The Product or the Experience?

Product-Experience

This morning I was chatting with one of my friends who during the conversation mentioned that she is learning to drive a car or rather she knew driving and it’s more like a brush up crash-course on driving. I asked her, “How many hours are you driving daily?” She responded, “20 minutes to 30 minutes. But Mahuya, I feel so tired after that! My husband keeps wondering and asking why I am getting so tired in 30 minutes.”

Then I asked her as to why does she have to drive when her husband can drive her around? Of course, I made that comment in jest (lest you call me a sexist) but I was just trying to make her think! After 5 minutes of chatting, I got to the root of it. She recently got a big break in her career and everyone in her family and friends circle expected ‘Managers’ like her should drive big cars. So, she is doing her best to meet everyone’s expectations. Plus, she likes the thought of self-driving!

Then I just looked at her like a doctor or rather a surgeon and immediately took her to the operation theater i.e., for a walk round the building. I hope the operation was successful!

So yes – my story is also something similar. I still remember, about 8 years back – my then boss asked me, “Why do you need a salary increment? What would you do with money? You have no liabilities; you live with your parents.” I honestly responded without any kind of hesitation that I wanted to buy an i20, diesel car without loan in next 6 months. So the pay increase would surely help towards the cause. And soon enough, within next six months, I had my 1st car. I was really happy. We took the car home, my parents were thrilled. Then it was time to take the car to office – the actual purpose. By the way, prior to that I spent three months learning driving, getting a driving license and of course dreaming myself driving the i20. Then finally it was the moment of truth: drive the car to office – I got dressed and sat inside the car. Of course the car moved, but I now I had second thoughts: it’s brand new, I shouldn’t take the risk of driving 40 km to office. Maybe I should wait and hire a temporary driver. So yes, that’s what I did next – we put an advertisement for a driver, lot of drivers appeared for interview. Finally I select one person. His only job was to sit beside me while I drove, and ensure there was no accident! First day, I drove for about 10 km out of the 40 km drive to office. Then I became so tired that I felt if I had to drive even one minute more, I would have to take a sick leave, go home and sleep. So I asked my kind driver to take me to office. Gradually in next few days, I moved from the front seat to back seat and allowed him to drive. Life became simple for me, again!

Then I moved to Hyderabad – next one year I contemplated if I should bring the car here or sell it off. I surely loved it very much, so it was a very difficult decision. Finally a friend of mine told in a matter-of-fact way that such a beautiful car was stuck because of my indecisiveness and that I should set it ‘free’. I did just that! I sold it off within no time once I had made up my mind. So this time, I decided to spend half the money and buy a car. But the goal was to get used to driving. I bought the car, knowing I will hit many cars. Tried my best not to get mentally attached to it; unlike my first car, I didn’t care much about this one. So this time, just like my friend with whom I was chatting, I did a brush up course on driving. I didn’t learn anything new.  Then came the moment of truth (again)! Time to drive! Just like last time, I ended up appointing a driver to sit beside me. This time, I decided to take baby steps. The plan was, I wouldn’t drive to office but he would. But I would drive back home, while he sat beside me. I followed the plan for about 10-12 days. Oh My God – it was so mentally tiring. I actually wondered a lot, how or why I was getting so tired in 30 minutes. My mom as usual concluded that it was because I did not eat much. But no!

The real reasons were these:

  • Operating the vehicle was fine. But the fact that in those 30 minutes, I had to drop all other thoughts was driving me crazy!
  • Before and after driving, thinking that I didn’t/could have killed someone created more mental baggage
  • I couldn’t listen to my favorite songs; plus I kept noticing how nicely the driver was enjoying
  • I missed out on the sights; the greenery that came with monsoon or the fog that came with winter

So yes, you guessed it right – just like last time, my driver ended up driving my car instead of me. He was an educated man and the best driver ever.  It was temporary job for him till he found a job in a software services company. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I was able to convince him to be his own boss. Thanks to Uber and Ola and easy car loan policies, he now owns two cars and is very happy with himself and being his own boss.

Three months back, after lot of contemplation and against everyone’s will, I decided to sell off the car. Friends and neighbors thought that I was planning to buy a bigger car. But most of them are still disappointed to see my parking spot empty.

So how was this journey; living without a car, in the peak of summer in Hyderabad, India?

  • Very good. I enjoy the same amount of freedom as before
  • I get ~6000 (~4 km) more steps in a day vs. before
  • I meet more people on the street and smile more. If I am lucky, I get to see and experience interesting moments (all sorts of human emotions)
  • I also save close to INR. 30,000/month, which is not a huge amount but good amount to help humanitarian activities like children’s education and going for vacations.

My earnest request to all: don’t let job titles or any forms of social pressure dictate your life. After all, it’s just a car; a means to get you from point A to point B. That’s it! Be in charge of your life and drive it in a direction that works for you, your happiness and mental peace matter most! Get a bicycle instead :).

So the most common question I get asked next is: “Are you not going to buy a car, at all?”

Of course, I will. But yes, it will not be a bigger car. It will be something that meets my need (being a product manager how can I get stuck with the wrong product!), which is a fully automated self-driving car. I am closely watching where the automobile industry is going in this. Till then, I will use the bicycle!

I will end the article with this parting thought:

“Identify your true needs; don’t get stuck with the wrong product(s)!”

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