Oct 19, 2016

Why you need to care about your customer's motivations?

Over the past 4 years working on multiple products, I noticed an interesting pattern on the problems that many product managers are trying to solve. They seem to fall under one of these five major themes:
  1. Evangelizing the product
  2. Driving product adoption
  3. Effective onboarding
  4. Increasing user engagement
  5. Demonstrating value during the customer lifecycle
The debate on whether we are building the right product or not seems to have settled down. The much bigger question many are grappling with is how to communicate the right value to the right target customers. This makes me ponder if the role of product marketing is now becoming a lot more important and crucial for product success.

Many of these problems involve identifying the right audience, right channels, right message and right context. That explains the proliferation of contextual communication platforms such as Intercom, WebEngage, Customer.io, Appcues, Autosend etc.

With plenty of tools and platforms available, these problems should have been easy to solve. But the crux of these problems involve understanding customer motivations -
- why should a user be interested in your product?
- what conditions / situations / context in his life will lead to interest in your product?
- when do such conditions / situations manifest in your user's personal (or professional) life?
- what are the current alternatives that he has deployed in his life to solve the problem your product is intended to solve?
- what are the limitations of such alternatives? When will those limitations become such a big issue for your target user that he is ready to seek an alternative?
- what are the repercussions that would arise if he doesn't address those problems, by using these less-capable alternatives?

Unless we have a deep understanding of these areas, the problems listed will persist, irrespective of any number of targeted communications that a product manager / product marketer sends out to their users.

Oct 10, 2016

How can you improve your mental health?

 Today is World Mental Health day (10th Oct).

Dr.Sivaraman, the leading Siddha doctor from Tamilnadu has written multiple books in Tamil and these have changed my life. He points out repeatedly in his books and speeches about 3 issues that are the the main reasons for the rise of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, depression, cancer etc.

1) Change in our food habits - right from food cultivation, processing, storage, preservation, cooking techniques, serving to eating practices
2) Our disturbed mental health - attributing happiness to material possessions, societal status, raising ego clashes
3) The mindless violence we have unleashed on environment and nature

This post is dedicated to the second issue - our mental happiness and peace. When did our happiness start to be influenced by latest iPhone launches, purchase of new gadgets, getting FB likes, riding a swanky new car, jumping companies to get that promotion or a huge salary hike, buying expensive jewelry, renting high-end branded fashion wear etc etc?

In our journey towards achieving materialistic possessions, where is the last stop? Gadget manufacturers keep luring us with new upgrades and fancy marketing tactics. On top of that, we succumb to peer pressure and equate our "net worth" to these gadgets. Our parents used the same watch for 30 years whereas we want to upgrade our smart phone every year. We want to revamp our wardrobe every year based on what the growth-obsessed marketing strategists and the media-savvy Bollywood heroines dictate as the latest "fashion". We are ready to stay in lifelong debt in order to maintain the unaffordable, ultra-luxurious lifestyle.

The corporate cut-throat competition is not for the weak-hearted, people say. Clashes due to big fat egos, pressures of the rat race, sky-high expectations and the various challenges of climbing the steep corporate ladder suck our mental energies completely.

And when we are drained of our mental energies, where do we seek happiness from? Clicking selfies, addiction to social media, clamoring for FB likes, showing off pretentious lifestyles with those materialistic possessions and what not.

Jeff Hammerbacher (founder of Cloudera) once mentioned,
"The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads".  
 It's also worth mentioning that
"the best minds of our generation are thinking about how to get people to like their posts on FB".
Enough of the negativity in this post. What can we do about it?

