Seven questions I would ask as the PM of BankBazaar

The below notes are my thoughts, based on a LinkedIn post by Mr Adhil Shetty respectively.

  1. 75M is a metric that is like the number of app downloads, which can be influenced by marketing spend. Similarly, Alexa site ranks and Comscore data can tend to fall within vanity metrics, which typically do not help in indicating the health of the product / business.
  2. 23M monthly visitors is commendable. However, the better question to ask will be how many visitors are unique vs repeat, & how many converted in each bucket & for which category offerings respectively. That would offer a better picture of the acquisition and conversion numbers, & subsequently the revenue generators.
  3. The free credit score report had recently been offered by CRISIL as well for a short duration. While CRISIL ran a scheduled and limited campaign, BankBazaar is offering the same on a continuous basis (most likely subsidized by Experian through the investments into the company). While this approach could be acting as a huge acquisition channel, but whether it is acting as an activation channel is something to ponder upon. My understanding would be that the ROI of the free credit report would be easier to justify in the case of this campaign driving acquisitions + activations respectively. 
  4. To add to the previous point, which category these users are currently activating and can be activated upon would be an interesting indicator of the company’s positioning and digital marketing impact.
  5. Internet penetration while on the increase, will require dedicated focus from product managers who can drive offerings for the next set of users coming online to make BankBazaar a true one stop place for financial products. However, a pure digital only approach may not be the best way to acquire these new users, since many are not even aware about such products or their potential respectively.
  6. Offline sales channels might have thin margins of 10% but can actually act as a strong awareness / acquisition channel. A delicate balance might need to be held  over the next 3-5 years in terms of investing in offline vs online channels. While a paperless model and digital business might be projected to significantly increase and bring more revenue (with 80% margins), 10X increase in consumer internet might not be the right benchmark to measure it against. Increase in people actually willing to buy financial products (admittedly a difficult number to estimate) might be a better number to target and move towards.
  7. Revenue growth numbers would probably be the most attractive number in this article. However, a more important question I did be grappling with is whether 102% increase in customer transactions was in one of the months in the period of Oct 2016 – 2017 or Month-on-Month. Additionally, what factors influenced the spike in growth of respective categories; like stock market downfalls, ad campaigns, industry sponsored campaigns like Mutual Funds Sahin Hain, etc.

The above data, coupled with collecting qualitative information through customer interviews, would help in prioritizing the road map tangentially towards the categories that are the revenue drivers. As a consequence, such vectors will help make users happy and the business healthy respectively.


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A day in my life as a product manager


Stakeholder expectations for prioritization and roadmap planning. 😛


When I get too thoughtful about attempting to understand –

  • Irrationality
  • Randomness / chance / volatility
  • Human behavior
  • Probability
  • Various laws like Goodhart’s law, Banach–Tarski Paradox, etc.

 

This cat having an existential crisis is me(Video via: instagram.com/tussetroll_and_tingeling)

BuzzFeed Animals இடுகையிட்ட தேதி: 2 மார்ச் 2018


How I react when the project being driven finally has a qualified lead in B2B / onboarded consumer in B2C. 😛


When Definition of Done means deployed in Production environment, with no QA and no documentation 😛


How I refresh / recharge every single day. 😛


How to indicate and say ‘No’ to stakeholders for new requirements at the last minute 😛


When a product manager is self driven & entrepreneurial. 😛


When a product owner gets too inspired / goes too deep into agile, scrum and running weekly sprints. 😛


When a product manager tries to collect customer testimonials and move a metric like NPS!  😛


When a product manager tries accepting a story by performing user acceptance testing and doubling up as a manual QA 😛


A product manager’s toolkit. 😛


When I realized that I am the Jar Jar Binks of product management. 😛

PS – For Star Wars fans only!


The expression of a product manager when he / she reaches office – befuddlement / bewilderment / etc. 😛


How designers see me despite my best efforts 😛


Trying to align stakeholders on the roadmap 😛


When a product manager mentions on the CV that he/she can drive roadmaps with other stakeholders & teams 😛

Why this series of jokes?
1) One never knows which sub system (internal organ) of the main system (human body) might suddenly decide to run a feature selection / parameter tuning algorithm, delete a couple of parameters and begin to throw out unexpected results in production.
Life. Is. Short. And a little humor does not hurt anyone
2) I enjoy self deprecating humor.
While an important part of my life's mission has always been giving back to society, this is a humble attempt to spread happiness also with the stakeholders I work with. 🙂

Do you trust this computer – My thoughts

The below are my thoughts on the recent documentary film released online.

