“Can you mentor me..?”

Lessons from my Entrepreneurial Journey #12


HealthMacro turns 4 this month. This post is dedicated to all those who have in some way or other mentored or advised me in my entrepreneurial journey.

I have been fortunate enough to have a wide range of people who have helped me through their guidance at times. Some of these have been important decisions.

As a technology person, I initially lacked expertise in finance, legal, fundraising and other matters. I would reach out to people who were experts, seek their views and get different perspectives.

Few ground rules:

  • Firstly, build trust by being transparent of your challenges.
  • A successful entrepreneur mentoring you is no guarantee of your success.
  • Your failure doesn’t reflect on your mentor’s abilities. He/she can only guide you. You have to execute.
  • It’s up to you to derive the best out of this relationship. You need to be clear what help you want from your mentor.

Mentors come in various forms:

  • Some of them come over as formal Advisors to the Co, the others due to their bandwidth challenges help you informally at appropriate times.
  • Sometimes I have learnt a lot through our vendors.
  • Few people I have met just once, but learnt a lot from those interactions.
  • Customers are your best mentors.
  • When some mentors are not reachable, I learn more reading their blogs and listening to them at events.

Why do you need a mentor?

  • Get a different perspective on a problem.
  • Someone who serves as your bouncing board for ideas.
  • Honest opinion on what to do next.
  • Industry level connections.
  • Connections to possible hires /investors.

Possible traits of a mentor:

  • Curious and learns from you as well.
  • Been there, done that person.
  • Expertise in certain domains.
  • Well networked person.

Who is a good mentor?

  • I earlier used to think that mentor is someone who is senior to me or has tons of experience, but I later realised that sometimes people several years younger than me, have good ideas and helped.
  • Always have a wide range of people who should be your sounding board.

Few Dos and Don’ts:

  •  Good mentors usually will be advising at least a few startups. Do not approach them to be your mentor. Just state that you need some feedback on your idea and get it. Asking them to become your mentor may even scare some people!
  • Build connections and show progress to possible mentor before asking them to be your mentor. Remember people like to mentor only possible successful people. Why would someone waste time on who they believe may not succeed?
  • Everyone is busy and time is key.  Ensure easy operating mechanisms to be connected and make progress.

In Summary:

  • Mentors come in various forms. Be open to receiving guidance.
  • Just 1 mentor is not good enough in this entrepreneurial journey. Seek more to enrich your growth.

Thanks to all mentors who have helped me in this journey…


This is the twelfth part of a series by the author. Find the previous post here.


[About the Author: Shashi Bhushan is the Founder & CEO of HealthMacro Technologies.  He plunged into entrepreneurship to explore his dream of building something that touches people’s lives. HealthMacro were TiE’s AnthahPrerana 2013 winners. He can be followed on twitter at @ShashiBhushanHR]

Takeaways from TiE EdTech Day: Masterclass on ‘How Schools and Higher Education Institutions Buy’


Masterclass on ‘How do Schools and Higher Education Institutions Buy?’ with Murlidhar Surya, Dr. H Vinod Bhat, Vipul Redey and Priya Krishnan

The panel of speakers at the Masterclass on ‘How Institutions Buy?’ come from institutions with diverse administrative styles. With Priya Krishnan, founder of KLAY pre-schools, where decision making and administrative authority is more centralized on one hand and Dr. Vinod Bhat, Vice Chancellor of Manipal University on the other, where the authority is spread across various stages, departments and processes, the third speaker, Vipul Redey is the director at a global leader at education services where the audience, whom the administrative decisions are based upon, are the parents and the schools too.