1) Seriously think about what makes you happy - activities, feelings, people, experiences, moments etc. Carry a journal with you always and jot down whenever something brought a smile on your face, when your life felt more content and meaningful, when your heart felt calm and relaxed. Revisit your past and ask yourself what made you happy when you were a child. Invest your time in them every single day.
2) Be confident with who you are from within. Ignore the society's definition of how a man/woman of your age should look like, what they should do, what they should wear, how their home should look like etc. Most people would usually feel threatened if you are non-conforming. Let them be. Be rebellious and show off that "don't care" attitude. Care deeply about your inside happiness, that's all it matters. Celebrate your uniqueness.
3) Don't get glued to social media. Disconnect as much as you can. You don't have to share everything that's happening in your world. And you don't need to know everything that's happening in other's worlds. Use social media as a break from routine. But don't hitch-hike with it for your happiness.
4) Connect to real people in the real world more often. Meet them in person, have deep conversations, listen intently without judgment. Seriously, why do we judge people in a matter of micro-seconds? The more prejudices and stereotypes we have, the more opportunities we lose out in the world.
5) Always carry a positive attitude, keep the cynicism aside, be humble and always open to learn from others.

Oct 4, 2016

Listen to your body's signals

 I'm a firm believer of the fact that our human body has amazing abilities. How do we feel when a peck of dust enters our eyes or a sand particle enters our nostrils? Our body will ensure that the foreign particle is thrown out immediately, by the use of tears in the first scenario or a sequence of sneezes in the second case.

Over the years, we have lost touch with our body. While we want to stay connected to our smart phones with strong Wi-fi / 4G signals, very few of us are able to detect the signals sent by our body. The very basic of these signals are hunger and thirst. How many of us eat food when we are hungry? We like to be busy throughout the day and grab something on the go, without an understanding of our hunger pangs. Either we starve ourselves completely and pride on the fact that we had a late lunch due to a "client meeting". Or we keep munching something every 10-15 minutes, distracted with our umpteen number of devices.

As much as I respect Rujuta Diwekar for bringing awareness on Indian food traditions and practices, I don't agree to her principle of eating every 2 hours. I believe in the old adage - "eat when you are hungry". Hunger is a way of signaling us that the stomach has digested the food eaten earlier and is ready with the digestive juices to take in the next meal. At times, either our body needs rest (do we feel hungry when we are sick? Not at all) or the earlier meal is taking more time to digest. So it is better to wait for the signal before you eat the next meal. If we eat even a small portion of any food before the previous meal is fully digested, the undigested food interrupts the digestion of the previous meal. As a result, both the meals end up not getting digested and absorbed properly.

I also believe that we should drink water when we are thirsty. Not sipping throughout the day. It is very easy to understand the trigger our body sends if we care to listen. The one-size-fits-all measurement of drinking 4-5 litres of water a day doesn't apply to all human beings. Each of us are unique - our needs are different and so does our body types, activity levels, gender, food habits, genes, location and many other parameters.

This is what our ancestors believed, who led calm, peaceful lives without any lifestyle diseases. This might sound impractical, given our busy schedules. But I suggest that you try eating atleast one meal a day only when you start to feel hungry.  Start saying No to any food when you are not hungry. I bet you'll feel a positive difference (the lightness, the high energy levels) in a few days. Do share your experience in the comments below.

Sep 29, 2016

5 ways to manage wet waste

Earlier, I had written a post on managing dry waste. I got a lot of positive feedback and encouragement (thank you all!) for that post. Continuing on similar lines, let me talk about five ways by which I manage wet waste at home. 

Wet waste refers to waste generated from cooking, take-away food, left-overs etc. Segregating dry waste and wet waste is a mandatory rule in Bangalore. In-house composting of wet waste in apartment complexes is also being enforced in order to control the amount of waste that gets into landfills.

(1) Home composting:

Since 2010, my husband and I have been diligently using Daily Dump's Khamba to compost wet waste, mainly the fruits and vegetable peels. It has become a habit for us to dump such waste directly into the compost bin 2-3 times a day. The Khamba sits in a corner of our balcony and doesn't emit any smell. It doesn't attract any rats either. Maggots do come into the bin but they only fasten the composting process. Our 5 year old daughter gets excited to see the maggots whenever my husband mixes the bin. He typically takes the filled bin once a week, adds dry leaves fallen on the floor from our little garden and mixes them together with a pair of garden tongs. We get good quality compost that resembles mud once every 3-4 months. Home compost rightly deserves the name "black gold". We sprinkle this compost onto our plants. Through this home-based composting, there are hardly any fruits and veggie peels that get added to our wet waste bin. 

