I had to drop a cheque to credit to my account; these days regardless of the value of the cheque you can drop them into the cheque drop box and usually the money gets credited to your account in a few days. The problem is when you have a high value cheque and the palpitations are high until the money gets credited – just because you are paranoid about not handing over the cheque to a teller at the bank counter. I headed to ICICI Bank to deposit my cheque and see this drop box
Shukla Bai, a sexagenarian based out of Bangalore used to baby-sit her grand daughter so that her daughter could go to work. With her grandchild now going to school she had some free time and thought of making some sweets and savories at home and sell them to friends and acquaintances. Shukla being a well known cook among her friends and acquaintances, it was not difficult for her to start selling purely by word-of-mouth. After a few months, she feels that this sort of home-made quality food product would be needed by even those who she does not know or does not reach her through word-of-mouth. Almost all her sales so far was through pre-ordering – it was kind of baked-to-order. But to increase her sales she had to identify the right mix of place, price and promotion where interested buyers would simply buy seeing the product and not pre-order for something which they have not seen. How did Shukla, not a management graduate, not a graduate, just a simple literate increase her sales? She did a customer-segment pivot.
Shukla would usually buy vegetables at a store near by and the cash counter had the desk usually free. She suggested to the shop keeper to try selling her eatables by just placing the transparently packaged eatables near the cash counter; customers who were to check-out after buying vegetables would see this home-made eatable and buy. The shopkeeper did not mind as his investment was zero and if it sells he would make some profit. Shukla was best at making pooran poli, a traditional sweet very famous in Karnataka and Maharashtra states of India. The sweet being a bit tough to make, many would like to buy if they see one with the right quality. She made packs of 5 pooran polis with a selling price of fifty rupees. She had hit the PLACE aspect for the product precisely on the target; there was good traction as far as enquiring about the product was concerned. However the sales really was not as much as she expected. The shop-keeper told her that most people asked for the price but did not buy. Shukla studied the people who frequented the store. Most of them were young couples or nuclear families with 3 or less members. Further, her competitors sold at eight rupees per piece whereas she was selling at ten rupees – because she did not compromise on quality. However how would a customer know without trying that her product is worth the extra two rupees? Why should a customer buy an unknown product? What did Shukla do? Customer need pivot!
Shukla – firm that she will not compromise on quality, reduced the size of each piece, made packets of three pieces instead of five, priced it at twenty five rupees per packet. The sales saw a dramatic increase – as the new price point was a lot cheaper – and the risk factor to try a new product was low as after all you have just three pieces, also perfect for a nuclear family. She got the PRICE aspect perfectly right.
Shukla does not even know about Eric Ries’ Lean Startup principles to say that she did a customer-segment and customer-need pivot. There is no need for her to theorize her actions. She did what every product manager must do – know thy customer. I as a product manager have lessons to learn from this sixty-year-old lady about passion for understanding the “need” in the market, addressing them and iterating according to signals from the market.
Last heard: Shukla Bai expanded her sales to ready-to-order meals in addition to the existing sweets and savories she started selling. Also, customers now started buying the 5 piece packets at higher price having ascertained the quality.
Sometimes you can derive parallels in product management from situations or roles in your daily life. Something totally different such as baby sitting can have parallels to situations in product management.
1. Assuming the user of your product is like you: Your constant concern as a parent is that the your baby (or toddler) eats well. I have felt several times that my kid does not seem to like the tasty porridge that we make for him rich with the finest almonds, raisins and saffron. Tasty for whom? Something that you feel tasty need not be tasty for the kid. Try having the same baby food over the next 5 days continuously and you will realize how tough it is and do not conclude something is tasty by just one single serving. Similarly, some of us decide what user needs by looking at what we like in the product – which can be shockingly wrong. The voice of the customer is the only grading sheet that matters for your product features. Continue reading