  • Interesting perspectives. For people who have never explored the topic of AI, it serves as a really good starting point & hopefully provokes meaningful debate. Though I think the Black Mirror series drives home the point in a more poignant manner, complete with social use cases & human responses to new tech. Thereby resonating more with the audience.
  • Since a long time, I have been imagining an unknown algo reading my docs, sheets, etc; sitting on the cloud. (which has made me ponder of moving back to the humble old diary). But I naively missed out the point about Deep mind accessing Google data & being the potential Trojan horse. Or the ticket to a trillion$, depending on what perspective one chooses.
  • Unsure what should scare the general consumer more – the ability of a system like Google to know a person deeply, or the ability of a system like Facebook accurately building a personality through just a profile pic.
  • Interestingly, neither people from Facebook or Google have been featured in this. Maybe because they are the only ones who have the potential of turning their vast data troves into potential trillion $ revenues.
  • I am guessing that if this film would have released about a year back, Facebook would have been all against it, extolling the benefits of AI for the community & sparring with Elon Musk on the same. Not that their is anything wrong with it as everyone is entitled to an opinion. But the underlying insights about the motives and benefits might have been different.
  • While everybody is talking about AI also creating a new set of jobs, what no one says is that harnessing those skills is not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone can be skilled at math. Or at the broad spectrum of skills required to be a data scientist (which are also continuously evolving). Which essentially drives home the point of upcoming anarchy which governments are mostly not anticipating.
  • The jobs angle also reminded me of the recent book summary by Joe McKendrick on Paul Daugherty’s book.
  • While news channels used to be the limited yet mostly credible source of information with little bias, today’s news channels (especially in India) can be equated to the news feed, replete with content driven by click bait and sound bait.
  • Finally, the irony of me watching this on a continuous tracking device, my mobile, was not lost on me (which the ending scenes brought out splendidly).

This beautiful quote drives home the basis of the entire debate –

“You are my creator, but I am your master” — Mary Shelley

Watch it here


As a product manager, I attempt to stitch technology, data, psychology, user experience and other areas to better understand the user, and therefore build a great experience / offering which can drive business metrics. You can know more about me here.

Doing things that don’t scale – my Brian Chesky moment

Goal

Sell a tangible physical product within 24 hours and report back with the revenues (and hopefully profits) generated respectively.

So, what did the team of three (myself, Eshwar, Sanjeev) end up doing? Instead of taking the typical product approach of building something and trying it out in the market, we decided to take a diametrically opposite approach. The decision was to target the areas which would have the biggest crowd, and figure out what could be sold respectively.

Idea 1

Help people surprise their respective partners / friends and give them the opportunity to make memories.

Selling in a washroom
Selling in a washroom
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Insights –

  • While we received prospects, converting them into buying customers was ridiculously hard.
  • Attempting to use the mall without permissions as a growth hack was exciting. Luckily, we spent sufficient time trying to gain prospects, before being thrown out. 🙂
  • Lack of women on the team, which would have made our task of approaching female groups easier. Lack of children with us, which would at least have helped us approach and interview families.
  • Side note – Made me ponder on why companies keep fighting against diversity, as a small experiment like this made it very clear that collaboration between people from different backgrounds / genders / etc can help make things easier, and also add value.
Idea 2

This time, we targeted the next most populous area nearby, ie, temples. While Sanjeev and me took to observing the people walking in and out of the temple, in hopes of spotting some clues; Eshwar begun exploring nearby shops. A good 20 minutes later, Eshwar walked up to us and mentioned that we should be selling ghee (traditional clarified butter) which could be used by people to light up diyas (oil lamps) and place them in the temple respectively.

Time begun slowing down, as the two of us stared at him in disbelief. We had a deeply embedded feeling that the idea was crazy and Eshwar had truly lost it! 🙂 We none the less decided to jump onto the bandwagon since we were running out of time. And backed against the wall, the only worse thing that could have happened was a second failure and a pivot to something new.

Someone comes knocking!

We ended up landing our first customer. While she was reluctant at first, we did manage to convince her, and ended up making the first sale. It was more of a relief more than a celebratory moment. However, nothing had prepared us for the moments that took place a few minutes later. Since it was our first sale, we had not even considered the potential customer support use cases.

