By John Santhosh, Founder & CEO, GIEOM
India has made a mark for itself worldwide, first as an IT destination, and now, as a technology product hub. Started off as an offshoring business alternative, the industry expanded into building products in India. However, like the IT services, these were usually cost-effective adaptations of successful products previously tested and succeeded in foreign markets. This has worked well in the country until now. While this is not a wrong way to product innovation, original products might be difficult to build this way. But going forward, for us to grow our relevance in the global market, we need to offer novel ideas and pioneering products.
Winning the War, not Necessarily the Battle
It’s the classic Sprint vs. Marathon debate. Thanks to the availability of tech talent, global access and growing rate of adoption, starting up with a product which is cheaper, better or quicker is easy.Hence, the number of startups in the country today are much higher than five years or a decade ago. This also means that a lot of new innovations are competing for customer attention. The success and failure of a product is much quicker than ever before and hence it is imperative that we provide unique, scalable solutions.
The path of creating something completely new, built to solve a unique problem, isn’t always the shortest, but more lucrative in the long run. The idea is not to create an affordable or better version of an existing product but offering a solution to a problem people didn’t even realize they had or could be solved.
Sure, these are not the low hanging fruits, but if the startup’s goal is not to get acquired within three years of inception but build something that people would talk about in the same breath as HubSpot, PayPal, LinkedIn or Amazon, these are few things they cannot overlook.
Anticipate your Customer Woes
Product innovators often go wrong here. They research on a specific problem that they might have noticed and try to build a product to solve the problem. It is very difficult to scale up your product through this approach since the longevity or relevance of the product is directly depended on the problem. Once the problem ceases to exist, your product is of no value.
Additionally, they can be also be engineered using something called ‘Fundamental research’. An approach that requires studying the industry closely and anticipate the problems your clients will face in future. Isolate the problem that has a maximum business impact and for the longest time, and then build a solution for it, filtering the others that are short term or low impact. This creates a solid base for an original product that will have a longer lifecycle and makes it easy to be sold to multiple customers.
Accelerate through Co-creation
In last few years, there has been an increase in large enterprises engaging startups. These global businesses are tuned to the changes in their sector and foresee the demands their customers will have because of it. They also understand that instead of trying to develop solutions that would take them months or even years, it is more efficient to find partners who can help them today. Co-creation along with such corporations also open avenues to sell your products to a new set of customers and start generating revenue.
These corporations offer deep insights, resources and advanced infrastructure to the startups that can be leveraged by the startups to build a new product, or a version that can be integrated into the enterprises solutions suite or building a joint go-to-market strategy for a certain market. But the process itself will create a true product company creating unique, configurable, and scalable solutions for the industry – a product that can be taken to multiple customers, not just the enterprise startup engages with.
Define Your Space
In the journey of a product enterprise, we will come across customers with specific problem statements looking for solutions. As an original product enterprise, we should resist such temptations to create specific products for such customers. While the project might be huge and rewarding, catering to such a demand without a thorough research is not advisable.
Every product business needs to find a niche in the industry. If we are building products across multiple sectors, it will eventually dilute a structured growth for the enterprise and scalability will become difficult. Rather, have a structured approach in a single industry and focus on the same.
As a product innovator, we will have to make fundamental research the bedrock of each innovation. If the problem statement is very specific in nature and the solution cannot be sold to others, then the enterprise becomes a services business again. Usually we get to learn about a lot of other problems of a specific industry when we start deploying our first product. While the first product goes through its own life cycle, we need to invest in research once again to build the next possible product in the same sector. The experience of deploying the first product will make it easier to start selling and deploying the second one if we stick to a specific industry. This helps a product enterprise create a niche for itself in a specific industry and keep building new products for the same. Hence, never build a product unless you have the vision of how to sell it to multiple customers.
Innovation is a Process
Google would not have been a tech giant if they stopped at Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s original search engine. They choose to innovate and create a culture of innovation within the company. Innovation is not a superhero story where a couple of tech geeks write an excellent code and build an enterprise around the same. Rather follow a process to create superheroes from existing resources to evolve current products and build new ones. Hence innovation is a continuous process.
For India to climb up in the global ranking chart of product companies taken birth from here, there is need for academia, industry, startup collaboration. This can lead to creation of original products solving global issues by conducting fundamental research, co-creation with industry partners and development using deep tech by startups.
Read this article on Entrepreneur website