The Entrepreneurial Enigma


According to Statistics Brain global data, 44% of startups wind up by year 3 worldwide.

What’s more, the pace of failure is picking up and with it comes erosion of investor funds. In India specifically, last year 15 startups shuttered and that number has almost doubled to 29 in the first six months of 2016 (source: Inc42, a tech-focused news and events startup). 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs admit that the top 2 challenges they faced when they started their dream ventures were: 1) Figuring out Product – Market fitment and 2) Execution & launching the product in the market with limited resources and the challenges associated with doing things for the 1st time.  

Startups of today missed the brief of “innovate fast, fail fast”; instead they went for “scale fast, fail fast” culture. Scale has nothing to do with innovation. Discounts may bring in customers but it cannot make them stay. This is a conundrum that any new or established entrepreneurs or Product Managers face. All they do is invariably start off on the wrong foot; solve a problem with technology. No amount of research goes into understanding the root cause of the problem. The customer problem might manifest itself in multiple, unknown and non-linear ways. In the same way, the understanding of the solution would always fall in the realm of ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ and that should be the starting point of innovation. They put all their eggs in one basket and are unwilling to explore multiple options.

Competitive advantage doesn’t come overnight as it is a continuous process of adhering to principles ranging from mindset to process which can be aligned and applied to solve complex problems of customers. Competitive advantage through innovation most often occurs within a set of constraints, such as viability, profitability and desirability and that a traditional business-minded rational/analytic approach should be complemented with design thinking. 

Did you have the same problem of pinpointing the actual problem before you embarked on solving it? Do you have trouble laying out the solution in a framework that has effect on the entire value chain of a customer’s journey? Have you been grilled on differentiating the “value” and valuation” of your startup or even an idea? Then join us to explore the answer together. All the said and unsaid problems, frameworks to make it simple, pitches to socialize your idea, marketing strategy to position your solution to the right audience and more have been painstakingly put together in our new book “Mystery to Mastery- Ideation to Productization Playbook”.

Ready to cross the chasm between finding the right problem and creating the best solution? The book is launching! Let’s undertake this journey together!

The Devil is in the (Design) Details


“Everything is designed.  Few things are designed well.” – Brian Reed

Design is in everything and everything is in design. Think how quickly and powerfully a design experience shapes our opinion of that product, service, brand, organization or outlet, for good or bad. For instance, we know quickly when the logo of a company is bad or plain lousy. And we associate that feeling of disgust with that brand. That’s the power of design. And we are not just talking about logos. It traverses beyond logos to graphics, products, brand, process, interaction and user experience, packaging and services to name a few. One thing is certain that with our exposure to beautifully designed experiences, the design bar has been raised and design-oriented organizations are winning.

Here is an instance of how a small change in the design elements of a mobile app UI can help in creating positive memories.

© Mahuya Ghosh & Pijush Gupta, 2016

This is a clarion call to all individuals and organizations to recognize this new design-driven era and make conscious effort to metamorphose even a humdrum product or service into something more gratifying and more memorable. In the process of bettering your products or service, try to analyze and assess its constituent element; see the elements of their design elements not as a marketing gimmick but as an unpretentious source of competitive advantage. 

We leave you with an example of how seemingly subtle changes like scale or slant can have a profound effect; forcing us to look at things differently. This is the New York City’s new wheelchair symbol.






May the {design} Force be with you!



Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook





Design Thinking Reincarnated (but better)


What if Design Thinking was a human and it dies tomorrow? We presume the obituary would look something like this:

Design Thinking, the concept/mindset that has organisations and individuals hyper-ventilating and built on observation, empathy and prototyping is not without flaws.Skeptics are now assessing the viability of the model with the same level of scrutiny and spirit that it recommends us to aim at all customer problems. And we can’t agree more.

Are you listening?

Customer Feedback

When you hear a service provider request you for your feedback, they actually mean the following:

  “Your feedback is important to us. By the time it is aggregated with hundreds of others into our management report for any actionable insight, we would have forgotten who you are and what you asked for or suggested.”

Any business that is looking to make informed product/service decisions needs to efficiently gather and share customer feedback. But the dilemma lies in deciding if the feedback is actionable or not.

