In conversation with Sagar Megharaj, Ex Product Manager, TaxiForSure & Founder, Khojio
Please tell us about your professional & academic background. Can you also brief us about your role in your current organization?
I completed by B.E. from BITS Pilani, Goa, in Electronics and Instrumentation, and then moved on to do my MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. After my MBA, I joined redBus in 2012 as a management trainee. After working on multiple projects across Product, Marketing and Operation for a year, I became the Product Manager for Customer Support. I worked in redBus for around a year and half and then joined TaxiForSure as a Product Manager. At TaxiForSure, I was responsible for launching the Windows App, the new CRM tool for Customer Support and looking after the booking management system. I quit TaxiForSure in August this year and am currently working on my own venture, Khojio.
Can you please describe what a typical day @ Office is like?
Talking about TaxiForsure, my typical day at work started with checking out my inbox for all pending mails and filtering out those that needed immediate attention. Most of the these mails were related to bugs/fixes about recently launched products or enhancements, and so they had to be either escalated to the engineering team or deferred till later depending on the seriousness of the issue. We used to also have a daily Product Team stand-up meeting so that the entire team is aware about the progress on various products and resolve dependencies of the products on each other. Mornings were also spent looking at the metrics of various products, understanding the trends and figuring out corrective actions if required.
Post lunch time was usually spent with various stakeholders to understand if they need any help or support with the products they are involved with. More often, the interaction used to be with the local operations team to understand their pain points, and work out a way to deal with them either through product enhancements or operational improvements. Most of the meetings with various regional teams also happened in the afternoon which involved informing them about the progress, training about new features, and figuring out ways to improve performance metrics.
Evenings were usually spent with the engineering team to track progress on various product developments, and brainstorm new product features.
What has been your greatest product success story? What, in your opinion is the determining factor in the success of a product?
My greatest product success story, which also happens to be my first product managing experience, was the revamping of Home Delivery process at redBus. This revamp included using technology to its full potential to ensure 100% tracking of orders, and achieve exceptional operational efficiency. We provided a low end Android smartphone to every delivery boy which allowed them to get details about new ticket deliveries on the go through a light Android App. This helped us reduce the average time between the booking of a COD ticket and delivery to the customer from around a day to 6 hours. We brought down leakages to almost zero percentage, delivery boys earned higher incentives due to increased number of deliveries. This revamp was a perfect example of an enhancement where all stakeholders benefited – customers received faster deliveries, delivery boys delivered more and hence earned more, and redBus was able to deliver tickets more efficiently.
For a product to succeed, it is very important that it brings in some value to all stakeholders. For a customer product, the product should be able to solve a pain-point efficiently, or delight the customer with exceptional service. For an internal product (like a CRM tool), it should empower the concerned team to do their job more efficiently and affect any one of the performance metric immensely. At the end of the day, all products are built for a certain set of customers, and unless they find some good value in it, the product will not succeed.
What is a typical career path of a product manager in your industry? And what are some of the challenges associated with this role?
Most of the Product Manager roles are in fast growing startups and so, a typical Product Manager can rise from an Associate Product Manager to Product Manager within 6 months to a year. In a lot of companies, there is no Associate Product Manager role, and even someone new to Product Management can join as a Product Manager directly. PMs can become a senior PM typically within two years if they continue in the same domain. However, after a senior PM, you would typically need good exposure to products in various domains – backend, frontend, mobile, web, etc. – to be able to rise ahead. Once you have this experience, you can then become an AVP or VP for products or CPO. The designation and the level of responsibilities also depend largely on the scale at which the company is working.
One major challenge associated with a PM’s role is that a PM is expected to drive different sets of people towards a common goal for the product, while none of them directly report to the PM. The success of a product (and thus the PM) is largely dependent on how each stakeholder gets involved with the product and how all of them work together to make it a success. Another challenge is that a PM is expected to know a little bit about everything – finance, marketing, technology, operations, and design, so that he is able to incorporate all of this knowledge into building the best product.
What personal skills are important for a product manager?
Some of the important skills that a PM is expected to have are:
- Interpersonal skills – be able to work with different sets of people, understand them and work with them.
- Good learner – even if a PM does not know much about technology, or marketing, or finance, or anything else, he or she can still be a good PM if they are able to work with these teams and understand the basics. Also, a good PM is able to work across domains, learn from different industries or other products, and incorporate those learning’s into building a sound product.
At Khojio, we are building an online marketplace for actors and models. The purpose of the website is to help production houses and casting agencies find appropriate actors and models for all their requirements. The website allows them to post their requirements, which the actors and models can browse through and apply. These actors and models can in turn create their portfolio on the website and share with others. In the coming months, we plan to build in a lot of awesome features to help users on both sides to interact with each other, and eventually help us become the biggest platform for talent hunt.
Some more Matter for your Grey Cells
- “We ideate – execute – iterate very fast”, says Arnav Malik, Product Manager, Zoomcar
- “Usability has to be in the DNA of any project”, says Pragati Kapur, Assistant Manager- Design Research and Strategy at LG Electronics
- “Our product focus and experience helps us set precedents for everyone in the Mobile CRM field”, says Baishampayan Ghose, Co-founder, Helpshift Inc
- Young Achievers – Rohan Anand, Data Scientist, Delhivery
- “Problem Solving and Analytical Skills are important for a Product Manager”, says Arun Varghese, Product Manager, Insta Health Solutions Pvt Ltd.