taking the wrong paths. Keep the focus!

Women Product Managers – there are a few of them. Is it a disadvantage to be a woman?

Overall the gender diversity ratio in the Indian IT industry is approximately 25 % women, which is better than others. However, most women are still in traditional roles like HR and Marketing and to some extent engineering, technical-writing and delivery-centric leadership roles. The presence in product management and product leadership is still really small. In fact, in my 8 years of being a PM, both at my current and previous company, I have been the only woman PM in India. Of course it is a little different when it comes to global teams.

In India I have been on many forums and meetings where I am the only woman. Being a woman PM tends to have a two-fold challenge. For companies, organizationally, product management as a function is still not mainstream; it is getting better but it still isn’t there. This is further compounded by the lower women ratios overall and within the function.

One of the common challenges most Product Managers need to overcome is related to change—recommend change in strategy, change in practices to address opportunities, culture of organization, etc. If you’re the only woman in the room driving this, be ready with all kinds of data-driven reasons, proof-points and if-else conversations to make the change management smooth and effective to avoid “but, this is not how we’ve done it in the past” objections.

Beyond that, at a larger level, the challenge is a common one irrespective of roles—to have better diversity across hierarchies in an organization. If companies want to make a notable difference in diversity, it is crucial for them to cultivate a culture where women not only end-up taking more traditional roles like HR, Marketing, etc. but also actively encourage women to take up roles along technology leadership (as architects) or product leadership (product management and innovation) as we take the Indian IT industry to the next level AND if we don’t want women to be left behind once more time to only catch-up later!

I would also like to give a shout out to women in the industry to gear up for this and be prepared to play your part. Remember that what got you here won’t get you there and these days “lean is in”, so sharpen your skills to make a difference. For a better outcome tomorrow, it is a choice we have to make today—as individuals and corporates!

Is there a bright side for Women as Product Managers?

One of the key things for a Product Manager is to empathize with users and to care for the overall experience. Women tend to be naturally more attuned to this. They also come across as effective communicators and influencers. A PM needs to do a lot of communication as there are various stakeholders to be managed across ranks and a Product Manager has to be able to influence by bringing out the reason and value of why things need to be done the way they need to.

Being great at multitasking is a benefit as well. Recent studies are converging with the hypothesis that women are found to be better at multitasking than men. A Product Manager is always juggling between different things and different people and yet needs to keep all tracks aligned. It helps to be able to prioritize tasks, organize time and most importantly keep calm under pressure as they rapidly switch between activities.

Lastly, their leadership styles help too. PMs not only need to nurture a product from conception through its life-cycle but also drive larger teams towards a common objective without having any authority over them! This is corroborated by the increasing number of women taking up significant roles in corporations. Women Product Managers are definitely making a mark. Marissa Mayer’s growth from a great Product Manager to being the CEO of Yahoo is a testimonial to it. So there definitely is a bright side for women as Product Managers.

#PNHANGOUT is an ongoing series where we talk to Product Managers from various companies to understand what drives them, the products they work on and the role they play in defining the products success.

What to expect in the first #PNSummit – 4th & 5th December, Pune

The #PNSummit is going to be an event like none other. Volunteers who are from the Product community themselves, are putting it together and building it on the pillars of intensity, focus and exclusivity (only practicising product professionals attend the PNSummit).

Here’s a quick peek into what #PNSummit is all about

At present, most product companies in India are clustered around two specific life stages:

  • Getting their first 0-10 customers, OR
  • Going beyond their initial 50-100 customers (for B2C one could say 200,000 users). These are also called as being in the Happy Confused Stage (post product/market fit)

It is with these life stages in mind that these two themes have been designed:

Customer discovery hacking – curated by Pallav Nadhani (CEO of FusionCharts)

Customer growth hacking – curated by Bala Parthasarathy (Managing Partner, AngelPrime)

Each of these themes comes with a series of sessions where participants are grouped into circles based on their life stages and will be immersed in an experience of deep discussions, brainstorming and hands-on exercises.

Invited delegates will be grouped into circles based on their life stages and Broadly these circles are:

  • Circle 1  – In Discovery Hacking Stage.
  • Circle 2 –  Happy Confused Stage
  • Circle 3 –  In Discovery Hacking & Just crossed Happy Confused Stage


We’re putting together each circle with a lot of effort and each session will be facilitated by an expert in that area. The mode of discussion is expert-facilitated and not expert-advice and that is what will make the discovery process truthful and meaningful!

If you are a product company then you are at some point in the spectrum of  discovery hacking -> product/market fit -> successful product business and are you are pushing yourself to move the next stage.

Reach out to any of the delegate experience volunteers of #PNSummit, Sandeep TodiSameer AgarwalDilip IttyeraSeema JoshiVijay SharmaAvinash Raghava,  Aditya Bhelande  & Sairam K to find the right inner circle for you. We’re keen to invite as many companies as we can accommodate, and the quicker we hear from you, the better we can make your experience.