Creating Startup Product Feature Processes During Market Expansion

Satendra Pratap

CEO and Founder at WakeupBasket



We made software for milk vendors because customers wanted the convenience technology provided. The vendors deliver milk to your doorstep early in the morning. They were using our software to organize their business and their customers were using an application we made to place orders.

The product we developed was for a prepaid market culture. When this product came to other cities, their cultures were not prepaid, but rather postpaid. To explain the differences, suppose you are providing some service to customers. If customers pay in advance, they are prepaid customers. Subscription services are generally on prepaid plans. Your balance would last for something like a month and then you need to recharge it. The customers that pay at the end of the service are postpaid customers. We cannot change the customer’s mind quickly from postpaid to prepaid, as they will always prefer postpaid.

Our product was developed in a pre-paid market, and when it was launched in the post-paid market cities, we really had to change the product. I was the guy that was responsible for that because I already was running a company in a post-paid market. At the time, 90% of India’s market for this service was post-paid.

We were coming up with new features to solve this problem very quickly. However, we were realizing that customers were not willing to use these new features and we kept needing to scrap them. We needed to come up with a strategy to resolve this issue or there would be no end to this. We faced a lot of challenges.

Actions Taken

We implemented a bill pay feature so they could pay at the end of the month. However, it turned out it was not useful. They would use the service for 30 days, but then the customer would not make the payment. A process to get the customer to pay on time could not be made with just a bill pay feature.

We looked back at all of our market research. We were taking input from our sales team, which then was handed off to our product team to assess which features we should implement. Our salespeople tried to convey what customers wanted, but sometimes their feedback was biased by their own mindset and their own ideas. So the feature that the customer actually wanted was getting mixed up with the experience and opinions of that salesperson before it was assessed. We had a lot of research, but a lot was getting mixed up into it. By the time a final feature came out, it was a bit different than what the customers expected. Some customers didn’t like it so they churned.

We needed to solve this problem of customer need gathering first. We came up with a strategy so that not only the sales and product team were involved in feedback, but top management had to talk to the customers as well. We created a process to take in all the ideas from the sales team as the first level of screening. Then the ideas that came through screening were run through the product and technical teams. The third level of screening was top management going to the customers and talking about the possible features. Before, top management felt they were too busy with a few other things and they weren’t getting much direct feedback. After we created a process for them to talk to customers, they could get a better understanding. The top management would discuss and prioritize features and then pass off execution back to the technical team.

These filters had to happen fast because we were a startup and we needed 10X growth. It is hard to put processes into a startup, but we were implementing so many features that we had to create a small process to filter out unwanted ideas and biased suggestions.

Once we put this process in place, we could create a final feature to fix the post-paid problem. The customers of vendors were postpaid customers and giving money at the end of the month to the vendors. The vendors needed to invest in their business at the start of the month. The owner needs to put their own money into the business or take a loan, and then get the money at the end of the month. It was not a good idea to implement the prepay models for the vendors, because the customer may not pay right away. When we talked with the vendors, we found it was a good idea to make the vendor’s business itself prepaid through the use of our product. All the customers would only get delivery if they had the money in their wallet to pay ahead of time.

The vendor is now getting their money 30 days earlier. The customers were not as bothered with the service being prepaid because they knew the businesses needed the money, the delivery was on a subscription basis, and it was a small amount of money to pay upfront. The customer would not be losing much money if the vendor did not deliver.

Lessons learned

The simple understanding of how vendors want to operate and whether the vendor’s customer would be willing to do a pre-paid business allowed the changes in our application that created the final product-market fit. We could not understand our customer’s needs and develop our product effectively before. The high-level management pipeline that was implemented was the main way of fixing the product.

The team learned a few key lessons in solving this problem:

  1. A product is what a customer actually needs and not what we think they need.
  2. After we filtered which features to implement first, we needed to quickly gauge the response of the customer. We can’t keep developing features until they are great and only then after months of development find out that the customer doesn’t need it. We needed to develop features more minimally.
  3. We should not release features to all customers at the same time. We should release it to a few customers and then gauge responses.
  4. We should always try to implement features into the product in such a way that we can unplug the feature with a click. It should not be a big deal to remove a feature and it should not take days of time. Features should be plug and play.

Be notified about next articles from Satendra Pratap

Satendra Pratap

CEO and Founder at WakeupBasket

Connect and Learn with the Best Eng Leaders

We will send you a weekly newsletter with new mentors, circles, peer groups, content, webinars,bounties and free events.


HomeCircles1-on-1 MentorshipBounties

© 2024 Plato. All rights reserved

LoginSign up