The notes from the Masterclass are as below,

Get your introduction before you get there

As it is with mundane day to day activities, one is more prone to trust somebody that they know or believe in. This is pretty much the sutra the ad campaigns with celebrities have been thriving on for ages. Similarly and in a downsized manner, it will always work to your advantage when who you are going to pitch to can bank on the trust of somebody they already know and are more probable to believe in. Quite often than not, the right person to pitch to is at the top of the hierarchy and going through the degrees of separation gives one a fair idea of how the organization and its processes work, leading to a better understanding on what the business’ specific need is and/or avenues for development lie in and how to pitch it in a way that connects with the buyer.


Solve a business issue that fulfills a latent demand

With technology overwhelming every facet of business solutions, even in the ed-tech industry, it is tempting to fantasize and exploit the possibilities that it holds in creating services and products. However, the heavily invested and two sided interaction between the buyers and the institutions in the education industry, creates strong animosity and repercussions when the buyer doubts the legitimacy in the need for such a service or product. Therefore, it is imperative that one engages with one’s customers and understands what could cause a significant value addition to their world, builds the service one intends to provide on it and pitches these ideas as solutions addressing the customers’ pain points that could take the business to the next level.


Have a well-structured and logistically well-handled pilot

As important as it is to sell an idea, it is even more so important to execute the idea. A pilot is the testing ground where one has the opportunity to encounter issues that one could have only known through execution. While this is true, it is also this that will determine whether the buyer buys into the business. Have a pre-planned structure for the roll out of the product or the service into the pilot environment that is easily absorbable at the schools or colleges through trainings, feedback sessions and quick quirk-fixes while making sure the logistics run smooth. With all the planning in place, the last mile delivery is a definitive constraint that can be addressed through a champion, either from your side or the buyer’s side, who is well-briefed and trained.


While updating your pricing, upgrade your product too

The business matures when one is ready to take on a long term commitment with a buyer and this essentially comes about when one sees an upward gradient in the quality and/or the number of services provided. While any kind of an upgrade requires funding and resources which translates into the pricing, it is necessary to also keep an eye on whether the upgrade is truly seen as a considerable value add by the end customer and business too.


[About the author: Vijay Kumar is a passionate startup enthusiast and an engineer from BMS College of Engineering. He works at Deloitte Consulting and in his spare time, narrates inspiring stories about the people striving to make a socio-economic impact through innovation and entrepreneurship.]

Takeaways from TiE EdTech Day: Panel Discussion on ‘Dancing with the Giants’


Panel at ‘Dancing with the Giants- How and where can startups collaborate with enterprises?’ with Anand Sudarshan, Satish SukumarGV Ravishankar, Sachin Torne and Ninad Karpe

There are at least 9 out of 10 people saying that only 1 out of 10 startups succeed, whatever the definition of success is here. With the sheer number of startups, overlap in ideas and challenges with funding and scaling, a time-tested way has been to associate with established brands and players in the industry, be it in the form of a collaborative service or as one under the flagship of such a brand. Although, the idea of an already reputable brand working for your product or service sounds lucrative and gives you credibility, a not-so-clearly thought and laid out plan at this could turn counter-productive, at the least.

Starting from whom to make the initial pitch to, to identifying the ideal exit point, the panel discusses the dynamics and the nuances that go into such a partnership. While it is necessary for such a partner to buy into the idea, the panel agrees, it is more important to buy into one’s organization’s operational style. This makes it all the more imperative that the person who is introduced to your idea speaks and understands the language you do. If the crux of the idea is in its technology, it would hardly be possible to completely appreciate the idea for one who is clueless of the technology being spoken about. While the conventional methods suggest one to pitch and re-pitch, working one’s way up the ladder of hierarchy with approvals at each stage, the issue lies in the authority these stages command in making decisions and a job role that mostly looks at the operations rather than the vision and future.

As important as it is to get a pitch bought into and conjure up possibilities for the future, it is equally important to plan long term commitments and keep them because trust beats success, comments G.V. Ravishankar.

Often, when one goes into such a venture, the idea one goes in with goes through iterations to fit the customization requests and lands up as something that is almost unidentifiable with the original idea. This calls for an exit strategy that makes sure you have exploited the partnership just enough to not make it sore for either party. With a call out for everybody to come in with a spirit of jamming, while dancing with the giants, the giants suggest, that you dance from the front and dance in sync.


