Category Archives: Internet

Social Media and the Product Manager in India

[The original title was “Facebook and the product manager in India” however, I expanded the post to include all social media]

So what is the value, if any, of social media to a product manager in India? The short answer, for consumer products it is a vital communication channel whereas for enterprise software, it is just another way to connect with clients.

Let’s break this down into some detail here.

What is social media?

Social MediaWikipedia has a good article on social media with a clear definition. For me, social media is all media or any communication channel where user-generated content predominates. This includes blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest and all such entities. It is usually a broadcast medium, which also enables peer-to-peer interactions (sometimes its the other way around). I also include product forums in this definition. Now let’s take a look at the value of social media.

Social Media for Enterprise Product Managers

Market Facing Roles
If you are in an Indian market enterprise product management role, you need to be aware of social media, and run a blog. The reality is that very few enterprises in India have adopted social media at all. And it is not seen as an authoritative communication channel. You should focus only on gaining experience of working with social media, for future opportunities.

Offshore Roles
In an offshore enterprise role, you ability to influence social media is limited, however, there will be ample opportunities to consume social media. For eg, on twitter you can follow @Forrester and similar sources and collect news and updates about the industry. Or you could update your company’s YouTube channel with product videos or slideshows, usually in collaboration with the product marketing manager.

Social Media for Consumer Product Managers

Market Facing Roles
In a market facing role, you really need to establish a social media strategy for your product. This will include the channels to use, the content creation and sharing plans, market research plan, the quarterly connect with customer plan and other relevant details for your strategy. Additionally, you need an analytics tools to track online customer sentiment. Customer sentiment is a useful input for new feature ideas or feedback on existing features.

Offshore Roles
There is lesser challenge in consuming and interacting on social media in an offshore product management role for consumer products than enterprise products. The main difference here is that your ability to connect the social media updates with real world interactions is severely curtailed. However, you can maintain an active presence on Facebook or Twitter, based on your organization’s policies.

Content Creation Strategy

Fundamentally, content creation must be tied to the goal of connecting the product with its customers. If you think up enough use cases, the content for communication will come up by itself, and then the main task will be to translate that content into appropriate form (video, slides, tweets containing URLs, blog posts etc) to share via the different channels. You should get the marketing communication team involved in this effort. Creating research polls and soliciting beta testers is also easier if your presence is already established online.

Content Consumption and Analysis Strategy

In my opinion, you should subscribe to a feed service and an analytics tool that a) summarize the updates on different channels b) provide reports on those updates. Unfortunately, most services offering these capabilities are expensive. So a free substitute would be to download these updates periodically and use open source tools such as PSPP to analyse the information. If your marketing team has a social media presence, then the same people can help you set up your product’s presence as well.

Summing Up

Social media is a somewhat useful tool for a product manager in a variety of scenarios such as sentiment analysis, sharing product demos and videos, getting industry updates, tracking competition etc. It’s importance changes relative to the type of product management role you are in.  It is good to consume social media if you’re working in an offshore role, whereas it is important to develop and maintain a strong presence for your product line in a market facing role. And remember, the social media presence is for your product or product line, not you as an individual.

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The Startup PM Recruitment Scam in India

So you are a Product Manager looking for an opportunity to work in a small team, and you see a job ad for a startup. It says that they need a product manager and the job description is really exciting. You immediately customize your CV and shoot it over to the recruiter and start preparing for the interview call. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases in India, it is a scam.

An employment scam in the simplest form is a recruitment event where there is no intent to hire a candidate. It can be related to a general recruitment drive, where the intent is to obtain payments from candidates. This practice is illegal and widely covered in Indian media, here are one, two and three stories from the past month alone.

The Startup PM Recruitment Scam

A related scam that has come up now is in the field of Product Manager recruitment by startups in India. The way it works is this:

  1. The startup release an ad seeking resumes for PM roles
  2. It keep the job requirements vague to attract widest variety of resumes
  3. Candidates are shortlisted if:
    1. They are working for or have recently worked for a competitor
    2. They have useful domain knowledge or are from a top college (IIT/IIM/ISB)
    3. The hiring manager is curious about them, their salary etc
  4. After getting shortlisted, the candidates are called for an interview

The interview is actually an opportunity for the hiring manager to learn about the competitor, to get ideas for implementation in his firm and to research how other firms are solving problems in a specific domain (e.g. web analytics experiment design in e-commerce).

How to identify a fake interview?

A huge red flag in such interviews is the focus on questions such as “identify 3 issues with our current website/product and how you would solve them”, or “work with us as a paid consultant for 2-3 days to identify a new market opportunity in the VAS space” or “write-up a detailed proposal on how you would introduce a service into the Indian market” or “find 2 ways to improve our product/feature”. The idea behind these questions is not to test the candidate, but to actually get new ideas for product development.

After the interview, the candidate gets a polite rejection letter and the cycle restarts with the next candidate. This is completely unethical, and a startup e-commerce firm in Bangalore, a matrimony portal and some product development startups are known to indulge in this practice. A quick scan at the company reviews on glassdoor.com will reveal which firms use candidate interviews for ideation only.

