In conversation with Prateek Singla, Product Manager at Shopclues.com
I completed by B.Tech in Electronics and Communication from VIT, Vellore in 2009 .Through campus placement, I was hired to work with Infosys, as a software engineer. At Infosys, I started working for one of the largest US based retail companies, taking care of their online business.
Even though I was able to do value creation at Infosys, I believed that there was lot more that I could achieve, by bringing to the table qualities like Customer Focus and Customer Satisfaction, and the fastest way to get there was through an MBA.
I enrolled into Great Lakes Institute of Management’s, PGPM program, in 2012 with majors in Operations & Strategy. I was awarded the gold medal for having topped the operations stream.
I joined ShopClues through campus placement in 2013. From then on, it has been an exciting journey with one of the fastest growing e-commerce companies in India.
As a Product Manager at ShopClues I look after Billing, Frauds and Revenue management. The role involves consistent execution of product life-cycle processes from concept to execution, providing value based prioritization of product development initiatives to ensure maximum ROI and market-driven alignment
According to you, what key skills does a product manager need to hone in order to be a success?
- Gauge the Customer: A product manager’s foremost skill is that he/she should be receptive to customers’ requirement, since customer/end user decides the success/failure of a product.
- Analytical Skills: The product manager should have a very high level of analytical skills; he/she should be able to do number crunching, especially in a B2C kind of an environment, where customer data is very vast. The Product Manager should be able to pick out the right data required, and be able to assimilate it, and take meaningful decisions.
- Initiator: An ideal product manager should be a self-starter. The ability to be self-motivated and to be the initiator, and to be creative in his outlook in problem solving is critical for a Product Manager.
- Clarity of Thought: The product manager should be clear on what he wants to achieve with his product and should be a vision and mission for the product.
- Cross Functional: A product manager should also be cross-functional and should be sound in technical concepts.
- Interpersonal Skills: A product manager should also have strong inter-personal skills that are required for him/her to be able to work with inter-departmental teams like the customer interaction team, business development, marketing, merchandising, campaigns etc., to help improve/develop the product.
How has your MBA helped you in developing the skill sets needed to succeed in a high growth startup?
- The most important skill is the ability to prioritize. In a startup, a person seldom has a defined role and set of KRAs, which makes work definition very ambiguous, especially for a middle management role in a high growth startup. This makes task prioritization a very critical skill.
- An MBA also helps differentiate between important and critical tasks and to be able to maintain a trade-off between the two.
- Multitasking is another important skill that MBA helped impart to me, since it is very important to multitask in a high growth startup, where there are multiple roles that a person plays in such a startup.
- To be able to communicate and motivate the team is very important in a startup and MBA played a major role in honing my communication skills.
- My MBA also helped me understand the need to delegate work, since in a high growth startup kind of an environment, we usually get lost in a sea of work, which means it is all the more important for a manager to be able to delegate work to his team and to get work done as a team.
- It’s also helped me become a team player, and helped me understand how important it is to be able to work as a team and succeed as a team, especially in a startup kind of an environment, where you work very closely with a variety of teams and collaborate with them on a daily basis
Please tell us about any critical project that you’ve handled and what were your takeaways?
I was assigned Billing and Payments domain at ShopClues when I initially joined. When I took over, the complete payment system was done manually. The payment system is such that there are weekly payouts running to crores of rupees to merchants. This complicated process was being performed painstakingly using manual methods by a team of 7 members.
My first job as the Product Manager for this function was to document the complete process. This helped me understand the complete system and the flow of this complicated process and create checks and balances in the system to minimize manual errors.
Next, I came up with the process of task segregation, where the process was broken down into separate sub-processes, which can be done in isolation.
Next came the process of automation of processes. This process was started in a sub-process that had the least impact to the rest of the system, since automating such a complex system involving huge monetary impact has to be handled very carefully.
One by one all sub-processes where automated, and today after 14 months of taking over of the Payment system, the system is automated with minimal human intervention, and the number of resources working on the payout system is two, albeit to monitor the system.
This has not only helped reduce manpower required to perform the process, but also reduced the time taken to perform each payout cycle. What used to take 48 hours and 7 people to complete, today runs for 8 hours with almost no manual intervention.
Key Takeaway: For any complex problem, where the root cause is not clearly visible, the best approach is to break down the issue into smaller simpler chunks. This makes the cause clearer and thus making the solution also simpler…
What has been your most significant achievement till date and key learning in your career so far?
My most significant achievement is the creation of an order transfer marketplace for merchants. It’s a unique and first of its kind platform in India.
This is a transparent order-bidding platform where orders from merchants that are unable to fulfill their orders are listed, and other merchants can bid for the same.
Every day there are orders which certain merchants are unable to fulfill within the specified SLA. All such orders get listed on a bid page. Other merchants can place bids for these orders on platform.
This unique system has helped twofold:
- The orders from customers which were previously getting cancelled due to failure of merchant to fulfill the order are getting fulfilled today, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and higher order fulfillment rate.
- This has helped turn a cost centre to a profit centre thus able to create value for all the 3 parties involved in the equation:- the customer, the merchant as well as for ShopClues
The biggest learning in my career so far has been value creation and maximization, not only for you, but for all the parties involved, and leave as little value as possible on the table.