(2) Plan your meals, Be aware of your pantry stock:
I plan my meals in advance, according to the veggies I have brought from store. I had earlier written a blogpost about how to put veggies to good use without letting them rot in your fridge. I follow this simple practice that has helped me tremendously in controlling the veggies that go unused. Do check it out.

(3) Cook food according to your exact needs (not more):
The only other wet waste that goes out of our home in little quantity is cooked food. With more than 10 years of cooking experience, I know exactly how much to cook for my family. I always prefer to cook the exact required quantity (sometimes even less) rather than cook more and store left-overs (or throw away the excess food). We prefer to eat fresh home-made food and I cook 2-3 meals a day. But there is hardly any food that gets wasted.

(4) Educate children and bring them onboard:
I'm strict with my daughter about food wastage. I would rather serve little on her plate and let her finish it fully than add more food to her plate that she would find it hard to finish. I know her food preferences and I don't experiment with her school lunch box. Tried and tested food items feature repeatedly and the dabba comes home empty most of the time. 

(5) Reduce take-aways / Order the right quantity:
Coming to take-away or store-bought food, we don't order food from restaurants or from the food delivery startups. Even when I'm tired or not well, we would rather eat a simple curd rice or dosa with chutney podi at home. We go to restaurants once a week but don't carry home any left-overs. This may not work out for everyone but my only suggestion is to order the required quantity and avoid food getting wasted.

We follow these principles 90% of the time but there is still 10% to be improved. Hopefully one day, we'll hit the 100% mark and I don't keep my wet-waste bin outside my apartment for collection ever.

Do share if there are other ideas of managing wet waste at home. 

Sep 27, 2016

The music of JTHJ discovered 4 years late

If you are wondering what JTHJ stands for, it is the Bollywood movie "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" :-) A regular reader of my blog would know that I'm a crazy fan of AR Rahman's music. His music is like a dear friend, a family member to me. My iPod and playlists are filled with his albums (mostly). 

There was so much hype when the music album of Jab Tak Hai Jaan was about to release in 2012. Media was going berserk that ARR-Yash Chopra-SRK combo would create magic. All fans of ARR were eagerly awaiting the album. When the first 2 songs and later the entire album was launched, there was so much criticism that ARR failed to meet the expectations. To be honest, I didn't fall in love with the songs instantly. They say ARR songs grow on you but to me, this album didn't impress even after multiple times of hearing that time. 

Now after 3 years, this album sounds so refreshing. When I'm feeling dull and tired, I just turn to the peppy "Jiya re". What an energetic song it is! It's even more impactful to watch the video with Anushka Sharma's high-spirited dance, SRK's mellowed expressions and the beautiful locations. Well-picturized with the superb voice of Neeti Mohan makes "Jiya re" my favorite song of this album.

In complete contrast, "Heer" is such a soulful, soothing song. I don't understand the lyrics completely but the feel of a father-daughter separation after marriage is brought out so well by the singer, aptly supported by ARR's tune.  The title track sung by Javed Ali and Shakthishree starts off on a slow pace and then takes a surprise turn with a classical beat. "Saans" as a song is a beautiful melody with the mellifluous voices of Mohit Chouhan and Shreya Ghoshal but the picturization was so pathetic. Maybe, it's just my bias that I hate Katrina but I also felt many scenes of the song were out of sync with the tune of the song. 

This experience made me realize that it is better to listen to a music album after the hype and media buzz dies down. We tend to appreciate the songs a lot more when the expectations are not sky-high.

Next in line is Tamaasha. 

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