#ExpertsSpeak: Critical Areas Startups Overlook During Product Development

Product development is the process of designing, creating and marketing new products or services to cater to a market niche.The process may also involve modification of an existing product or its presentation.

Sharing his philosophy on the subject, Aaron Schildkrout, Co-founder of HowAboutWe who currently runs Data and Marketing teams at Uber, maintains, “At the center of my philosophy of product development is the idea that your task as a product leader is to ensure that every single person on your team is constantly unblocked, or completely empowered to do breathtakingly great work in alignment with your company’s goals. This happens—and wonderful things get created—when your team is driven by radical curiosity and a relentless orientation towards perpetual learning and improvement.”

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From top left clockwise- Alok Goel, Sandeep Aggarwal, Rahul S Dogar, Vikram Upadhyaya, Azhar Iqubal and Mudit Vijayvergiya

For a startup, it is very important to realize that the long term competitiveness of their company literally rests on their product development capabilities. It not only drives your market position and financial performance but also creates new industry standards and new niche markets. Moreover, your product could be instrumental in renewing and rejuvenating your organization. Yet only a few manage to deliver fully on their promises. This is because founders generally tend to let the fundamentals of product development slide. In most of the cases, factors like poor leadership, the absence of essential skill sets or an aggregate project plan act as the key deterrents.

Adding a comment on this situation, Alok Goel of SAIF Partners said, “I think most often people over engineer their first version of the product. The often overlooked aspect is that the product should have only those features which allow you to test the value/usefulness of the product. Adding too many bells and whistles wastes too much time and delays feedback”. He throws light on founders’ tendency of wasting too much time and energy on the superfluous aspects of a product, rather than focusing on the utilitarian values.

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Similarly, Sandeep Aggarwal of Droom Technology believes that founders lack a long term approach while developing their product. The essential things like R&D and prototyping, product marketing and adoption, are often overlooked. He also highlighted a common mistake made by young entrepreneurs i.e. suffering from an illusion of grandeur.

Reasserting the meagerness of R&D, Rahul S Dogar of Holisol Logistics opines- “In my view, the most critical element being missed-out by startups is market research – identification of market opportunity and understanding of battlefield. Lots of them are developing products based on just idea without spending adequate time studying the customer needs and willingness to pay for fulfilling that need, as well as understanding of competition. Because of huge influx of capital due to investor activism in the market, there was huge tolerance for half-baked ideas with speed-to-market taking precedence over launching a solid produce in the market. This approach has produced few winners across the globe but they are far and few, there are numerous that have failed which don’t get reported”.

Another common negligence as pointed out by Vikram Upadhyaya of GHV Accelerator is the mis-assessment of the potential of a product to scale. He maintains, “Most critical element that startups miss, is the Scalability of the Technology / Product, with reference to technology advancement, competition and Changing consumer behaviour / expectation.” Adding further, he says, “Also, product is not to be looked as just an App, or a website, or the backend. The product is one of the most critical parts of the overall offering to the consumers, and the backbone of the business model.”

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Speaking from his own learnings and experience, Azhar Iqubal, CEO, Inshorts, lays down the following points on the critical aspects of product development which startups generally fail to look into:

Implementing the MVP principle in action – While every app developer principally understands the Minimum Viable Product philosophy, very few actually put it in motion. When introducing a new feature, we make sure that we launch a version that ‘just about works’, based on further feedback from users, we add the bells and whistles to make it even better. The devil lies in the details and hence, the execution of this determines the success or failure of every new feature.

Being responsive to every single user feedbackBeing responsive doesn’t just mean replying to brickbats or applause on the app stores, it means taking into account every feedback and applying it back to your product. We genuinely make an attempt to hear address and implement feedback that we receive from our users, this creates enormous customer delight and our users, in turn, refer us to their friends and peers whenever possible. We obviously can not execute every single piece of advice or request but we surely try to do this on best efforts basis.

If it’s working, it can be made better - There is always room for improvement in a product, just because it something is working, it doesn’t mean it can not be improved further. We have constantly looked to enhance our interface and it has always helped us earn brownie points from our users. Users who had uninstalled us have always kept coming back in and that is precisely why we have always strived to become better and haven’t stopped.

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Last but not the least, a typical mistake that entrepreneurs make while working on  a product is that they usually take gut feelings into consideration more than than real data. Mudit Vijayvergiya, Cofounder of Curofy emphasizes on the poverty of  “a hard core data driven approach”. He says, “if you ascertain a conclusion or make a decision or device a strategy, it’s very highly recommended that you back it with facts and figures. Unfortunately, many startups fail to realize this essential point while creating their product”.

Adding further to the highly valuable insights we garnered from the people who have been quoted in this story, here are a few more critical aspects, budding entrepreneurs leave undone while designing or building up their product-

  • Regulatory requirements
  • A clarity about the target
  • Resource mismanagement- not having the right people in the right place.

The process followed during product development can be the deciding factor of your startup’s fate. As mentioned by InShorts’ Azhar, start with an MVP to check the market feasibility, research on your target customers, market sensitivity, and plan your resources accordingly for a full fledged development cycle.

Should you have more points to add, please share them in the comment section below.

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