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The Missing Know-How

Imtiaz Bellary

VP of Product Management at Engati

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Problem

A few years back, I was trying to build a product in the mentorship space. Unlike the US and Western European countries, where mentorship opportunities are not rare, it is exceedingly hard to find them here in Southeast Asia. The idea I had was to gather a group of experts whom people could book to have mentoring sessions with. I had the idea, but I didn’t have the know-how and the influence to bring all the pieces together.

Actions taken

When I started this project, I was already doing a number of other things and wasn’t devoted to the project as much as I should. While side-hustling can boost people up, a lack of streamlined focus tends to sabotage your efforts from the early start. This is what, I believed, happened to me. I had an idea, and I wanted to act like a mentor or consultant to the group of people responsible to run the business. That didn’t work out. But it helped me realize that if something is my idea, I need to own that idea. I shouldn’t have expected someone else to understand all nuances, make it operational, and propel it further.

So, I had a small team and managed to onboard a few more people I thought could help me run it. I am not saying that they were not giving their best; on the contrary. We did it for a year at the best of our abilities and even got some recommendable media coverage in India. But we were missing two critical ingredients: the know-how and influence to bring all the pieces together.

 

When I started this project six years ago, I didn’t know much about other solutions that provided mentorship opportunities. More or less, I started everything from scratch, rather than learning from other people and their experiences. That is always the hardest route to take. If I knew back then how companies like Plato operated, it would be much easier for me to come up with a feasible solution. At the same time, I lacked a profound understanding of who, how, and when could help me grow the business. I had some contacts, but I was not investing enough in stakeholder management. As a matter of fact, it was barely management of any kind. As a result, two years later, I had to set the project down.

Lessons learned

  • There are many ideas floating around. Many of those ideas would solve important problems for customers, but that is not enough. You need to know “how” to solve them. We were able to build a good customer experience, but on the operational level, we weren’t able to scale.
  • The experience I provide to a customer is far more important than the effort I need to put in to provide that experience. We got the initial traction, and customers were happy, but we lacked the know-how to make that experience sustainable. I didn’t want to compromise their expectations, but with available resources, I couldn’t move forward. As a result, I gave up on this project because I was not able to ensure customer happiness long-term.

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Imtiaz Bellary

VP of Product Management at Engati


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