Thursday, April 29, 2021

'You have not understood our requirement at all!'

When we moved into our home, we had spent a lot in the purchase and as a result, had limited budget for the design. We ended up making our own design, without much thought on creating harmony among the various elements in our home.

Now we have finally come to the point of getting professional help.  To this effect, we got in touch with a design firm. Their studio was great and we were super excited! Next, one of their consultants started interacting with us. She asked for our house plan; we also explained our requirement. Then, she sent us an initial estimate of costs. It turned out to be a bit of a letdown, because it did not reflect any requirement we had shared and was a vanilla version. Still, we gave her the benefit of doubt, had more conversations with her to explain and finally she visited home. After an hour of explaining to her in person, she gave us a revised estimate and said, "Please visit our website and choose the design you need". 

'Whoa!', we thought, 'if we are not going to get any suggestions from you, and have to select one among 100s of designs by ourselves, why do we need your consultation at all? Despite our multiple discussions, you have not understood our requirement at all!'

As a Product owner, you need put yourself into the shoes of the customer, understand first of all the 'WHY' of their requirement (the BIG picture) and then make sure you comprehend their needs. In other words, have Customer Empathy!

How can you develop empathy?

Here are three approaches that have worked for me:

  1. Listen to 'Voice of the Customer'. If there are recorded customer support calls, you can set aside some time every month to listen to a sample of them. Also, talk to the customer support people and understand the top areas of customer reported issues.
  2. Create Customer Journey Maps. This will help you traverse the areas of the product that a customer uses and bring out what is working well, what is not.
  3. Role play a customer. Check out this case study on how IDEO, a design firm, helped paediatric healthcare provider Nemours, enhance the patient experience for their new hospital. Ideo employees followed some Nemours patients around all day, "and came up with some great ideas that we, as adults, may not think about," says Dr. Judith Wall, Nemours' medical director.

"Our core business is connected with the customers’ needs and we will not be able to satisfy them if we don’t have a deep sense of empathy” -  Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

Organizations that focus on customer empathy and weave it into their DNA bring in Customer delight ,differentiate themselves from their competition.... and the bottom-line is: these are organizations that customer love doing business with!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

5 questions to build a great product

From product vision to road map, release planning, sprint planning and sprinting to go live… as a product team, many a time, it is a race to get the features out to production. In such a scenario, to keep focus on building a great product, here are five questions to keep in mind:
  1. Which are the most needed features?
    It is easy to build a lot of features and make your product fancy. However, which of those will your user really need and use? Identify and build what the user really needs.
  2. How simple can we make it?Simplicity and ease of use go a long way in building up the user base and increasing adoption. Build workflows into the product wherever needed. Users should be able to easily learn the product features and how to use it. It is not easy to build a simple product, but it is worth it.
  3. Are we using the language of the user?
    Make sure every aspect of the product is in the user’s language. If possible, involve a few users to co-create the product with them.
  4. What feedback do users have?
    Periodically (at least every quarter), reach out to users and ask them:
    a) which are the most helpful features
    b) the least helpful features
    c) what can be improved in the product
    Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” — said Bill Gates, hence, pay great attention to feedback for improvement.
  5. Can a new user learn about the product easily?Identify someone new to the product to run through the product guides and validate whether they will help a new user to easily learn and start using the product. Along with product launch, ensure you build in ‘Getting started’ guides and videos which can be easily referenced.
You can build a product with great engineering, fancy features and do a lot of attractive branding and marketing. However, if the product is not valuable, then all the engineering and marketing is of no use. Therefore, pay attention to the features, the building blocks. Aim to make customers love your product!
“If you keep your eye on the profit, you’re going to skimp on the product. But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow.”
– Steve Jobs

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

WITFluence 2020 - historic moments, inspirations...and much more!

It was great to participate in WITFluence - a conference for Women in Technology which was held on 20th Feb with the theme of 'Role Models for Women in Tech'. The conference had a stellar list of speakers on various topics, and also witnessed the launch of Wequity (a collaborative to promote Women in Technology).

Here are some of my takeaways from the sessions I attended.

"It is important to be vocal about what you want to be" - said Kalavathi G V, Head, Philips Innovation Campus, in her keynote address. She spoke about her journey in technology, challenges and the single minded goal focus that has helped her become what she is today.

"There is a big shift in marketing because people are moving to online forums", said Geetha Koushik, Director of Engineering, Gibraltar India. She said a lot of marketing focus has shifted towards social media marketing, because that is where the audience is.

"Have pride in yourself and what you do, stay flexible, design your own idea of success, put aside the 'good woman template' and don't feel less entitled to success" - said Nirmala Menon, founder & CEO, Interweave consulting, in a highly energetic and humorous talk.

One highlight of the evening was a CXO panel discussion on what equality really means in the technology ecosystem. Manjula Muthukrishnan (MD - Avalara India), Hari Vasudev (Country Head & VP Technology, Walmart Labs), Atul Jalan (CEO & MD, Manthan) and Vidya Laxman (Technology Director - Tesco) were the panelists in conversation with Priya Chetty Rajagopal (Founder & Managing Partner, Multiversal). "It's all about educating the girls and boys with equality" - said Vidya, in a powerhouse exchange of thoughts.

As the evening set in, the Plenary Hall got packed for the much awaited performance by Usha Uthup.  "You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream", said the ever-young and fabulous Usha Uthup, as she held us spellbound with her inspiring, peppy talk. This was followed by her mesmerizing performance….a perfect evening that had the audience clapping, cheering and a few dancing as well!