[About the author: Vijay Kumar is a passionate startup enthusiast and an engineer from BMS College of Engineering. He works at Deloitte Consulting and in his spare time, narrates inspiring stories about the people striving to make a socio-economic impact through innovation and entrepreneurship.]

Takeaways from TiE EdTech Day: Panel Discussion on ‘Future of EdTech’


Panel at ‘Future of EdTech’ – Bala Girisaballa, Manish Gupta, Amruth Ravindranath, Arvind Nagarajan and Sathya Prasad

As the power over tools and the methods to learn are shifting from the institutions of academia to the regular learner, a major opportunity is presented in creating avenues for accessing effective and qualitative material suited to the learner’s needs and goals. Effective as a product or service that is accessible in terms of price and span to learners who are the consumers and their parents, the customers. Qualitative in the topics addressed and the worth of the knowledge and/or its application to learners while exploiting the growing digitization and alternate learning methods. Thus, concurred the panel.

While there are a vast number of resources available, thanks to mobile technology, internet and networking and with learners taking upon a self-curated learning process, a growing gap shows up in the number of these self-curated courses seeing completion. For instance, while MOOCs are cited as a game-changer in the way people learn with its multitude of topics offered and ease of access, the sheer difference between the number of people enrolling and finishing a MOOC represents the lack of emotional engagement, which is the next important turnkey. In light of this, a personalized learning assistant driven by machine learning and data analytics, making the learning process both emotionally engaging and cost-effective, is the need of the hour, says Manish Gupta.

Key Takeaways:

  • While you have a strategy to sell to schools and colleges, have one to sell to the end-customers, the students and their parents too.
  • Opportunity lies in designing backwards from skills required for employability, the ultimate goal of education as of today, in harnessing creativity over rote learning.
  • Consider alternate learning methods through visualization techniques, experiential learning, etc.
  • The next big thing is to exploit machine learning and data analytics to create a personalized, emotionally engaging and cost-effective learning assistant.


[About the author: Vijay Kumar is a passionate startup enthusiast and an engineer from BMS College of Engineering. He works at Deloitte Consulting and in his spare time, narrates inspiring stories about the people striving to make a socio-economic impact through innovation and entrepreneurship.]

Takeaways: Keynote Speech by Mohandas Pai at EdTech Day

TiE Edtech Day took place on September 24 at The Leela Palace, Bangalore. The primary goal of the conference was to bring together key players of the EdTech ecosystem to provide insight into the shifting dynamics and critical needs in the EdTech sector and highlight the trends and opportunities. With 31 speakers,10 sessions and over 250 participants, it was an action-packed day of insights shared and networks built.


The keynote speech was delivered by TV Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services and Aarin Capital. The following are the takeaways.

An average of 24 million and 9 million students are enrolled into schools and colleges respectively each year, Mr. Pai broke down the numbers citing his association with various educational initiatives. Even with a downward gradient in the fraction of students after every year relative to the number enrolled due to dropouts and detainments and a major negative offset factoring the affordability in, the addressable market is a figure between 55 to 60 million students. Considering the increase in the average expenditure on educational resources exclusive of the institutional schools and colleges, the spending capacity grosses about forty five stretching to fifty thousand crores.

As the gap between learner needs and what the schools offer widens, and accessibility and networking becomes easier through mobile technology and the internet, a significant disruption is possible in the learning component of education, he asserted. Following his recent success with Byju’s learning app through Aarin Capital, he commented on the B2C space being more welcoming and far-reaching, while also forewarning about the risks involved with poorly planned marketing and growth strategy in the B2C business.

