The Indian startup eco-system / 2 years down the line!

I had blogged about this extensively about 2-years ago (around Sept 2014). I thought it would be a good checkpoint to re-visit this topic to see (and gauge) where we stand today.

Rewind the clock a little backwards and this is what one saw back then: I had not yet joined India’s foremost e/m-commerce company when I blogged about the irrational exuberance prevailing in the Indian startup eco system, my previous startup company was not hugely funded yet by marquee VC firms/PE investors back then and there was indeed a HUGE VC/PE interest in startups of all shapes and sizes, focus on growth (profitability was forgotten!), Flipkart was making all the news with it’s billion $ funding announced in July 2014, as with all rising tides, all boats were lifted and there came a slew of startups – both solving someone’s unmet need and those that weren’t!

Fast forward to today and here is what one sees: Lack luster VC/PE interest in startups (especially new startups). Edgy founders. The food delivery startup mayhem took an untimely hit, e/m-commerce startups have almost ground to a halt on their old discounting model to acquire/buy consumers, VC/PE investors are looking to cash out after years of pouring money into startups of all shapes and sizes, investor enthusiasm shifts from growth/buying customers to focus on profitability/reducing burn and the goal to be the first in its category / vertical to reach GP zero from a high GP negative territory! So, how did this come about and what are the lessons one can derive from this choppy ride? Read more of this post

The startup hype curve!

Not a single day goes by without the newspapers screaming with headlines suggesting <XYZ> E-commerce company making waves and raising <X> USD venture funding. Friends, family etc. everyone are trying to jump onto the e-commerce bandwagon and everyone wants to come to the party and hopefully, make some quick bucks. I see history repeating here in India and I want to caution my readers about the craze surrounding:

1. Startups, 2. E-commerce boom, 3. Startup boom (not as a way to solve real customer problems but as a way to make easy money)

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Organizational change/restructuring and the associated politics

The problem

Its no secret on the level of politicking one has to encounter as one meanders through the complex maze of organizational politics. Change is forever and while it may impact different individuals at different times, the outcome is key. You are measured not always by what you did but how well you play to the new environment and how adaptable you are. You will be rooted out by the system sooner than later if you do not adjust to the new structure and this happens in organizations of all shapes and sizes. How do you negotiate this as a Product manager instituting product thinking into the new management team?

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Focus or the lack of it – why startups suffer / lessons learned!

One of my friend’s company seems to be in a total state of turmoil!

Basis what he informed me, one of the founders (a wickedly smart chap!) left and ever since, he claims to have lost that motivation to do great things at work. While his management team is trying to stich together a good turnaround strategy, he claims to have seen this script play itself before and claims it does not bode well.

The problem is really multi faceted and upon speaking with him, he narrowed it down to the top three things that alarmed him the most:

1. Lack of complete focus on target markets

2. Lack of a clear vision in terms of either being a product co. Or a service co.

3. Lack of a trust factor amongst the senior management of his co. – everyone seems to be doing their own thing

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Product committee’s/product councils

It is no secret Steve Jobs disregarded product committees. Adam Lashinsky’s book, Inside Apple. Clearly articulates this vision – http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Apple-Americas-Admired-Secretive-Company/dp/145551215X

Clearly, consensus decision making was not his forte albeit he gave importance to only one thing: may the best idea win! So, why then do I disregard hierarchy and committee based decision making from my own product management experience?

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Scott Forstall and Steven Sinofsky – two great product visionaries fired in a span of 2 weeks!

To me, personally, the last two-three weeks have been the most tumultuous and it has really nothing to do with me but the product behemoths – Apple and Microsoft – and their grossly incorrect decisions!

Here’s what happened.

About two weeks ago, Scott Forstall (iOS Chief) was fired from Apple by CEO, Tim Cook for apparently not signing on an Apple Maps apology letter to consumers.

About two days ago, Steven Sinofsky (Windows 7 and Windows 8 and Surface Chief) was fired from Microsoft by CEO, Steve Ballmer for apparently not collaborating enough with other teams.

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Mom says don’t talk to strangers!

They say a Product Manager should always be closest to…. You know who?

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