Customer Feedback helps an organization figure out what their customers think in the following ways:

  • You are doing things right – you would want to continue doing these in future
  • Your areas of opportunities – for these you need to figure out a plan of action to get better at
  • Things that you are doing but your customers don’t care about– you need to re-evaluate if you want to continue to offer these to all customers or maybe a specific segment

Data suggests that one customer taken well care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. As per a study conducted by Dimensional Research in 2013:

  • 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience
  • 66% of B2B and 52% of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction

The writing on the wall is clear: Customer feedback is the first step towards finding out how your customers feel about your products & services. If they are happy then the financial numbers reflect the same.

Top 5 Rules of Collecting Customer Feedback:

1. Make the customer feel important and make it clear that you want to receive their feedback

Don’t assume they don’t have time to give feedback. If you don’t ask, they won’t tell (well, mostly)

An Interesting Example from Starbucks:

2. Make the process easy

Don’t complicate or lengthen the feedback collection mechanism. No one needs 5 pages of questions to find out the customer’s opinion.

3. Encourage your customers to be honest in their feedback

  • Make it anonymous
  • If your budget permits, hire a 3rd party agency to collect the feedback
  • Engage mystery shoppers to do the evaluation once in a while

4. Get innovative and think of ways to incentivizing customers to providing feedback.

  • Gift vouchers
  • Free delivery
  • Their picture on your website, on the ‘Wall of Fame’ page for 1 month

 Here’s again another example from Starbucks:

An example from Beechworth Bakery:

5. Create a feedback loop

  • Thank them for the good/bad/ugly feedback
  • Keep them updated with what you plan to do with the feedback
  • Whenever you implement their feedback (partially/fully) – inform them
  • Invite them next time to see if their pain-point or suggestion has been addressed/implemented

How to collect customer feedback – the easy and fast way 

Though there are different ways of collecting customer feedback, the business objective should drive the feedback mechanism selection. It is important to understand that not all feedback mechanisms have the same impact – it depends on lot of factors.

At a high level, the feedback generation mechanism ranges from Passive (on the left) to Active, as shown below:

  • Individual Feedback is the least costly & user targeted feedback. These are more often generic in nature and based on individual experience.
  • Targeted Feedback generally targets a specific set of audience and is often tactical in nature. For instance, a quick survey on the ‘inflight experience’ for the passengers who travelled on Malaysian Airlines for the month of April 2016.
  • Group Feedback is based on random sampling. It is used for long term decision making.

Customer feedback can always be collected using traditional methods like Online Surveys and Customer Community Forums but given the fact that immediacy is the key, organizations can engage in just-in-time feedback collection strategy, as described below:

  • If you are a B2B software company or a B2B on-line company, you may want to consider using Usabilla to collect feedback
  • If you are an offline company (brick and mortal retail store for instance you may want to just put an iPad on the entrance/exit with a simple feedback form

A common friend recently saw this Interactive Feedback System the wash-room of Singapore airport.

(good that they mention the touch screen is sanitized hourly!)

Wrap Up

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” – Damon Richards

The way a company designs the feedback collection process, speaks a lot about their attitude towards customers, their products and services. In today’s competitive world – no business can succeed if your customers think you are indifferent towards them. It’s always prudent to choose the right feedback collection strategy as it is critical to understanding what your customers think about your products and services. This helps organization to not only improve quality, but can also insights into what new products and services your customers want.


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook





Maximum Validated Learning

“Evolutionary quest for perfection, but with a feedback loop” – Pijush & Mahuya

There is no better time to fail and learn than now! We are living in a world where experimentation, trial and error and really understanding the pain points of the human beings involved in the process are critical dimensions. When it comes to problems involving human beings, data from the past is not necessarily predictive of the future and collaboration between people with varied perception of the problem is of utmost importance.  This where the need to test and fail comes to the fore. The most effective approach to test a hypothesis in small measures is Design Thinking and this “small measure” is Minimum Viable Product (MVP). 

Some of the earliest examples of MVP took ages to get to their final (or current) form. Time telling instruments for instance took thousands of years to get to the form that we are familiar with. But during the course of its journey, all the previous forms were true MVPs in themselves. They all had just those features that allowed them to be used by early adopters (and start giving feedback on).

Have a look at the following video that we created on evolution of time telling instruments. Some may say that its evolution but we say it’s Maximum Validated Learning.