Key Takeaways:

  • The education industry has a constant addressable market with expected growth while also being disparate socio-economically.
  • Opportunities lie in the learning area rather than the regulatory area of education.
  • Keep track of your bills. While raising funds is important to grow, plan to break-even earlier; this might attract investments and can be used for development rather than to survive.


Watch the full speech here.


[About the author: Vijay Kumar is a passionate startup enthusiast and an engineer from BMS College of Engineering. He works at Deloitte Consulting and in his spare time, narrates inspiring stories about the people striving to make a socio-economic impact through innovation and entrepreneurship.]

Stanford Ignite – Bangalore

Stanford 4

The Stanford Graduate School of Business is returning to Bangalore in January 2017 and is now accepting applications for Stanford Ignite Bangalore, January 20 – March 26, 2017.

About Stanford Ignite 
Stanford Ignite is a certificate program that teaches innovators how to formulate, develop, and execute their ideas. The program is taught by leading Stanford Graduate School of Business professors, who teach in-person and through live video-conference in Bangalore. Participants learn core business skills and experience working on a team to develop a business plan around a new product or service for an existing organization or a new venture. The curriculum is adapted for the Indian market and all instruction is conducted in English. A sample schedule is available on the website.

Stanford Quote

Admission Information

  • Applications for the Stanford Ignite Bangalore 2017 program must be submitted by October 21, 2016
  • To be considered for admissions, your application must include the online application form, your current resume, three short essays and two recommendations submitted via the application website


  • Tuition cost: USD $8,500
  • The cost of attendance includes course materials, program events, and some meals
  • Accepted applicants will be eligible to apply for one of four 50% tuition scholarships

Click Here to Apply

Website: www.StanfordIgniteBangalore.com

Designing Innovative Business Models

While everyone in the tech industry focuses on innovation of their product, one great way to create value is considering innovation of your business model. In past few years, we’ve witnessed a number of technology companies creating or completely transforming entire industries. Some examples include Amazon Kindle, Apple iPhone, Google Android and NetFlix. If we see in all these cases, their success was not the result of new or disruptive technology advancement, but rather a unique technology application based on a business model innovation that was disruptive in some way. An innovative business model can create a new market or allow you to exploit new opportunities in existing markets. Your business model can make the difference between world-leading success and dismal failure.


  • Just ask the people behind the Xerox 914. In 1959, the first dry-process, plain-paper copier was a potential game-changer — but it cost six times the price of alternatives. Potential partners wouldn’t touch it. So the company developed a new business model. Rather than selling the machine, they leased it for $95 a month and charged a few cents per copy for copies in excess of 2000 a month. Thanks to the 914′s speed and convenience, customers soon were making tens of thousands of copies in the same period, and the copier that couldn’t be sold suddenly became a huge revenue generator.

ex   dibm2

  • Apple’s iTunes, like iPod, was not the first product of its type on the market for purchasing music online, but innovated the business model to sell more iPods by enabling single song downloads for 99 cents and removing all of the listening restrictions that had existed before then (except for DRM). They innovated again with iPhone and the App Store, not by having these products first, but by creating an app ecosystem that was managed outside of the mobile operators.
  • Dell disrupted the computer industry by making computers to order exemplifies this opportunity.

dell taco


  • Taco Bell, which did not create a large-scale disruption but innovated business model design by sending food in precooked bags to restaurants. This allowed them to price their food less than competitors.


Multiple ways companies can innovate their business models:

  • Add innovative activities through forward or backward integration. This is referred to as new activity system content.
  • Link activities in cutting-edge ways; this form of business model innovation is new activity structure.
  • Change one or more parties that perform any activities, or new activity system governance.


The Power of Business Model Innovation

As companies become successful with a business model and as they mature, they refine and hone their skills and processes to optimize their model. This helps them to achieve scale and high growth and profits. It becomes corporate DNA. Industries tend to be dominated by a single business model, and the market leader will continue to enjoy leadership as long as the business model satisfies the majority of the segment needs. This is why a new entrant attempting to attack a market leader head on using the same business model will likely always lose, regardless of a few interesting feature enhancements.


