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“NOTE TO FUTURE SELF..”

My whole educational journey took place in my hometown Pune. As my whole education took place in my hometown there was no reason for me to go out and be independent completely. The environment at home has always been safe and provided me all the comfort that was needed for me due to which there were only few opportunities where I could really step out of my comfort zone and explore them. I did like to break my comfort zone and try new things! Whenever I used to get an opportunity to break one I used to grab one and discover my personal capabilities. I was done with my graduation and wanted to get some entrepreneurial skills which could help me in doing business. I was talking to my parents, mentors, and other industry experts while doing my research about the various courses that could help me develop these skills that I was seeking to achieve. At this time, I was introduced to my course Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Kingston University London. The course was focusing on the innovation part and how does the innovation process take place. I choose this course because it gave me an opportunity to start my own start-up over here where I was required to come up with an innovative product and experience the whole journey of what an actual business needs to do.

The welcome week activity was fun, full of action and creativity. We were told to do a campaign regarding problems faced by the youth. The welcome week activity gave us the teaser of how the module is going to be and what does it expect from you. At this point for the first time I was being introduced to the design thinking process. The design thinking process was aimed to give emphasis on reframing the problem and coming up with a suitable solution (Harvard Business Review, 2019). The process uses the tools like empathy and experiment with the different products to come up with an innovative solution. By using design thinking you take decisions on what the clients do really need instead of relying on historical data and making decisions on instinct (IDEO U, 2019).

For this module we had around 60 students from three different cohorts and we were supposed to form and work in groups for the start-ups that we were going to have. We were supposed to form a group of four individuals. When the time came for us to form the group, I had decided of working with people from different cohort and having different background because I wanted that our group should have a person who has worked in some different field from others. And luckily, I could form my group according to my wish. So, it was Natalia, Harshita, Sam and me who decided to work together. Natalia was from creative background, Harshita had done her MBA in marketing, Sam had some experience over here in London and had his previous venture over here, so he was good in operations and I was good in Finance. So, my team had a perfect combination of people from different cohorts as well as different backgrounds. As a team we had to sit together in the class and had to also report to the module leader and whole class as to what progress have we made and what we would like to achieve in the next coming week.

business model canvas.PNG

Source-(Ecovillage.org, 2019)

 

To start with our project we used the business model canvas to jot down the ideas that we had in our mind. The business model canvas tool is developed by Alexander Osterwalder. It is a great tool that helps individuals to understand a business model in simple, straightforward and structured format. It gives the insights about the customers you want to serve, what are the different value propositions that are offered by the channels the business decides to use. It also tells what would be the costs and how the company is going to generate revenue from the respective business model (Business Models Inc., 2019). As per Osterwalder one of the main reason why do the start-ups do not succeed is because their business model is not viable (Strategyzer, 2019).

 

reason why start-ups fail

Source- (Strategyzer, 2019)

 

During the course we had also been using the design thinking principles that helped us to transform our concepts into a product. The design thinking process has 5 stages viz Empathise, Define (the problem), Ideate, Prototype and Test.

  • Empathise

The first step is to understand the problem that you are looking forward to solving and empathising with it. It requires concern to solve that problem, talking with experts and understanding more about it and empathizing with the people who face the problem to get a deeper experience.

 

  • Define (the problem)

Over here you put together the information that you have collected till now, analyze it and define the core problem you want to solve. Over here one should define the problem as a problem statement in a human-centered manner.

 

  • Ideate

By this stage you have understood the needs of the users and have defined a human-centered problem statement. In this stage you need to “think outside the box” to identify the different new solutions to the problem statement that you have defined. You brainstorm the different possible solutions for the mentioned problem.

 

  • Prototype

In this stage you produce a product which would be inexpensive and have the specific features of the final product. It would be tested by the team and then shown to the experts, which would give their review about the product and then the team will again change the products as it seems fit. The protype would give the team a better idea regarding how the product is, what would be the reaction of the real users and how would they feel.

 

  • Test

Over here the evaluators test the complete product rigorously by making use of the best solutions that they found out in the prototyping phase. In this stage alterations and refinement are done to have a better understanding and making the product better.