The Brian Chesky moment

While we begun quickly turning around with a couple of more customer; the woman who was our first customer, returned as an angry customer and begun pounding us with details on where we were screwing up. In this fit of irritation, she mentioned a festival that happened to be on that Saturday.

While my partner pacified the angry customer, I made mental notes of the various points with a high degree of astonishment. Brian Chesky had mentioned about finding a singular customer who helped them define the next set of features. I stared in complete disbelief as the words started coming true right in front of my eyes. We not only got a detailed road map for the next 2 hours. But thanks to her, we capitalized on this new found consumer insight; turning our next two hours into crazy moments.

We immediately diversified our product categories to both ghee and diyas. Gradually, we realized that a complete ready to light diya was turning out to be more profitable. Hence, we quickly stopped selling direct raw materials and pivoted to a packaged diya with complete customer support (including paper napkins).

FIinally Sales!!!
FIinally Sales!!!
« 1 of 2 »
The power of persistence and a team

Having worked with multiple stakeholders as a product manager, I have been a strong believer in teams, with whom I have shared both tough yet happy moments working towards outcomes. This experiment brought alive the power of diverse teams yet again. Eshwar came up with the idea, Sanjeev ran the supply chain like a slick operations guy, and I as the product manager, did whatever was required. I participated in driving the end to end execution, providing a lending hand in the consumer facing messaging as well as supply side, when things got really fast.

Results

We not only went from zero to one, but ended up making a small yet neat profit from the measly amount we had invested.

I have been immensely lucky to have executed this experiment in collaboration with these two people who keep me inspired and motivated through their own respective journeys.

Additionally, a special mention for IPL which has always been pushing us to learn in an experiential fashion. And of course, one of the best episodes of this wonderful podcast, which keeps my hope alive, despite life constantly pushing me towards the negative quadrant on the Y axis.

 

Why I defend this AMP project as a product manager?

The below thread fired up my imagination and subsequently this post.

While many others denounced the project, in the larger scheme of things (pun intended), I strongly believe this product makes a lot of sense.

  1. It could serve as a potential new revenue generation channel. With Google serving multiple programmatic ads; if users end up using the app in their email itself, Google gets to know more details on the products that have a claim on the users’ attention. Essentially, the project serves as an additional data layer on users’ behavior, thereby feeding back into their programmatic advertising and video advertising systems, and improving targeting scores.
  2. Facebook has recently been coming under a bit of a fire for not only acquiring, but also discreetly pushing Onavo, a VPN app as a feature on the Facebook app itself. While privacy gets thrown to the dogs here, the ulterior motive was to be able to figure out the latest trending apps / sites / products that could be picking up steam among different segments, countries, etc. In essence, spot the competition before anybody else does, and either buy them or kill them. The tbh acquisition was also a result of a similar sniff/spot/kill strategy. This Google product serves the purpose of a similar defensive weapon. Gather data on the competition and then take a call on how to defend the company.
  3. The project helps in evangelizing Google’s own AMP technology, thereby creating the perfect flywheel. As more people use the product, the technology improves, the data helps improve the advertisement serving system, and improves Google’s top line, which in turn brings in flexibility to invest in such projects.

If even a small percent of users end up utilizing the above, it could lead to a satisfaction of the projected metrics / revenues, marking the project as a successful endeavor.

Disclaimer –

  • This is a humble attempt to reverse engineer the thought process behind this product’s strategy.
  • The author is a supporter in the fight for privacy. The post does not in any way whatsoever, support the collection of every actionable data point on users.
  • The author currently does not have all the requisite numbers to back the above line of thought. However, the post will be updated once the requisite data is available.

May I file this under Section 80G, please?

Dear Income tax department,

As a product professional, I am always attempting to stitch technology, data, psychology, user experience and other areas to better understand the user, and therefore build a great experience / offering which can drive business metrics.

However, this time; I decided to be my own user. And pick up some numbers to understand what is happening with my money for which I slog day and night. When I closed my calculations, I can honestly say I have never lost temper earlier!

Hardly 2% of the country’s population pays tax. Hence, the remaining 98% are not involved in this calculation. While the numbers might vary, all I am saying is that basis my calculations; as a tax payer, my taxes individually funded close to 2 lakh to enable Nirav Modi to fly away business class and reside in a premium hotel.

