Product management is all about knowing your users, identifying their needs (often un-communicated), analyzing the market and developing a solution that satisfies these needs. By continuously identifying and satisfying these needs, at a faster rate, you are creating a product that is ahead of competition and is loved by the users, who often reward you with increased loyalty.Product management is the bridge between marketing (identifies the need) and engineering (satisfies the need). If you don’t bridge these two, you are creating a product which no one would use. May your soul rest in peace Apple Newton!
The role of product management was always there, but it wasn’t until late 90s that it emerged as a distinct role. With the advances in technologies, the dot com boom, dropping prices and globalization, the companies found themselves serving a large set of varied users, whose needs are constantly evolving and at a much faster pace. The established companies were slow to adopt their products and were unable to address the increasing gap in the market. Post dot com crash, there were a lot of new tech startups who focused on these gaps, creating their niche and challenging the established players. They both were now focusing on creating value for their user by building products that they love. It was no longer a case of user’s needing to learn what the technology could offer. It is now about the technology to deliver what user wants.
This is what the product management is all about. By having a better product management function, the companies are now able to create superior (not technologically, but functionally) products, faster. They can easily challenge a market leader, who failed to focus on their users or identify their changing behaviours. There are a lot of examples in recent past about this, both in digital as well as physical products.
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Where do you see is the primary difference between how startups in the UK and startups in India perceive product management?
Product management is still nascent in India but growing rapidly. It’s difficult to explain the big difference between India and UK, but you can experience it. The biggest issue for product manager in India is the communication. Indians are not comfortable being challenged, and if challenged, it turns to egoism. Product management is about challenging the assumptions, including own assumptions, be challenged by the users, by the developers, by the market, etc. As a product manager, one shouldn’t be afraid of challenging anyone including oneself. In India, employees are not comfortable to challenge their superiors. Even if they have guts to challenge, the superiors would take it on their ego. Indians are trained to follow orders without questioning.
Additionally, there is a big lack of value-driven entrepreneurship. A lot of Indians want to be a business owner, but hardly a few want to be an entrepreneur. Doing a business is easy in India, after all, it’s all about price in India. Everyone wants “Sasta aur acha”, there is no guarantee about anything and hardly any professionalism. If the user complains, instead of admitting mistakes, they are driven away. Suppliers are constantly nagged to extract discounts. Employers think that they own their employees just because they are paying a salary.
Entrepreneurship is about creating value; value for the user, for the supplier, for the employees. It’s about changing the mindset. Listen to your users, understand their complaints, and admit own mistakes. Users will pay more if you create value for them. Treat your suppliers as your partner, getting their buy-in for the future potential. They would give you better terms and flexibility for you to achieve it. Give your employees a respectful place to work, make them feel part of the bigger picture, reward their contribution and they would go beyond the call of their duty to bring success for you.