In conversation with Varun Kumar, Product Manager, Shopclues
Please walk us through your professional & academic background. Can you also brief us about your role in ShopClues?
I completed my graduation in Computer Science from Lucknow and then got placed in IBM as a software engineer. Post that I moved to TCS and worked there as a software engineer for a large investment bank account.
After working for almost five years in the IT industry, I felt the need of doing an MBA, which could boost my career and help me move into the role of a Product Manager. So, I enrolled into Great Lakes Institute of Management, PGPM program in 2012 with majors in Operation & Strategy.
I joined ShopClues through campus placement and the journey since then has been really exciting. The industry is changing everyday with new challenges coming my way each day. The best time to be in this industry and what better than to be part of the fastest growing e-commerce company in India. At ShopClues, I look after Order Management, Buyer Anxiety and Seller Services.
Can you please describe what a typical day @ Office is like?
A typical day @ office means you are constantly moving. Day starts with reports, product performance, scrums and updates for the key stakeholders. Then I move to the planning and conceptualizing of new products which we need to bring in for value creation for our customers. Occasionally, I try to go out and meet with our sellers and understand their business, how they operate and what value can ShopClues add to their business.
What has been your greatest product success story? What, in your opinion is the determining factor in the success of a product?
We started as a marketplace and that is our DNA. We only think more and more about our sellers. We have the largest seller base in India and are constantly adding more seller partners with us. It is very tough to manage all these sellers and their demands.
From a base of more than 1.5 Lac sellers, selecting a certain product from a certain seller which could be considered for a campaign is a tough job. We have lot of SMBs on our platform who offer some unique products which go unnoticed amongst millions of products.
To help these SMBs we have created a product called the Deal Management System which gives chance to our entire seller base to participate in any campaign and get their product featured on the campaign page post approval. If a seller’s product is not selected, we provide them with a reason and suggestion on how they can make it better.
Key success factors for any product in my opinion are:
- Customer Experience
- Transparency of information shared with your customer
- Communication with all the stakeholders
- Clarity on business needs
- Measurement and reporting around the product
What personal skills are important for a product manager?
As a Product Manager you need to stand strongly between the technology and business teams because both the teams talk in totally different languages. On the broader level you need to have the business acumen and also need to understand which technology would work.
As they say, Product Manager is the CEO of the product. Product Manager needs to manage each aspect of the product. So you need to have the in-depth business knowledge, understand user experience, analytical skills to know what needs to be built and once built- how it is performing. On the other hand you need to have very strong relationship management skills, high energy and should be passionate about the product.
What is a typical career path of a product manager in the E-commerce sector? And what are some of the challenges associated with this role?
Working as a product manager in E-commerce sector involves managing more and more product teams as you gain experience and grow. You might work in a vertical or might be given the responsibility to work horizontally. In any given role, you have multiple challenges coming your way:
- You are the first in the line of fire for anything that goes wrong with your product. Be it technical or operational.
- You need to have strong project management skills because in a startup you would be acting as the product and project manager for your product. And you need to ensure that things get done.
- You are a lone-warrior. You need to get things done from a team which does not report to you.
- If you are making a product and believe in it, stand strongly for it. Be it a success or failure; always strive to take it to the next level.
- How do you know a great product manager when you meet one?
The ideas of solving the fundamental problems keeping customer interest in place
- What’s your favorite interview question?
Which metric measures the failure of your product?
- What has been the defining moment in your career?
Joining ShopClues. I wanted to try new things and ShopClues provided that canvas to me.
- What was your biggest career mistake?
All the decisions taken so far have been conscious. So no regrets till now.
- A piece of advice for people interested in being a product manager.
If you really want and know what it means to be in this space. And you are open to challenges, then just go for it!