[About the author: Pinkesh Shah, Executive Board Member, Institute of Product Leadership. Pinkesh specializes in Product and Business Line Management, New Product Development & Launch, Business Development and M&A, Product Management and Product Strategy.  He is currently helping build IPL, the world’s first B-School focused on Product Leaders.

Website : www.productleadership.com ]

(Originally published on productleadership.com. To go to the original article click here.) 

“Record Your Moves…”

Lessons from my Entrepreneurial Journey #11


I have this habit of writing down my decisions along with the pros-cons for that decision that I see at that point. Over the years, I have felt this habit to be a great boon, especially during analysis of results, when decisions have gone horribly wrong.

Recording your ups and downs & decisions is an important aspect in the entrepreneurial journey. Why?

Several reasons…

  1. Improved Decision making : 
    • Firstly, writing down things improves your clarity of thought. When you write, you are able to detail out the reasoning behind the decision.
    • Second, one is able to clearly think through the worst case analysis.
    • Some results take a long time to reach. So we may not clearly remember in memory why we took that decision. If written down, it’s easy to go back and check to see why the decision was taken.

    Sometimes, you are amazed that you could look ahead, predict & strategize. Sometimes, you feel like kicking yourself for overlooking some obvious things & messing up.

  2. Tracking where it went wrong:
    If you write down, you are able to clearly pinpoint why you went wrong, with timelines.
  3. Team Related :
    Once a decision is taken, it helps to keep your team informed at the same level, why some decisions were taken with clear pros-cons analysis. It does help get the team buy in.
  4. Tracking your journey :
    Some days are very bad & challenging & some wonderful. A few moments taken to jot down your true feelings and emotions at that point, will be a valuable treasure that you can look back with pride on how far you have come.

Being an aficionado of the game of chess, I have always enjoyed discovering similarities that exists between entrepreneurship and chess.

The first thing that chess players do is record their moves, so that they can analyze their own games in the end. Recording their moves also allows others to learn from their games and vice versa.

Grandmasters have been doing this for centuries together, analyzing their own games & others’ games and improving themselves.

Hence writing down your moves (decisions with reasons) in the game of entrepreneurship is key. Its time entrepreneurs did this as well, recording their journey, analyzing it, sharing with others as well as learning from others.

After all, Entrepreneurship, like most things in life, mirrors the great game of chess!


This is the eleventh part of a series by the author. Find the previous post here.


[About the Author: Shashi Bhushan is the Founder & CEO of HealthMacro Technologies.  He plunged into entrepreneurship to explore his dream of building something that touches people’s lives. HealthMacro were TiE’s AnthahPrerana 2013 winners. He can be followed on twitter at @ShashiBhushanHR]

TiE Product Showcase : Building Hardware Startups


In the recent past, the hardware startup revolution has picked up steam and begun to mature. These companies are now gathering the kind of attention previously reserved for their software counterparts. Owing to decreasing cost of prototyping, the entry barrier has been progressively reducing and making it more feasible to develop a physical product within economic constraints, and other favourable ecosystem conditions, like the birth of hardware centric startup accelerators, have marked the beginning of disruption in the Indian manufacturing ecosystem.

TiE Product showcase is a monthly event organized to help entrepreneurs pitch their products in front of TiE members, investors and charter members. The showcase for this month was hosted in partnership with Workbench Projects to help entrepreneurs showcase their solutions to a panel of leaders from SAP the industry.

Meet the Panel:


Product Showcase Format:

  • Panel discussion
  • Hardware Product Showcase of curated startups
  • Networking

Entrepreneurs from 4 start-ups pitched their ideas in front of the jury panel and the audience.




