Product Management at Haptik

Next month, it will be 3 years since Swapan and I first started building Haptik. Over this time, the company has gone through various stages, twists and turns and I am sure there are a lot more to come. One of the elements that has probably seen more changes than anything else is the definition of “product” at Haptik. We have constantly kept iterating what the role of a “Product Manager” should be, and the teams/tasks he or she is responsible for. It took us a while to finally get to what we believe is the right definition, and here I just wanted to share some of the learnings in the process.

When you are the founder of a tech startup, it is pretty typical to talk to another founder or industry experts when you don’t know what to do. So, at every step of the company, that’s what we have always relied upon. In general, it works out well and is one of the pillars by which Silicon Valley and Y-Combinator thrive on. However, we went wrong in our interpretation of the definition of product at Haptik. Mobile app companies typically define product as the sole function of building and managing the development of the mobile app. This primarily involves defining user flows inside the app, working with designers to come up with UI/UX, and collaborating with software developers to eventually implement the designs. And of course all the while studying user behaviour data of what people are doing inside the app. This obviously would make total sense intuitively and is the way we set up the product function at Haptik. We found that most of our peers running similar businesses were also operating the same way.

A couple of months back, we realized things were a bit broken across the board. There was too much discussion among too many teams and people, at the same time it felt like we weren’t moving fast enough on the business. It seemed like ownership was not being clearly defined for the goals the company wanted to achieve. And then it dawned upon us that the reason was the complete misalignment of the Product function from what it should be doing.

“Product” in any business is ultimately what you sell to the customer, and for Haptik its the successful resolution of the incoming chat request. We are actually building more of a service than a product in its true sense.

The mobile app is an enabler of the service, not the product itself.

While again this might seem very obvious and intuitive, its funny how so many of us miss it. In the Internet industry, we are used to referring to product management as managing the app or website, but for service apps like Haptik, I don’t think it holds true. For a food delivery app, the product should be the delivery of the food to the customer (duh!). For a home services company, it should be the quality of the service delivered to the customer. And so on.

Product Managers at Haptik are now responsible for the end-to-end chat experience across categories, which includes working across various horizontal teams that enable the service. Mobile apps is one of those teams, along with operations, marketing, sales, machine learning and backend development. Ever since arriving at this conclusion and realigning the teams, things have become a lot more organized and there is clear direction to the business goals. It just seems to make so much sense but is so often overlooked.

And its ironic the answer you get when you do a simple Google search on “product management”:

Product management is an important organizational role typically in a technology company. The product manager is often considered the CEO of the product and is responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for that product or product line. The role of product management spans many activities from strategic to tactical and at its best provides cross-functional leadership — bridging gaps within the company between different functions, most notably between engineering-oriented teams, sales and marketing, and support.

P.S. If you want to be a Product Manager at Haptik and do all the things mentioned above, we’d love to hear from you

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