It’s so easy to get the concept of MVP wrong; right from defining it to the actual execution. The most common misconception is that MVP is a product with minimum set of features. It could be minimum, but is it viableIs it potentially shippable? Does it resonate with early adopters? Is the product basic enough to test a hypothesis but functional enough to focus on user activities and conforms to the overall vision of the product? It’s never easy to get it right. The idea is to replace the traditional method of having a one dimensional feature list (based on business value) with a two dimensional map based on Customer Journey. 

Recall our last post on User Personas? The Persona is represented by his/her goals, needs, aspirations and pain-points. Each Persona has its own journey and interaction/touch points with the system. This is what we commonly refer to as the User Journey. This is where we capture the primary goal of the product or solution. 

The User Journey represents the end to end interaction between the user and the application (product or service) through its life-cycle. Each of the stages of this User Journey can further be exploded into a task flow that represents the interaction or process flow. This is where we define the main process or flow of the product or solution. 

Drill a level deeper and you have the features that a product or a service needs to have. This is where we create a list of feature for each of the stages. These can then be broken down into user stories and stack ranked based on priority.

Now comes the real (and hardest) trick. If we take the very first row of the prioritized feature of each stage, we can come up with a working skeleton. This represents the smallest possible representation of a usable product. The idea is to take the take the top prioritized items from each of the stages of the user journey and what you would have is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

One might argue that the idea of MVPs could be a waste of time. Detractors may say, why spend time and effort on building a prototype that might never get completed or might be too simple to appeal to the target segment.

Well, the idea is to get an opportunity to see firsthand how your target customers use and perceive a product, which focus groups or boring surveys don’t. Proponents of MVP can find solace in what William Edward Hickson said:

 ‘Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.’


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook




Up Close and Persona(l)!


Nothing can work better in creating a solution than understanding the entity it is created for or targeted at. The traditional way of finding “someone” that needs a solution is pivoted on categorizing customer segments based on demographics is passé.  All we do is end up solving the problem for some generic flora and flora. The discovery exercise should be undertaken with a purpose of achieving that higher level of knowledge about customer’s daily life. And that is what Persona is all about.

Persona goes a few levels deeper to the point wherein, the human behind the ‘user’ comes forth.  The idea of creating a persona is to create a credible and realistic representation of a customer segment – the segment formed by common characteristics of what they expect to accomplish through the product/service.  Personas are fictional representation of real life characters but they are created based on real data, real problem and real target segment.  These personas are based on intense research, both qualitative and quantitative.  And that’s why they are believable and relatable.  Persona creation is part of human-centric approach for creation of innovative solutions and draws deeply from Design Thinking.  It is imperative that a product or a service should have a minimum number of personas for breadth of focus on what the user needs, wants and the limitations.

The benefits of creating personas are immense. They are invaluable for design and user experience creation. They help the creator of a product or a service to have a human face in front of them while creating memorable experiences. 

We have come across innumerable ways in which personas can be depicted. Their layouts may be different, but the core elements bring out a common set of elements that give a human face to a persona. Here is an example of a persona for e-commerce portal user (as a buyer):


(Click to Enlarge)

  1.  Profile: It represents the demographic, psychographic and geographic details of the user.
  2. Personality: Characterization of personality based on certain indicators (e.g.MBTI types).
  3. Aspirations: What are the users’ expectations and priorities when they interact with the product/service or about the goal pursued.
  4. Frustrations: This represents what a product or service should not do. This actionable area is what the user doesn’t expect or what frustrates him/her.
  5. Short Bio: This is a short description of the persona which sometimes refers to personality traits.
  6. Motivations: What turns on the user and what doesn’t is something that is captured and represented here. This is what a product or a service should strive to achieve.
  7. Brand Preferences: This represents brands and product that influence his/her relation with the ecosystem.
  8. Referents & Influences: This represents the persona’s relationship with a specific brand and the product and how he/she is influenced.

Once we have built the depth and breadth of knowledge around the persona, we are ready to embark on a journey of discovering (through iterations) what works and what wows.  This is the starting point of putting together an innovation story based on a real-life persona.

Are you doing A/B Testing for your Hypothesis Validation?


As promised earlier, this post talks about how A/B can significantly help in increasing your app’s conversion/sign up rate.

Let’s see how we can leverage A/B testing for increasing Mobile App downloads:

What is A/B testing?