Seehow is building cricket coaching system for bowlers. Today’s bowlers do not have access to technology to help track and improve their performance. Most of the practice sessions are ad-hoc and manual. Seehow is building smart cricket balls with sensors to track spin, flight, bounce and speed and provide instant feedback to the cricketer. The system provides performance reports for bowlers as they navigate through their cricketing life and allows to benchmark against the world’s best.


The same technology could also be used to track performance in other racquet and ball sports.Dev Chandan and Sid George founded the company last year. They have been part of under 18 club cricket and are intricately familiar with the game. The startup demonstrated a cricket leather ball with integrated sensors. The startup is gearing for production of these cricket balls and currently working with several cricket clubs who are testing the technology.




Senze from IrisInd is an IoT based technology that aims at making regular objects smart and sort and make sense of the data such objects generate. The startup is implementing this technology in the retail segment giving brands new touch points to interact with consumers. Senze essentially enables businesses to develop smart things using smart paper. A paper like device, an accompanying mobile application and a SaaS platform captures interaction of the consumers with a brand and provides insights to the brand. The system is very customizable, enabling brand owners and marketeers build a new campaign everyday based on the analytics.


The Cochin based company was founded by Kavi Murugesan, Jose Anthony and friends. They are currently testing the product with various retailers in India.


avench-logoAvench Systems is an electronic product design and development company specialized in embedded systems. They are in the business of making technology adaption easy and beneficial to various business verticals and in the process of creating products which plug the gaps between what technology has to offer and the customers’ needs.

avenchPowerPanda is a modem power backup turned portable power source that ensures indefinite power to modem and Wi-Fi routers. It was one of the products showcased by Avench Systems. Broadband internet connectivity is an essential facility for everyone today. Availability of power for the access device like a modem or WiFi router could hinder this at critical times of need. PowerPanda is the solution to this problem, helping people to stay connected.




Cyclops MedTech Pvt. Ltd. is a Bangalore based start-up working extensively in the areas of eye tracking and vestibular science. Their vision is to create highly innovative and cost effective medical technology and devices which can dramatically expand the diagnosis horizon and thereby aid in faster and better cure.

cyclops Their product, a “complete balance assessment tool” is a wearable clinical device used to diagnose vertigo. The device was tested at a leading ENT centre in Bangalore for over 6 months. The device was showcased at AOICON and received a overwhelming response from ENT specialists from across the country. Presently they are on the verge of completing our beta prototype and the product should be commercially available by the end of 2015.

The company is being incubated at the Bio Medical Innovation Centre at BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore.

[About the Author: Poojita Raj is a second year BTech student of PES University. She is pursuing Computer Science Engineering and is an intern at TiE.]

What If You Are Not Like Steve Jobs?

What If You Are Not Like Steve Jobs?

Some days back I started reading Walter Isaacson‘s “Steve Jobs” all over again. Chapter fifteen, titled “The Launch” is about the launch of the first Macintosh in 1984, and ends with the following sentences:

neither Raskin nor Wozniak nor Sculley nor anyone else at the company could have pulled off the creation of the Macintosh. Nor would it likely have emerged from focus groups and committees. On the day he unveiled the Macintosh, a reporter from Popular Science asked Jobs what type of market research he had done. Jobs responded by scoffing, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”

I paused here, and thought:

Where does market research fit in when you have a CEO with a strong intuition and gut feel?
Jobs is famous for eschewing market research because he believed that it only yielded needs, wants, preferences of yesterday and not tomorrow. “It’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want”, he is known to have said when asked about market research for the iPad. And Jobs is hardly alone in this regard. Henry Ford is known to have said “If I had asked people how they could go faster from point A to point B, they would asked for more horses”. But for all the mavericks, you also come across many a quote about how important it is to know what customers want, such as this one from Sam Walton, no less an entrepreneur himself: “Focus on what the customer wants, and then deliver it”. To some extent, they reflect the differences in philosophies, strategies, positioning and target markets. While Walmart is about delighting customers with “Always Low Prices”, Apple is about delighting customers with products that they are willing to pay a premium for.