Also, in case your compensation comes up in the shortlisting process, and you know that you are highly paid (you can check this on glassdoor.com, payscale.com etc) as compared to the hiring company then it is very likely that you are going to have a fake interview, which will not proceed beyond a phone call.

How do you avoid this?

It is pretty simple actually, if called for an interview you must:

  1. Review the feedback of other candidates called for interviews
  2. Decline all questions related to the live product, or analysis of a new opportunity in the same domain
  3. Explain that you cannot reveal confidential details about their competitor (your former employer), and they should focus on your skills and expertise
  4. Insist that they focus on case studies or other methods of interview (competency based interview etc) at this time
  5. If they want to work with you for a short while to check the “fit”, then ask for a 3-month, consulting assignment at a reasonable pay. This will give you time to search other jobs, and keep you working in the same domain

The pressure to agree

In this slowing economy, when interviews are hard to come by, it is very hard to not agree to almost anything asked by the recruiter. Just remain confident that the people who are actually hiring, will hire you in a professional, ethical manner, and if you are seeing these red flags, then you are extremely unlikely to be hired anyways. Maintain your poise and calm and this will actually help you in the long run.

In a future post, I will explain why this scam is less prevalent in established firms.

Book Review: Rocket Surgery Made Easy

Book: Rocket Surgery Made EasyUsability studies are very important for consumer facing websites, as they directly impact the funnel metrics (downloads/visits, engagements, conversions and journey abandonment). If you are a product manager for a web-based application or website looking to increase incoming traffic, then you should definitely learn about usability design and testing.

Steve Krug’s first book called “Don’t Make Me Think” was about online usability and was a big hit among web designers and consumer web enthusiasts. It answered the question “why is usability important”, and provided specific recommendations for website design in the following 3 parts:

1. Guiding Principles
2. Things You Need To Get Right
3. Larger Concerns And Outside Influences

Subsequently, he has written a follow-up book, “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” which emphasises how product managers and UX designers should conduct usability tests for their website. [Actually the  principles given in the book can also be applied for any mobile app testing]

This book is a good guide to usability testing, filled with examples and has many suggestions for running test studies. It’s fairly short, and can be read in a couple of hours, or skimmed through in about 30 minutes.

The book is divided into 3 parts:

  • Finding Usability Problems: This section talks about the common usability issues and how to prepare for testing them
  • Fixing Usability Problems: This section talks about the ways to identify usability issues and potential fixes after diagnosis
  • The Road Ahead (This talks about remote testing, and lists additional reading material)

You should keep this book as a reference, as it introduces usability testing formally, increases your knowledge about UX and clears most misconceptions about the product-feature usage. It also has a sample test script and consent form, that gives an idea of how to sign-up beta testers.

If you are a junior product manager and can drive usability testing for your website section, or for a particular feature set, or the entire site, then you will have a significant advantage over your peer PMs.

I strongly believe that product managers must continuously learn new skills and UX design and testing is has become a must-have skill today. Formal knowledge of usability testing will definitely help in your career growth as a product manager.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 4

There is a job ad in the US for a Product Manager – Mobile Advertising. Similar to that, there is another job ad on Linkedin for a Senior Product Manager/Director in India. Here are some points to consider about both ads.

  • Both ask for prior relevant experience. The US ad mentions Mobile Ad Network and Data Analytics specifically, the Indian ad mentions nothing specific which makes it harder to understand the role.
  • The US ad talks mainly about functional capabilities. The Indian ad specifically mentions Interpersonal, Leadership, Core Product Management and Technical skills, which indicates that they are looking for a fairly senior person.
  • The US ad does not mention the advertiser, but says that the compensation will be based on experience. The Indian ad is for Pubmatic, a firm started in 2006.
  • Neither ad mentions team size. The US position is for Boston, MA and the Indian position is for Pune.
  • Pubmatic is open to hiring either Senior Product Manager or Director, however, the former role has no direct reportees. The US firm is only looking for individual contributors.

The ad for the US based opportunity is fairly specific about the requirements. So it will collect fewer responses, but the ones they get will be pertinent. Since the ad is about a very specific role in the ad industry, career growth will occur if the person becomes highly skilled at his job and gains more domain expertise.

Pubmatic has actually provided a good and detailed job ad. However, it lists a lot of traits and qualifications, so they will have a lot of irrelevant resumes. Hence the chances of getting shortlisted in India even with relevant experience are correspondingly lower. And it is extremely unlikely that you will be interviewed unless you are known to senior people within the firm or have strong brands in your resume (IIT, Stanford, Google, Yahoo! etc). Additionally, perception management will be very important in this role for career growth. To apply for a role in India, I would definitely search on Linkedin to identify how many PMs Pubmatic has hired and released in the past few years.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 3

Myntra.com is hiring 2 senior product managers. One role is called “Senior Product Manager, Back End/ERP” and the other is called “Senior Product Manager, BI/Analytics“.

