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Get Out Of The Building

          MEET YOUR ACTUAL CUSTOMER

Having been in the startup space for the last 4 years and having dealt with multiple failures, if a ‘new’ startup founder came to me for advice, I would tell him/her just one thing – “Get out of your damn office building and spend some time with your actual customers”
 
 
 
I am not going to mince words here. There is no point ‘intellectually ideating’ with a bunch of mentors in a room discussing ‘who will be the ideal customer’. Instead, go out into the market and find it out yourself. You will be stunned with the insights your customers/non-customers can give you! If at all you really like the air conditioning in your swanky office, then go at 7pm once you’ve spent the day in the field.
 
 
 
Look, everything follows the Pareto’s principle (80/20 rule) eg – 20% of your clients give you 80% of the revenue. Similarly, spend 80% of your time in the field and 20% in the office. If only I had done this earlier, I would be the founder of a unicorn company (it’s never too late though)
 
 
 
Let me tell you the story of my good friend who I won’t name for obvious reasons. He spent about 1.5 years preparing the perfect product which NO ONE WANTED! He was always living in a fantasy world where ‘he thought’ this is what the customer needs. Unfortunately, he was in for a rude shock when customers didn’t show any interest in his product. All of this in the guise of the ‘perfect first impression’. He always told me ‘You know I want to show my customer a great product, hence I don’t want to go to the market right now’. I am sorry, but in my humble opinion, first impressions count only if you are going on a date (actually no, but we’ll talk about this later). Screw the first impression if you want to have a great impression in the long run. Make as many mistakes as possible by talking to potential customers. Even if you leave a bad impression with a few customers, remember – we Indians are doing really well with our population rate. You will never run out of market size!
 
 
 
I humbly appeal to you, get out of the damn building and go on multiple dates with your customer. That’s how you’ll find your love. I meant your ‘actual customer’!
            By,                   

Anmol Garg

 

Testing Bathroom ideas using Design Thinking

A good morning shower can become more alluring start for the day when a creative idea props in our mind. Many a time these ideas don’t see the light of day as they get lost in our daily schedules. Imminently we happen to find the news that someone has raised a million dollar investment with our forgotten idea. That instant we feel a deep sense of guilt in our heart for not executing our idea and our face turns yearning to be that million dollar businessman.

“IDEAS ARE NOBODY’S PROPRIETORSHIP”. 

One in a million ideas. Yes, you read it right, One in a million ideas step out of the bathroom and see the light of day. This becomes a start-up. Looking into today’s context, less than 10% of our start-ups taste success. When it refers to success, they either raise money & scale fast or they become self-sustainable business ventures in a stretch of time. We are yet to explore many scalable and profitable businesses in India. The high failure rate of start-ups may be attributed to many factors, however, let’s start building our start-up right. The first step is to validate our bathroom idea once we decide to convert it into a business.

Now, Here comes the billion dollar question, How do I validate my idea? There are many methods/tools to validate ideas. Most of the founders prepare a questionnaire and do a validation by doing survey with their friends. At the end of the survey, they are in “WOW” moment… Now, they have concrete proof that their idea is going to be a humungous success. The billion-dollar start-up is in the making. Please Trust!!! This is the shortest route to the grave. Kindly forgive me for being so rude, yet that’s the truth. Let’s take a closer look, assume the questionnaire is sent to us, how do we do it. We force ourselves to complete it because it is sent by our friend, isn’t that true. Mostly they are completed in less than 7 minutes irrespective of kind/length of the survey. Around 80% of people do not even spare time to read the questions completely. So validating our idea using a survey is like saying “India will win the match for sure, we have to score 36 runs in 6 balls. All we need is just 6 sixes”. Can India win? Yes, of course or May be. What’s the probability? Leaving it for guessing.

If surveys are ineffective, what else can we do? Let’s ring the bell; our bathroom idea has to do a “JOB” for a sure set of people in an exacting circumstance. We call this sure set as our target customers. So, our first step would be identification of target customers. Once they are identified we have to converse with these people for better understanding of their needs or I would go ahead and say “Finding out their unstated needs”. From our personal experience and the experience of our startups whom we work with (#Anmol Garg of Beyond Skool), it is necessary to talk to at least 100 target customers (B2C idea) before we could assume our idea is good. If we ever think this is a simple task, THINK AGAIN. Many a times the simplest of things are the most difficult to implement. People find it extremely challenging to go out and talk to customers. One of the prime factors is “FEAR”.

In the past 2 years, our team had spoke and also helped our start-ups speak to different sets of target customers to validate IDEAS. As pointed out earlier, our biggest challenge was overcoming fear and helping our team to overcome fears well. From our learning, we would like to impart two tips to conduct successful customer interviews: The first tip is, “Go with prepared mindset”. It is quite difficult talk to customers in their workplace or in some public place. We may start feeling shy or some bugging in our mind like, what will they think of us? What if they don’t respond properly? etc. So whenever we go out to do interviews with target customers we have to predefine our mindset to “Excitement”. Excited because we get some new information/ideas or excited because we were meeting new people who cut us abruptly or excited because we have overcome fear to talk to strangers. Means irrespective of whatever happens during the interview process, we will remain excited. Trust, if we predefine our mindset that it’s going to be exciting, come what may, then we will learn much more.

PS: Please do interviews as a team (2 to 5 members) and it will be of great fun.

The second tip is “Chai Pe Charcha”, the title of course copied from our honourable Prime Minister. This tip actually rendered by one of our start-ups townO . They used the idea to successfully validate their business ideas. If the idea of talking to strangers/customers feels uncomfortable then start with a “Chai Pe Charcha”. We may probably invite a group of target customers over a tea through a known network, for example, if we want to interview millennials, we could approach the colleges nearby and invite students for “Chai Pe Charcha”. The students will fell elated and they shall come up with lot of ideas that may add value to the business/product.

This is how we begin the concept of “DESIGN THINKING”. Design Thinking is all about building our business/product with customer.

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