 

design thinking process

Source- (The Interaction Design Foundation, 2019)

Initially we started our journey with the concept of creating scarves and mattresses to prevent people from the cold winter. We had named our product as Sotfilt. We did map it out on the business model canvas and did work on the product until November end. But at the end of November, most of the partners felt that we should change the product and do something in the gaming industry as it was something that most of us all were interested into. We had found out that people are not socializing much due to the tremendous use of technology and hence the idea was to create a game which would require people to be physically present to play the game. At that point of time Brexit was one of the hot topic going on in the whole world. We did some research on this topic and found out that there was no single game which took the topic of BREXIT humorously. Getting to know this we tried to make the most of this opportunity by creating a card game on BREXIT! The main intention behind coming up with this game was to get people socialize and bring back the people together who were being divided by the topic of BREXIT. As we had changed our product just before the dragon’s den we had to work on it tremendously and figure it out how are we going to make it humorous. Finally, we came up with the idea of creating and having the funny images of the political leaders on the cards. To get some ideas about how we can have funny cartoons of the politicians we searched around the internet and newspapers.

Throughout my design thinking journey there were plenty of experiences and lesson that I got to learn.

The first lesson that I learnt was to form a proper team. According to me forming a proper team is a very big task and an important investment that one can make. One must make an effective team. Effective team building means more engaged employees, which is also better for the organization to function properly (Forbes.com, 2019). Luckily, I had got a proper team having people coming from different background. Not only forming a better team is important but also understanding the personality type of each member of the team is important (Linkedin.com, 2019). The personality of the members can be classified by using various tools such as DISC personality profiling. By using this type of personality tests we understand team dynamics, rapport, loyalty, influence etc.

The second lesson that I learnt is that what you take up as a project might not be the one that you would be continuing with in the future. We had started our design thinking journey by taking up the task of making scarves, but we did change our product after some point as majority of the partners wanted to do something related to games. And the decision to change the product went completely well. When we were doing the scarves project most of the partners were not that exited regarding it but when we changed the product all of us got interested and started to contribute in the process. So, the lesson that I learnt was that it is okay if you change the product and try something new till the time all the partners are interested in it.

It is important to have good communication between the partners. If there is a clear and good communication between the partners, then it is easy for the team to perform the tasks very well. At the beginning of the year we did not have good communications between us because of which we had to face some problems but later in the meetings we decided to be clear on the communication part and everyone would be following the time of the meeting. This thing did work for us and helped us doing things smoother. Having a clear communication while working in the groups was the third lesson that I learned.

Dividing the task among teammates is a crucial task but trusting them with it is more vital. The tasks among the team members should be divided as per the skills possessed by them and the capabilities of the individuals so that all do not waste their valuable time on a same thing. The same thing was applied by us and it did make things easier for us as the responsible person for doing the task did possess the required skills. Not only we save our time but also, we could rely on the work of the individuals completely when they said that they have got it right. This thing also increased the trust between us. This was the fourth learning in the module.

The fifth learning that I learned is really an interesting one. Under the Global Portrait brand, we had three products viz cards, t-shirts and posters but our main product was the card game. It was quite interesting to note the fact that in spite having the cards as our main product we sold double number of t-shirts than cards and in some designs of the t-shirts we were even sold out! The lesson that I learned from this was that sometimes while manufacturing your main product you would also get some joint or by products which you should not ignore. It might turn out that your joint or by product that you got may beat the main product that you were intending to manufacture, and you would be known for your by product more than the main product. This did happen with us on the trade fair day that we had in Eden Walk, Kingston. I was happy that I got such an amazing experience and that too at a start-up level.

These were the valuable lessons that I did learn from my start-up journey. As any other team would face even we did have our ups and downs, but these ups and downs were part of the learning process. I was happy to work with my teammates Natalia, Harshita and Sam. They are good people to work with. Overall my start-up journey was an amazing experience. I would also like to thank Janja and Alice for their guidance over the year. I did learn many things over here which I believe would really be helpful for me in my future as an entrepreneur.

