You think you have a great idea and you spend a lot of time and resources to build that perfect product. Soon you realize that there are not enough takers in the market, but you still continue to be married to your original idea and refuse to pivot. To make the matter worse, you end up spending big advertising budgets to market an undesirable product.

This is the problem most of the startups face which might eventually compel them to shut shop. According to Forbes, 90% of the startups fail and one of the reasons which attribute to this failure is not having a product which fits the market.

David Oglivy once said “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster”

With the startups mushrooming, leading to fierce competition, and the ubiquity of the internet and mobile devices drive startups to innovate constantly. One of the ways a startup can gain the competitive edge over others is to keep consumers at the centre of its product’s/products’ universe and design thinking, although not a new concept, is gaining popularity as a valuable element throughout the product development journey.

As Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO, beautifully puts “Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

Aashish Solanki, Principal Designer and Founder, NetBramha Studios kicked off this month’s startup Saturday by introducing interesting concepts revolving around design theory. He started off his workshop by urging the participants to shift focus from designing minimum viable product to minimum lovable product. Through his interactive workshop, he explained various stage of the design process.

1)      Empathize – Empathy is not insight. Insight focuses on what you are aware of whereas empathy deals with consumers’ unmet expectations and demands designers to gain an empathetic understanding of the problem the Startup is trying to solve. It defines why and how the problem of discovery should be approached. Aashish suggested that acknowledging that you may not be aware of consumers’ pain areas is the first step towards understanding the problem. Talk to your potential customers, get close to the problem and keep improvising your product based on the feedback you receive.

2)      Define and Ideate – During this process, designers focus on the core problem which is being discovered during the empathize stage and design logical and innovating solutions.

3)      Prototype – This is the stage where Startups focus on creating a minimum lovable product.

4)      Test – In this phase, startups rigorously test the product to assess the market fitment.

The design process is not a coherent linear process but rather it is an iterative process with a lot of chaos in the beginning and eventually moving towards clarity in terms of design.

Design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion. It is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking. Although there are no hard and fast rules governing design theory but Aashish shared few guidelines which can help Startups to achieve the minimum lovable product within the stipulated timeline

  •         Assume a beginner’s mindset
  •          Ask What-How-Why
  •          Conduct interviews with empathy
  •          Build empathy with analogies
  •         Use photo and video user-based studies
  •          Use personal photo and video journals
  •          Engage with extreme users
  •         Story share-and-capture
  •          Bodystorm
  •          Create journey maps

Before concluding his session, Aashish gave the participants a real-time design challenge and gave them a chance to think from user’s perspective and apply the concepts and methods he shared.

Aashish’s workshop was followed by an interactive talk by Nithin Kamath, Founder and CEO, Zerodha, who shared his inspirational and unconventional journey from a trader to Zerodha’s Founder to an Investor, investing in innovative fin-tech platform companies.

This edition of startup Saturday also invited two startups to demo their product:

1)      Event Value – An event tech startup

2)      Efaisaga – An improv theatre based learning and development startup which focuses on developing excellence in Leadership, Creativity, Communication and Team Dynamics through experiential learning in a low stake high-pressure environment

For our final session, we invited eminent leaders from various industry sectors who have cracked the code behind building fabulous products and achieving market fit.

Our panellists were:

Simeran Bhasin, Co-Founder BRAG, Ex CMO Wildcraft. She is a veteran marketer, the force behind Fastrack, India’s leading youth brand. She has spent a considerable amount of her professional life conceptualizing and creating new products and building strong brands.

Sitashwa Srivastava, Founder and CEO Stockal, Ex Co-Founder Jade Magnet. Stockal is an investment management platform which uses big data to help individual investors make smarter data-driven decisions. Prior to Stockal, Sitashwa founded Jade Magnet, a crowdsourcing platform for creative, social media and technology services.

Sukriti Saroj, Regional Head – South India, Lead Angels. She is a young and dynamic investment professional who shared an investor’s perspective on product market fit for startups.

Rosham Sam, Founding member and Branding and UX expert at Simpl. He is a creative professional who has done creative projects for prominent clients such as Red Bull, Times of India etc. He is also a prolific writer and has worked as a Travel Writer for Lonely Planet Magazine.

The session was moderated by:

Ujjwal Trivedi, VP – Products at Artoo. He is an experienced product management professional, has a flair for writing and is a part of National Core Team at Headstart

The panel discussion started with our panellists sharing their perspective on what it means to have a product market fit.

Should startups start with a product market fit?

All our panellists urged Startups to first understand the problem they are trying to solve and have a clarity on what product they are selling and to whom instead of focusing on the perfect product to market.

Identify the target market, launch prototype, and keep learning based on the feedback you receive from your potential customers and tweak your product but keep the problem statement constant said Sukriti.

Understand your market, conduct in-depth interviews with your users and purchasers and involve your customers in the process of finding your product fit was some of the advice shared by Simeran and Sitashwa.

They also shared how they went about building the product for their Startups. Sitashwa engaged his users through blogs and built conversations on Twitter to understand what the customers really wanted whereas Simeran hosted bra parties and invited teenage girls and their mothers to understand their buying preference. Moreover, Simeran’s intent behind these parties was also to shrug off the taboo around inner wears in India and create a more positive and open mindset.

Investor’s view on quantifying PMF

Money making MVP always interests Investor but we also look for other metrics to evaluate before making an investment. If the product has high gross margin and has monthly recurring growth at 20% with churn rate about 6 to 10% and show strong customer life-time value ( about 100$ to 120$ per month) then this kind of momentum is hard to ignore for investors said Sukriti.

Roshan advised Startups to convince investors about the opportunity and focus on why you and why your product should be considered. He also shared why it is important to conduct competitor analysis to understand market size, your market share, your potential and what should be your approach before looking for investment.

How to test PMF

Simeran suggested that Startups should first launch the MVP and gather feedback. Observe consumers and listen to what they are saying and also listen to what they are not saying.

Sitashwa believes that lot of it is noise but keep listening to all the feedbacks and keep experimenting. Decide to act on the feedback depending on how easy it is to change your product but experimentation is the key.

Before wrapping up this wonderful session we invited two startups from the audience to talk about their products and ask our experts to share their advice on the problems the startups were facing.

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Article By: Roma Roy Choudhury

Volunteer, Headstart Bangalore