Almost every software engineer who is interested in ‘strategy’ wants to move into a product manager’s role today. ‘Strategy’ is a big word, but the beginning of the shift towards product starts with a small action. That action is learning to focus more on the big picture and understanding the customer, instead of directing all your attention on the immediate task at hand.
My big moment of realisation did not occur in a day, it was more of a process that spanned 4 years of me working as an engineer at redBus. During this time, we were growing fast, learning how to handle challenges of scale, capturing new markets and moving to new tech platforms. All of this experience set me up perfectly to lead the tech for our launch in South East Asia.
This was the moment when my desire to become a product manager took centre stage.
Having worked as a project lead in QA while setting up international operations allowed me to start thinking product because it was our baby and the ownership was completely with us. I would work on extensive test cases that would cover all possible scenarios and outcomes, and it made me realise I could write water-tight product stories. With renewed faith in my abilities, I now truly believed I could get into product management.
At redBus, there is no dearth of role models and mentors. I personally find it easier to base my vision of who I want to be, on a role model whom I can emulate. As an engineer you get to work closely with the best product managers at redBus and their mentoring helped me start thinking like a product guy.
The primary difference in the way some engineers think and how product guys operate is usually the customer first approach and being able to think of the solution from the customer’s perspective. Luckily I never had to face this challenge in mindset shift, because the customer centric approach was already ingrained in me. At redBus everyone is expected to think of the solution with the user at the centre of the product.
A discussion with the HR head about my ambition of moving to product lead to more structured learning support that extended across mentoring, course guidance and training programs.
The Home Run
I did not have any b2b experience even as an engineer prior to this, hence transition into b2b domain product management needed me to grasp the intricacies of this new space at a very fast pace. My first year of managing the product yielded healthy business growth and the stakeholders were happy to give me ownership of a completely new category of business.
Enter rPool! It’s a car and bike pooling service that intends to solve the home — office commute issues faced by urban india. I am responsible for the whole journey from design to market strategy of rPool.
We have been working on it for about 10 months now and it went live for consumers about 4 months back. My approach to decision making for rPool has been completely based on data driven insights and understanding customer needs. We haven’t restricted ourselves to only surveys, we even meet customers to get a better sense of their daily challenges and how to solve them. For me there is no greater motivation than that.
My job is to drive the project through multiple teams and different stake-holders while ensuring the unwavering focus on customer centricity. This ensures that every process is designed around customer insights. For example, we now know that ‘ride takers’ are more comfortable walking a greater distance to their end destination after the drop as compared to walking from their origin location to the pickup point. These learning have translated into designing the ‘ride taker’ experience in a way that they never have to walk more than 10% of the total journey distance, to reach a pickup point.
Understanding the customer also leads us to finding better differentiators from the competition. rPool is the only pooling service that provides insurance for all the ride takers too, we realised that traditional insurance only covers the driver of the vehicle and hence does not live up to the levels of service we desire. Customer privacy is another area we are focussed on, we do not want customer data being misused like some of the other C2C platforms. To ensure this we have call masking for both parties involved and only verified users can use rPool at the moment.
rPool has already grown to 1 lakh users across the 3 cities we are present in and I can’t wait to ride the growth trajectory that lies ahead of us.