Interestingly, I came across an article in Economy Watch, which cited a 2011 survey done by the MIT Sloan School of Business.

According to a 2011 survey by the MIT Sloan School of Business, nearly 80 percent of all brand and market management decisions made by top-performing companies were primarily based on their CEO’s intuition, rather than any form of market research.

Below is the infographic that explains this survey, with a conclusion: Market research will always have its place, but it must be coupled with human instinct.


So, when we read, “Market research will always have it’s place”, what does that mean? Can we strike a balance between driving forward with intuition and knowing when, how much, and what market research to do, especially if you are not like Steve Jobs?


Very few products that get launched create entirely new categories in the market. Most products are evolutionary, better, faster, cheaper version of something that already exists in the market. For revolutionary new products, like the automobile, the telephone, an intuitive gut feel (defined in the infographic as Domain Knowledge + Self Knowledge) is likely to be more insightful than exhaustive market research. (It can be debated whether the iPod, iPhone, iPad are truly revolutionary products, as music players, smart phones and tablet computers had existed before, but the experience that Apple created was revolutionary. This can be the topic of an entirely separate post in itself).

Given that 80% of all new products fail, and if they were all driven by a visionary’s instinct, it is not clear if market research would reduce this number. Even the Macintosh was not successful initially, one of the factors that led to Jobs getting the boot. It is hard to say whether market research, rather than Steve’s intuition, could have saved the day for the Macintosh. But for most products, it is worthwhile to keep the ears closer to the ground.


This is a tricky one. How do we know if we have done everything we can to truly understand the market and customer need? Before we even embark on a market research project, we need to be clear about the goals of engaging in the exercise. What do we want to learn? is more important than What do we want to ask?. Many market research efforts tend to start with the latter and once all the truckloads of data is in, the effort to glean insights begins. So, it is important to ask the last question first.

Perhaps the people at Coca-Cola Company who did two years of exhaustive market research and conducted over 200,000 taste tests for New Coke fell into this trap. Through all these taste tests, they would have likely asked customers which tasted better, regular Coke or New Coke. And quite possibly, New Coke did taste better. But they failed to ask a critical question: Do you want a New CokeAs they say, a product launch is the most expensive form of market research!


There are a number of techniques for doing market research, and we will not go into each one of those here. At a high level, the techniques can be broken down into two broad buckets: Discovery and Validation. Discovery research tends to be exploratory and qualitative in nature, and is inherently open ended. This is more art than science. If you are creating a new type of camera, a customer’s need to feel confident in taking great pictures (as opposed to finding out after the fact that the focus was elsewhere), and create fond memories is more important to understand than knowing whether a camera should have 5.0 megapixels vs 50 megapixels, or a 3″ vs a 2″ display screen. Validation research, on the other hand, is pointed, quantitative and has specific goals. To take the camera example further, among the many questions that could be asked, one for instance could be about knowing whether people shoot video with their digital cameras. The Lytro camera is a great example of a new camera that addresses the need to take great pictures that are never out-of-focus, and does not shoot video!

The customer’s ability to express problems and needs is critical because their articulation or lack of it can create a gap between actual needs and expressed needs. Another thing to be aware of is that many customers start designing solutions to their own problems. So it is important to focus on the customer’s reality than their imagination.

The key thing to keep in mind, whether you are a visionary CEO leading with your gut, or doing market research, is that the quality of the answer received is highly dependent on the quality of the question asked.


[About the author: Rahul Abhyankar – Cofounder, Director of Programs and Faculty, Institute of Product Leadership. Rahul has over 25 years of high tech experience spanning product management leadership and engineering roles across large multinational companies and startups, delivering new product innovation in software, cloud, data analytics, hardware, and SaaS products/platforms. He is passionate about building products, cross functional leadership, mentoring and coaching.

Website: www.productleadership.com]

(Originally published on productleadership.com. To go to the original article click here.)