Scaling the Company in Multiple Markets
13 May, 2020
I was a founder of a multi-channel growth marketing product powering customer acquisition & retention through Ad-Tech & Mar-Tech channels. As the company was growing, we launched our technology and markets across multiple geographies. The company was headquartered in India, but within six months we started scaling in China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the Middle East. The technology itself was not particularly novel but the scaling was rapid.
One of the key challenges was how to ensure the right information flow from the headquarters to each of these geographies in face of cultural and language barriers as well as the different speed with which things were changing at the headquarters and elsewhere. The problem was that the entire engineering team was located in India and had to send information on a fairly complex product to enterprise customers. In addition, it was hard for us to get timely information on what was happening on the ground -- how each of the customer conversations went or how localization efforts for each market proceeded. We understood that more frequent calls or emails were not the solutions but that we need to have someone who genuinely understands the company present on the ground.
We decided to place people who have already spent at least a year or two at the headquarters in India to remote locations as coordination program managers. During his/her stay at the headquarters, s/he would familiarize him/herself with the product, company culture, etc. Then, s/he would be sent to one of the locations to liaise with local chapters. This person would have a dual role -- to both push and pull most recent information and convey it further either to one of the geographies or headquarters. Also, s/he would attend all meetings, serve as a support for the local team, and facilitate the information flow between places. That dramatically improved communication and upped the whole process.
The fact that this person spent some time at headquarters in India and was later located someplace else made it easier for him/her to bridge the gap relating to cultural and language barriers. At the same time, the headquarters experience meant that s/he was familiar with the technology, features, headquarters’ teamwork, customers’ common questions, etc. Being equipped with all the necessary knowledge, s/he can share and disseminate the knowledge with ease in different markets.
Other challenges also played a part. For example, time zone differences were often challenging. We made sure that the coordination program manager had some overlapping time with the headquarters. The same could be said for cultural and language barriers -- they certainly played a part, but once the right model was in place they could be easily overcome.
- It is important to address difficulties with the information flow as early as possible, but certainly, before you launch and market the product. Most companies think about localization challenges, but that is just one aspect of the problem. In our case, though the product was localized for the market, we struggled to ensure the continuous and steady flow of information.
- More generally, we didn’t anticipate the problem and didn’t think it through before it started to give us hard times.
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