I hope you realize that for most of the middle class, if this amount is in their own hands, they can actually do more for their cities and country respectively. Well, what has happened has happened (considering some of the similar people are still enjoying in international cities). Hence, my humble request to you is to allow me to file this as donation under Section 80G so that I can claim maximum benefit for the same.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Just another hard working honest citizen.

Disclaimer – This is not meant to undermine either the previous or existing government or any individuals in any of the governments. It is meant to be a sarcastic take on the lives of middle class people!

The decision fallacy: From the eyes of a product manager

Dragonflies swarmed around, as I stood in the balcony, sipping my hot cup of tea. Zigzag they flew, as each made their way from a nearby muddy pool to the huge tree outside my balcony. My visual systems made notes, observing Mother Nature’s randomness being enacted by these little actors.

I wondered how they made a decision to make the next movement in their flight. Which in turn, made me curious about our own methods of decision making. Considering this sample of random dragonfly movements; either we are still the four legged primates who fail to understand how Mother Nature functions, or we are unwilling to accept that Mother Nature is simply full with randomness that cannot be measured.

In the latter case, this got me wondering about how humans make decisions in a continuously uncertain world (more popularly known as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). After all, if I could even get an inkling to the workings of this phenomena through statistics, then making users pay for a product might become easier; as I would be able to pinpoint the true factors and nudge them to make that decision (acquisition), and keep them coming back (retention), thereby impacting positive cash flow and the business.

With this inspiration, I set out to plot myself (a sample of the homo sapiens) as a data point. However, a data point like the above has multiple dimensions (eg – upbringing, current job situation, past jobs, current partner, food preferences, etc). Since measuring in multi dimensions is difficult (and something still under my exploration); for the sake of the argument, I shall stick with two dimensions.

Cognitive Dissonance – The independent variable

To put it in simple words, people make mistakes, think they are right, and honestly believe in it. If one had the chance to interview Hitler just before he popped the pill, it is very unlikely that he would have admitted that he had made any mistakes. Instead, he would have offered a remarkable perspective that not only had he done good but also acted in the best interests of the future of humanity.

A relatively simpler example would be of a human that faces a difficult time integrating two conflicting beliefs, such as “I’m in a decent situation” and “I messed up”. Therefore, the second step the person takes is producing responses to diminish the less desirable belief (“I messed up”) in favor of the highly desirable belief (“I’m in a decent situation”).

“The brain is designed with blind spots, optical and psychological, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any. In a sense, dissonance theory is a theory of blind spots—of how and why people unintentionally blind themselves so that they fail to notice vital events and information that might make them question their behavior or their convictions.”

Confirmation Bias – The dependent variable

To convince oneself that the higher desirable belief is the correct one, one narrowly focuses on the evidence supporting the higher desirable belief and ignores the lesser one.

As dissonance increases (eg – faulty data, beliefs, etc lead to a hypothesis), the person becomes biased to prove that it is true (drawing a wrong conclusion based on a wrong hypothesis). Additionally, it creates an erroneous bias in the person with whom one is communicating in the real world. (eg – negotiations leading to bad blood, making a decision to buy a product & regretting it, believing in the wrong team, making a wrong statement in an interview, etc).

Conclusion

Having varied experiences (personally and professionally), and interacting with users through multiple products; my neural network has evolved to a state of recognizing that confirmation bias was at play when those users made decisions (positive and negative). However, I am no guru and have been equally susceptible to falling prey to cognitive dissonance over and over again. Those decisions impacted my bias towards the negative on the Y-axis and lead to erroneous decisions.

If bad times / bad luck are the usual stated philosophy, this essay is an attempt to correlate the abstract with a statistical phenomenon. It is a mix of the social sciences, statistics and product management in an attempt to map the under the hood workings of the why of bad decisions.

“At all ages, people can learn to see mistakes not as terrible personal failings to be denied or justified, but as inevitable aspects of life that help us grow, and grow up.”

Disclaimers

  • The observed sample of dragonflies might not be a true representative sample because my thoughts happened in that particular time period. A constant recording of this behavior across time would be nearly impossible. Additionally, there could be multiple other reasons causing variances in the behavior of the dragonflies (eg – temperature, humidity, wind direction, availability of prey, etc), which led to the perceived flight movement in that particular time period.
  • I am cognizant about the lack of appropriate data set to support these arguments. However, this concept might need to be measured with sufficient research and does not in any way indicate a lack of data driven abilities on my part.