A fitting finale to the day was witnessing and getting inspired by the awards given away to Women, and Men in Technology. The categories were: Tech Beacon, Tech Exemplar, Techinist (given to women who excel in technology), Solidarity idol and the Equalizer (for a male sponsor who has driven gender equity and progressed women in tech). Amazed to see the Techinist award recipient, Seema Nagar, who is an Advisory Research Engineer in IBM and has 100 patents to her name!!!

Will this day be a game changer in my life? Too early to tell....but definitely a memorable one, with speakers who will inspire me forever!

Thursday, November 07, 2019

A Show & Tell makes all the difference...a story from my experience

How much difference can a 'Show & Tell' make in our daily lives? A I learned when I was buying a car.
It was the summer of 2019...a defining year in our history with changing cars...We had had enough of our SUV and wanted to upgrade to a more luxurious car. After having test driven a dozen cars, we finally zeroed in on a crossover which had a mega, panoramic sun roof and amazing features 😎. However, there was one aspect which bothered us - the available colors. The choice was a dull, lackluster set of color options 😞 
"Why can't this car come with the nice 'Marina' blue?", I asked the salesman. I did not really expect an answer and was venting out my disappointment; however, he actually took my request to the manufacturer. As luck would have it, we found out that one of our distant relatives was a Leader in the Marketing group. Our conversation with her reinforced our hope to get a blue 3-4 weeks.
We were all excited and eagerly waiting for a wonderful car in a bright, breezy blue color, called 'Marina Blue'. However, destiny, aka the Marketing team, had something else in store....they had decided on 'Moonlight Blue'. We felt as blind as a bat, not knowing what this color was 😡. Our expectation turned to frustration, our feelings were like those of a raging bull. We decided to cancel the booking.
That was the moment, when...Pop! Came a WhatsApp message with a visual showing a photo of the Moonlight Blue car. We opened the message with mixed feelings. 

The picture of the car that unfolded was ...beautiful! Our anger turned to admiration in that instant. A simple 'Show & Tell' turned around our decision.

Today, as we eagerly wait for our dream car, we remain loyal customers....a Show & Tell made all the difference!!!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Singapore - before you go

I visited Singapore in April 2017 and did a lot of pre-planning by browsing websites and talking to friends. Below is a gist of what I've gathered and refined from my travel to Singapore:

  1. Flight Tickets - look for options via Trichy or Chennai in Jet or Indigo - you might get cheaper fares
  2. Visa - you have to apply only through an agent. The agent will send your application to Embassy only about 10-15 days before travel date, so plan your travel accordingly.
  3. Accommodation - book at least a month in advance, and choose a hotel which is near Serangoon Road or Little India MRT train station. So that you have good connectivity and have lots of restaurants nearby.
  4. Sightseeing tickets - Try to get tickets for the major attractions in advance through an agent or website like You get a discount and avoid the queue at the entrance of the attraction.
  5. Travel in Singapore - Once you land in Singapore, get the Singapore Tourist Pass at any TransitLink office. It allows you to travel unlimited in bus or MRT for 2 or 3 days depending on which pass you buy. 
  6. Shopping and GST Refund - if you purchase > 100 Singapore dollars in a shop, you can get a GST refund at the airport. So make sure you have your passport with you while shopping and get the GST refund form from the shop. Later, you show the form at the airport to get the refund
  7. At Universal Studios - go on a weekday and reach there by 10 am to avoid the crowd. Carry packed lunch with you cos it is very expensive and crowded inside. Carry water bottles from outside - you can refill them inside. Get an express pass for people who will go on the high rides. Do not miss the Waterworld show at 1.30 pm.
  8. Gardens by the Bay - get tickets for Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. Plan to be there during afternoon and evening. Do not miss the 8 pm show in the open area - the Supertrees are very beautiful.
  9. Other attractions not to miss - Science Centre (at Jurong East), Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, Luge ride at Sentosa, shopping at Mustafa and Bugis street

Thanks to :,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Lunch

I eat lunch every day. so what’s unique about it? First of all, what is lunch? Wikipedia says: Luncheon, commonly abbreviated to lunch, is a mid-day meal, and is generally smaller than dinner, which is the main meal of the day whenever dinner is eaten.

Interesting, since the popular saying says: breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dinner like a pauper!

Well, there was a day when I had lunch twice! It was a Swiss lunch. Wondering what a Swiss lunch is? Now don’t google for it, you won’t find it exactly, since I coined the term just now. I define it as: lunch in the Swiss Alps.

I visited Mount Titlis this summer with family. Since I foresaw the possibility of not finding good vegetarian food up there, I packed some burgers, French Fries and coke. As soon as we reached there (around 12 noon), we were so hungry that we gobbled up our lunch.

We thought we had finished lunch. But in fact, that was just Phase I of our lunch. The plethora of activities made us hungry soon.

Luckily, as we descended down in the cable car, we saw a Vada Pav/Pav Bhaji shop. Unimaginable! Indian chat food in the Swiss Alps! That was my Lunch Phase II!

So now you see how I ate Swiss lunch like a king!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Its Time...

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – said Walt Disney.
 So…what do you do when you have to tread a new path, and ITS TIME for a handover?
Identify a successor
Train your successor
Share work with your successor while front-ending activities
Tell all stakeholders
Induct the person formally; let him/her manage Normal Scenarios while you remain in the background
Move in to manage exceptions, if needed
Exit when you are not needed to manage the exceptions