 

REFERENCES

Harvard Business Review. (2019). Why Design Thinking Works. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2018/09/why-design-thinking-works

 

IDEO U. (2019). Design Thinking: A Method for Creative Problem Solving. [online] Available at: https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking

 

Business Models Inc. (2019). The business model canvas: tool to help you understand a business model. [online] Available at: https://www.businessmodelsinc.com/about-bmi/tools/business-model-canvas/

 

Strategyzer. (2019). Why Companies Fail & How To Prevent It. [online] Available at: https://blog.strategyzer.com/posts/2016/6/20/why-companies-fail-how-to-prevent-it

 

The Interaction Design Foundation. (2019). 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process. [online] Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process

 

Forbes.com. (2019). Why Team Building Is The Most Important Investment You’ll Make. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianscudamore/2016/03/09/why-team-building-is-the-most-important-investment-youll-make/

 

Linkedin.com. (2019). The importance of understanding personality type in the workplace. [online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-understanding-personality-type-workplace-lauren-copeland/

 

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Why selling skills are important?

Selling skills are critical in organizations that rely on ongoing buying from customers or clients. The ability to build relationships with customers, persuade them to make purchases and generate repeat business is at the heart of selling. Sales is a component of a company’s marketing and promotions.

What really distinguishes selling from advertising and other traditional promotional efforts is its interactive component. Salespeople not only present to prospects, but they ask questions, listen to responses and also read the nonverbal signs of buyers in face-to-face situations. This allows sellers to draw out concerns that would impact a sale. This doesn’t happen when people watch or listen to commercials. By hearing what is in the way of a sale, a salesperson can more effectively combat those issues and convey a value proposition.

While advertising is often used to attract customer attention and convey product benefits, selling also plays a role in maintaining ongoing customer relationships. Salespeople follow up with buyers to ensure a good experience. They follow through on commitments made during the selling process. They also make suggestions for any additional purchases. All of these things allow the salesperson to keep contact with customers and manage ongoing communication about customer needs.

When you “sell a feature,” you describe some element of your offering, in the hope that the customer will be suitably impressed.

Feature selling is generally ineffective, because except for the occasional gearhead, customers usually can’t figure out why a particular feature or function is meaningful to them.

While “selling benefits” is more effective than “selling features,” it isn’t always clear to the customer why that benefit is important in the larger context of the customer’s business.  While the customer may know, for instance, that an “immediate supply” is a generally good thing to have, it’s hard to compare that “good” to every other priority in the customer’s business.

When “sell value,” you start with the business goal that the customer would like to achieve–then tie that value to a specific benefit generated by a particular feature.

In other words, the “value” that you’re selling is not the amount of product for the price, but the financial impact of the purchase compared against the purchase cost.

If the “value” you’re selling is unique to your offering and large enough to make it a priority, you will win the business, as long as the customer has money to spend.

Dragon’s Den competition

After the successful second trade fair there was the Dragon’s Den competition which was upcoming for us and was the last and final class of our design thinking module. For this competition we had to prepare ourselves very rigorously because two teams from the whole class were going to be selected who would be representing the university at the Young Enterprise National level competition. We had got a bit of its taste, regarding how the competition is going to be, what all elements does it have and how the judges ask the questions in the mock dragon’s den competition which was conducted on the 7th of December 2018.

The mock dragon den competition did act as a learning curve and gave us all an experience regarding the competition in brief. We all were being introduced to how the product needs to be pitched properly in the allotted time slot. It also did give us an insight in the areas where we needed to work more like stage fear, how to respond to the questions and all. The valuable feedback and insights from the judges did help us understand more about our product and what needed to be done to get it right. We also understood that it was just not the solution that you are offering to the problem is important but how do you frame the problem and present it in front of the audience is as well important. While pitching for the mock dragon’s den most of us couldn’t catch up upon all these things. But now for the Final dragon’s den it was all different!

