One Product Wonders

Aka The product to rule them all

This post has no karma points, as I am no expert in what follows.

However if subheading reminds you a book secret high fives to you.
Last week I had the honor of being selected for British Council’s ‘Young Creative Entrepreneur Award‘ in the ‘Digital for Creative Industries‘ segment (the other segment was ‘Design for Social Impact‘). The award ceremony and process was impressive and flattering. And winners, in both categories, deserved the mirror and butterfly YCE trophies (Congratulations Pawan Kumar and Sandeep Sangaru!).
The award is a great way of encouraging young people who’re busy converting their ideas into products (cliche alert!). It fits in with other ‘Start-up’ events that are regularly held in the Delhi/Gurgaon region (I am sure there are more).Yet what caught my attention is such events focus on singular products or services. The premise goes like this: ‘You must have an idea that solves one problem. This idea must translate into one product/service which sites in one market segment.’
This singular silver bullet focus pushes a popular myth: ‘You must believe in your product/service so much, that you give up everything else.’ This is embodied in shows like ‘Dragons Den‘, in which venture capitalist lambast prospective product/service creators who aren’t considered serious ‘enough’ if they don’t quit everything else. Bills, rents, education and dependents be damned. For people who do pull of this singular focus, you get nice TV fodder of that person who sacrificed everything because they ‘believed’: in the idea, product and themselves.
This belief can be problematic. In a few start-ups that I have worked with the belief often leads to atmosphere where the companies decisions and choices cannot be questioned. The person who asks ‘why?’ becomes the non-believer, the heretic, the one who must be ousted. This environment leads to a group of people so held together by their shared belief, that market movement, numbers and even customer responses often get ignored.
Add to this the velocity of the online/web/digital space, which habitually tosses out firms that haven’t innovated, responded or adapted to changing technologies and new user demographics and geographies. This, in my opinion, creates firms so fixated on one thing, that they forget to look out to of the window to see how the world has changed. They become detached from users and the market. They lose flexibility and agility. But hey they made that one thing, remember?
The choice on what and when to invest is tricky: it applies to new ideas all the way to what to do with your savings. When you don’t invest all your savings, your years of work, into one stock and ‘believe’ that it will go up, then how can you do that to an idea?
People hedge, because all eggs in one basket often leads to cliches that don’t end in omelets. All thought, effort and investment doesn’t have to go the same way.
I would rather hedge my effort across fields, products and solutions. Its opens up more options, markets and chances of creating multiple successful products/ventures. And its fun.
PS: Commenting on this post and sharing your experiences will get you Karma points.

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