“Take the guess work out of the equation” – Mahuya 

What is A/B Testing?

It’s a powerful technique that allows one to test and experiment with simple UI changes or complex flows and features.  The end goal of this exercise is to determine which version is best or ‘works’ with clear and actionable insights. In short, it is the thin line between “we think” to “we know”.

It is one of the user research technique that is applicable for late stage projects, where you have fair amount of knowledge on the problem but you need more objective & quantitative data to base your decision.  

Here’s a visual representation of the various User Research techniques & where A/B testing falls:

Overwhelmed? Well, the good news is you don’t necessarily have to use all of these techniques in one go.  Depending on the maturity of the product & the kind of insight(s) you are looking for, you would need to decide on the relevant technique(s).

Wondering, how can you benefit from A/B Testing?

  • If driven by analytics, it can accurately measure actual human behavior under real situations
  • If the sample size is good, it can measure very small performance differences with high statistical significance
  • It helps to resolve product capability trade-offs with factual data
  • And oh! Did we mention that it’s cheap? It is actually!

So, how do you do it?

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

If we had to put it simply, A/B testing starts with 2 versions of a prototype. Then you find real users to take the test. This obviously results in sample split and the behavior is recorded. The real time findings are then used to proceed to the next step in the product funnel. Ideally, the process should have the following basic plan of action:

  • Form a testable hypothesis with clear goals which can be analytically measured
  • Identify the testable variables
  • Test by user segment
  • Test visitor flow with a goal of measuring which screen drives the greatest impact on retention (i.e., less drop off)
  • Look for patterns and quick wins

Here’s an A/B Variations for a non-software product to determine which variation of the jacket will be more relevant for dogs to use during winter:

If you are curious to know how A/B testing can significantly increase software product usage, sales with real world examples & tools that experts swear by, then stay tuned for the next edition!

Roadmap – Do you Need to Make a ‘U’ turn?


As Product Managers, we all may have come across fellow comrades showing complicated probabilistic or deterministic prioritization algorithms based on weighted factors like velocity, revenue impact, resources, complexity of features, customer acceptance etc. They might have also thrown in a macro-laced spreadsheet for good measure. And all because of coming up with the Holy Grail of “Product Roadmap”. Just to be clear, this is coming from us, not as victims but as accused as well.

So what exactly is a Product Roadmap? It all starts with a Product Strategy. If we don’t have a Product Strategy, then the Product Roadmap ends up being just a grocery list of inane features. An ideal Product Roadmap is like a story that has a beginning, middle and an end but with the end goal of realizing the vision we all have spelled out in the Product Strategy.

How is Product Roadmap done in most of the time as opposed to how it should be done?

We would like to conclude by admitting that building a solid Product Roadmap is indeed a challenging and intimidating task – one that would require right and left brain to work in tandem.  Products sell when the customer sees the value that gets translated into a product to solve a problem.  And at the center of this is the Product Roadmap that starts with a clear business vision along with a believable canvas explaining the customer and market forces.  

The Cross Connection: UI / UX


Three Letter Acronyms (TLA) are here to stay and will make our lives as clichéd as it can be, but it’s the other, often used TLA that is even more confusing. We are referring to the Two Letter Acronym (TLA Again!). Once such “TLA Again” is UI (User Interface) and the other one is UX (User Experience).  Though both are connected and mutually inclusive, they are different. While UI is the space where interactions occurs between humans and a product; UX is how a human perceives something that is visual and has cognitive connotations.

Let’s look at the differences using a very simple example.


“User Experience is RELATIVE & CONTEXTUAL” – Mahuya

User Experience is multidisciplinary in the sense that it has been influenced by other disciplines such as graphic design, psychology, research and anthropology.  This of course is not exhaustive. But more often than not, UX is perceived to be just interface design and visual design. Typically, information design comes before interaction design and interaction design comes before visual design.

Let’s see how UX can make a person who prefers cookies with his/her coffee, really smile with delight.

As you can see, the thought process, visual strengths and design principles involved in creating the above product need both a UX Designer and a UI Designer. They all tie in together to create an unforgettable user experience that succeeds in taking a functional product to the next level.

Interestingly, a good UX can exist with a bad UI and vice versa. But it is extremely important to understand the difference between UI and UX as this is where innovation actually gets delivered.