Even for the final dragon den we did get a chance of rehearsing. as a penultimate mock dragon den competition was conducted. We all were given clear guidelines on the points that we were supposed to include and being marked upon. For these dragon’s den we not only had to pitch our product like the mock dragon’s den, but we also had to submit our business report to the judges which clearly mentioned all the information about our team, product, marketing, sales, finances and future goals. No team could take this last mock dragon den lightly as were we supposed to be given our grades on the presentation that we were going to present. We had divided all the bits of the topics to be covered among us and were practicing it very hard. We practiced for hours for three days before the mocks. The mocks did go well, and all the judges did like our products as we had made a game on BREXIT and were amused by the designs that we had. I still remember all the faces of the judges when we said that we had made a card game on BREXIT! All the judges were keen on what we were going to say! The judges were more curious about our future because after some time the topic of BREXIT will get over and what we were planning to do in the future. This time also the judges gave us critical insights of our product

After that we did prepare ourselves for the last and final dragon den and it did go well as planned but unfortunately, we were not selected for the nationals. Anyways we as a team we did recall our entire journey remembered our highs and lows and were happy and satisfied with the results. In the end I did learn a lesson that winning is important, but more than that satisfaction is important in any work you do!

 

 

 

 

Why understanding finance is important?

“Understanding how finance works within your organisation can contribute both to the success of the organisation and the success of your role within it. The success or failure of the business will depend on the choices made by people at different point of time and these choices will have implications for the finances of the organisation. Your decisions will affect the financial well-being of your organisation and understanding how this happens will help you to contribute more effectively and make better decisions. An understanding of finance is also very helpful for your personal life, as it helps you to feel more confident in making decisions.”

The more you can understand about how finance works the better you will understand your organisation and the better you will be able to communicate with a wider range of people across your business. You will come across as a much more engaged and responsible individual if you have a grasp of the finances of the organisation and it will help you also to see where savings can be made and why plans are sometimes shelved. For example, even if you want to buy a package for your PC at work, there has to be system for buying new software and a budget for software, so that anyone can’t just buy anything at any time.”

Every person should know what are his costs and revenues to operate his business. They should also know what is their break even, what would be their margin of safety to achieve a desired level of profit.

If you fail to plan your finances properly then you will definitely get into monetary problems which might be worse for the business and can lead to the failure of it.

Second trade fair

After getting such an critical experience and good feedback from the first trade fair there was a lot of things that we had to learn and work on. The first trade fair actually gave us some vital experience regarding how the product was to be marketed, displayed and sold. Everyone did appreciate the designs that we had printed on the cards and were also being liked by the visitors, teachers, and other friends. After doing some critical thinking on the comments and feedback we came to the conclusion that it would be the designs that would be our unique selling point of our products.

For the first trade fair we just had created a normal prototype of cards which had some of the politicians on it. Now we had to had to add on more designs and make it more professional. As the designs were liked by most of visitors on the trade fair we decided to print them on posters and also manufacture t-shirts having those designs. Now all of this was to be done very quickly as the time span remaining for the second trade fair was less than two weeks!

After working rigorously for 10 days and being behind the manufacturers and suppliers to make the product available, we finally got all the products ready 3 days before the trade fair as we wanted them to be!

Finally it was the 23rd of February when the trade fair was to be hosted. Everyone was nervous as well as curious regarding how the this trade fair will go. Every team had put in all their efforts to make it to the trade fair. Most of the teams had got their final products ready. Everyone was hoping that this trade fair would be fruitful for them as like us they all had invested a lot of their time in getting the products ready. All the teams had got only one table to display their product and so they all wanted their stand to look attractive and attract the audience to their stalls. To attract customers and make our trade stand look better we had made a pyramid of cards, displayed the various designs of the t-shirts on the stand that we had specifically bought for displaying them. We had also displayed the posters and cards on the table. To let the potential customers understand more about the game and get a deeper understanding about the same, we had called our friends to whom we had taught how the game was to be played and made them play during the trade fair as this would create a question in other people’s mind about what’s going on that trade stand which would lead them to visit and see all the products that we were offering to sell. One more interesting thing that we offered different than others was that we were having variety of options in combo offers! Yeah, we were providing our customers with various combo offers as we had three different products!

To attract potential clients towards our stall we started to initiate the conversation with the people who were walking by in the lane by distributing them our business cards and telling them what we are and what we do. We used to grab any opportunity that we got to interact with the people out there. We did not leave any single person unattended. Our team had invested a big amount in the making of the products so we were ready to take the challenge of making the most of the day by not letting any opportunity we get to interact with the clients go unattended. We partners literally for the whole day did put all our efforts in selling the products. We did get rejected hundreds of times but it didn’t stop us from reaching to other new clients. We made a total sales of £329 and in some product categories we were even sold out! All this was possible because of those continuous efforts made by us, which made us stand out from the rest of the teams and hence we could successfully achieve the best sales team award!