The complete JD is available from their website, and these are the 2 main roles in product management advertised. Myntra.com is one of India’s largest e-commerce websites and their offices are located in HSR Layout, Bangalore.

Location: Bangalore
Desired Qualification:Engineering degree from a good college; Having an MBA is a plus
Desired experience: 810 years

Here are some points to consider regarding the role and the firm:

  • This ad has been on their website for about 6 months now.
  • The years of experience desired, and qualifications such as engineering from a good college mean that this will be a relatively high paying job, but that will depend on the interview, experience and other factors. You can probably expect compensation between 8-15 lpa.
  • A person with “deep knowledge of ERP” is usually a specialist in that role. Such a person is extremely unlikely to have strong Usability and UI design knowledge. Neither will he have full product management experience.
  • They are looking for people who have undergone multiple releases as product managers in 3-4 years. It is very rare in India, especially given the slowdown that occurred after 2008. Offshore enterprise product managers will probably not fit in this, even though they are the most likely candidates with relevant experience.
  • Someone who has worked for several years in software development, and has implementation or design exposure to ERP packages in an engineering role will be a good fit.
  • The designation says “Senior Product Manager” however, normally it is the work of a “senior business analyst” to design, customize and deploy an ERP package. This designation is normal, as candidates are more attracted to the “product manager” designation.
  • They are not specifically looking for candidates from other e-commerce firms.
  • Operations and Finance will be the key stakeholders, along with engineering and senior management.
  • The marketing team interaction mentioned is unlikely to occur, given this is a product for interal users.
  • An MBA from a top college is unlikey to add value in the role, it may increase the salary offered. Total compensation is unlikely to be more than 15-16 lakhs per annum. Most e-commerce companies in India are struggling for growth & profitability and profit margins dictate employee salaries and perks.
  • Growth after this role will probably be to a larger organization in the e-commerce space or an IT consultancy firm working in the e-commerce vertical. PMs working on UX and front end will have a greater opportunity to work on new initiatives.
  • I have not discussed the BI/Analytics role, as normally it is about obtaining and processing data for creating reports, dashboards and presentations on usage trends and customer insights.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for myntra.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to help them to interpret job ads for product managers

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can discuss the same.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 2

Times of India has the requirement of a product manager. However, the hiring firm is actually called Times Internet Limited.

Online Product Manager
Location: Delhi
Desired Qualification: Graduate/ B.E./ B.Tech
Desired experience: 2 – 5 years

The full details of the advertisement are given here.
So what should a prospective candidate analyze from this information? Here a peek:

  • It’s about the subscription pay wall design and how it is implemented around the world, so it’s a very specific role
  • Competitive research is very important, the depth of research will depend on the type of report generated and the audience
  • Website launch is another key requirement, so this role will probably be less important after 6-9 months

Here are some insights on the role based on the advertisement:

  • Its more about business analysis and launch and not product design. MBA from any good college will be useful
  • A very junior level role, compensation will probably be between 4-8 lpa
  • It is possible to grow from this role in to more customer facing roles, such as business development or partner management
  • The role requires little to no technical knowledge, basic smartness and research skills are important
  • The role does not report into engineering leadership, so a software engineer may not fit this role
  • You can expect good opportunities in the job market after this, in online advertising and media
  • Monetization and content management will be other product management roles that are part of the same team
  • Times of India is a great brand in any résumé, and will be a strong plus for career growth
  • Marketing skills are important, but cross functional co-ordination or project management is not.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for Times Internet and their website, timesofindia.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to show how to interpret job ads for product managers

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can discuss the same.

Hiring Slowdown in India

A quick look at the number of job ads on popular sites such as shine.com, monsterindia.com and naukri.com will show the obvious. There has been a marked hiring slowdown in this quarter. So what could be the causes of this slowdown?

For sure, the following macro factors have had an impact:

a. Slow Recovery in the US

Most offshore R&D centers have slowed down or put off hiring in India, as their parent firm is itself cautious about spending money. This has affected the hiring for posts of product managers in India apart from the regular engineering roles.

b. Slowdown in Indian Market

Thanks to the awesome policies and the wonderful government here, there is neither growth in industrial investment (apart from some core sectors) nor in consumption (due to uncertainties and price hikes). Overall the job market is usually lacklustre in the 4th quarter, but this year things have been worse than usual

c. “Bring Jobs Back” movement in the US, after Obama reelection

This has definitely changed the number of high-end jobs (read: PM roles) that R&D centers in India could offer. In fact, the “value of outsourcing to India” debate has again begun in earnest.

d. Disinterested VCs funding new technology ventures in India

After a funding frenzy in the beginning of 2011, all major VCs have either shifted their focus from technology, social media and consumer web to enterprise software and other sectors. This has had an impact on the startups who managed to get angel funding but could not get a term sheet approved.

Thanks to these factors, all 4 types of product managers are significantly impacted, with little opportunity for lateral movement or growth. I know of several people who had to take a pay cut and do low quality work, simply to show continuity in their résumé.

Thoughts, comments?