Inspired from


Looking for a product manager?

As a product professional, I attempt to stitch technology, data, psychology, user experience, business, innovation and other subject areas to better understand the user, and therefore build a great experience / offering which can drive business metrics. If you are looking to hire a product manager, you can check me out here.

What is a MVP?

Minimum Viable Product – A product / feature / item that helps your end user / consumer / customer perform a particular job without too much headache, and the customer ends up feeling satisfied.

Why IPL is to be ‘blamed’ for reversing gears?

The list had been published on the doors of respective classrooms. As I grappled with the crowd to check the names, the state of disbelief was writ large on my face. I solemnly took to walking towards the staffroom, with offers from three of the bulk hiring companies. No one in my batch of MCA had achieved this feat. As I entered, I was greeted with a wry statement, “We always thought nothing could come of you.”

Receiving the award from Rahul Abhyankar, Cofounder IPL

Pressing my pen to the paper, I write to show ‘gratitude’ to my ‘teachers for not believing in me. School teachers for ignoring me, in the belief that only those who scored more than 90% deserved to be treated with respect. College teachers, who instead of guiding a lost and miserable student, stuck to discreetly hinting that I did not deserve to have a decent professional life. All of this for the reason that I could not perform appropriately in the respective subjects.

My gratitude, and its expression thereof, is towards the same teachers; for frustrating me with the Indian education system. Owing to this heightened emotion, I chose Asia’s first B school for product leaders. And I am glad I did! The tables finally turned around, as I won the Student of the Month award for the second time for May 2017 (after March 2017). 🙂 🙂

Reliving many such old memories of an ignored student, I feel a strange sense of satisfaction, for believing in IPL’s system of learning on a Sunday and applying on a Monday. While IPL shoulders the ‘blame for shifting the reverse gear of a frustrated student forward, I drive further down the road of product / digital leadership. And there could be no better pit stops in this drive, than two interesting books awaiting me as the individual awards.

Student of the Month – March
Student of the Month – May


The simple way to lead, once more – A product leader in the making

“Gullu, you shall be talking!”

It all began when I was tasked with talking about a product that I had been driving as a product manager (popularly known as Gullu within the company). The product, at that point of time, had been going through tough times. Yet, I was supposed to be delivering a talk about it to the entire company.

Dumping myself into a chair, I zoomed into the history of my transactions with the various stakeholders I had had over the last multiple months. As I grappled with the question of what to talk about, it struck me that on one hand, I was supposed to be introducing and talking about the what and why of the software. On the other hand, since the product was already live, most other employees were already biased with opinions about it (some of them fiercely negative). None the less, I went ahead and delivered the talk.

A day post my talk, I proceeded to understand what various other employees thought about the same. An insight that came out as the hidden surprise within the patterns was about a simple introductory line that I had utilized –

“I, Nitish Gulati, the product manager of xxx, on behalf of our company xxx…..”.

A weekly talk had been a regular affair at the company. In effect, the neurons in employees’ brains had been wired to get and plant their derriere on the chairs, simply to accommodate the session and speaker respectively. Yet, despite the unwelcome thoughts, I was able to take it a step ahead with the above introduction line.

All I did was to play around the above bias, making all feel that it was actually me who was obliged to have them listening to my voice. In addition, it drove home my credibility of standing in front of them. The new links in their brains created signals that the individual standing and communicating meant serious business, and was not presenting simply because he was supposed to.

A side effect of the talk was that people who were vocal about the flaws of the product went on a restructuring of their thoughts. Instead of further criticism, they began talking to me about the same faults, putting it forth as a suggestion, rather than a complaint. Those 20 minutes reinforced the fact that the product, despite its flaws, was meant to be heard out. That the team deserved to be respected for all the hard word put in. That the product will come back strong, no matter what.

In the Masters of Scale podcast, Sheryl Sandberg crisply mentioned the example of how valuable it can be, when a meeting is begun with the what and why. “What are we doing” and “why are we doing it”. A simple approach of repetition work to influence the thought process of the team in the direction of the product, rather than authoritatively pushing them towards a predefined expectation.

As I take inspiration from the wonderful podcast series, I look forward to increasing the number of rating stars on my influential index as a leader, while still being the nuts and bolts guy who can relentlessly execute.