While starting our day we never thought and aimed of getting the best sales team award but due to the perseverance and the continuous efforts of the team all that was possible. Finally all the efforts that we had put in manufacturing and getting the product ready proved fruitful. We all were very happy and it was really a good learning experience!

 

First trade fair

The main task after deciding the product was getting it done before the first trade fair. Getting things done was not at all a simple task. Distributing the responsibility between the team member was a crucial thing. There was a lot of things that we needed to learn.

It was decided that two of the partners would be looking at the designing the funny political images part while the other two would look at the manufacturing part and getting the products ready before the first trade fair.

The responsibilities were very well divided and the worked started by 23rd of December. We went through three meetings in which we were struggling to search for humorous images and posts of the politicians. Finally, our designer teams got some ideas and had started with their design work. In the mean time we other partners looked for the card manufacturers around the United Kingdom. We had kept ourselves a deadline of 21st of January of getting all the things ready as we were having our first trade fair on the 26th of January 2019.

We did create a prototype and displayed it on the stall. We created the prototype ourselves in the library only. We had to do a lot of research on the different quality of papers that are available in the market and the ones which are used for printing the cards. We also had to look for the standard size of the cards that are available in the market before printing one.

On the trade fair in university we displayed our cards. To attract the customers and help them get more deeper understanding about the product we decided to show them how the game is played. For this we decided that two of the partners will start playing the game. Looking the two partners playing the game other visitors became keen on knowing what’s going on our trade stand. This started attracting people whom we showed how the game is played. We even let them play so that they have a better experience.

Overall the trade fair went well for us. We got valuable feedback from the judges and got to know what changes we were supposed to make. The designs were liked by all the visitors as well as the judges and turned out to be our unique selling point. The first trade fair turned out to be a valuable learning curve for all of us.

 

Deciding upon the product

How many times does a team changes its products or industry completely before coming up with its final product? Can a team come up with a problem and the most suitable solution for the problem in one go? Certainly, these were not the questions that I had in my mind before having an experience! In this blog let’s see what I got to learn.

I was thinking that forming an appropriate team was a main task and other things would be falling right in its place if I had got one good team. Yeah well, I did get a good team but then I realized that it was just a small bit of the whole journey. The journey had still to begin and I was thinking that I have atleast got my 15% task done right. The main and one of the important task was coming up with a product which was innovative or redesigning a product with some additional features. At the beginning of the year in the welcome week activity that was conducted by Janja, we all were supposed to come up with only a solution for a problem that was being defined by her. At that time, we did not think that it was such a big task that we would have to struggle with it I the foreseeable future.

For the first semester, we had made our plans very clear in the beginning and had decided to act upon it. Deciding upon which problem we would like to tackle was itself a big question. To identify one, we had given ourselves three full days. We jotted down on blank white paper every single idea that we had in our mind. We also came up with some creative solutions but when we did our critical thinking and discussed the things with our professors and other people we realized that we cannot answer to the problems that we have selected as these solutions required significant amount of time and we did not have that much time to work on. So back we were to the question what problem are we going to address?

It was October end and it was getting cold eventually and everyone had started discussing about how the temperature was falling, how they were feeling cold and what shopping did they do to protect themselves from the cold. So, this winter enlightened our bright minds and helped us define the problem and so we came up with the solutions of making designer scarves and bedsheets that would help people to beat the winter. We thought so that finally we had came up with an definite problem and a solution for it. We worked on this product till late November, but who knew that there was something else that interested all of us and we would like to pursue. We all were working on the product but we found that gaming is a field that would amuse us a lot and would like to do something in it. Finally we decided to change our product and came up with a card game that would allow people enjoy, relax and socialize with each other. We found out that nowadays people are not socializing a lot because of the extensively use of the social media platforms which is allowing them to connect to the people around the world but missing a physical touch. And thus, we came up with our product ‘May or Nay’ which is a card game on BREXIT.