Monday, March 4, 2019

Things I Learned From Intuit Fasal Story

As few days back, i wrote about a 16 year old India shooter Saurabh Chaudhary's achievement at winning the world cup gold. Saurabh overcame daunting constraints to emerge victorious at the world stage. In every walk of life, we face constraints that seemingly come in the way of our success. How we think about these constraints eventually becomes a difference between success or half-success or failure.

Recently reading the book- 'Disrupt Yourself', I came across this riveting story recently on how the
product Intuit Fasal came to life.

Intuit's VP of Product Development was given a mandate to change the life of 1.2 billion Indians. Unlike many other initiatives of such magnitude, this project didn't get laden with resources.
Despite the open ended nature of the project driven by a grand vision, it had to start somewhere.
Intuit got three engineers of the job and gave them the directive to 'figure something out'.

As they started chatting with farmers, they figured out that farmers had an information access problem. They were mostly growing perishable food and were mostly at the mercy of mandi (Indian farm market place) owners and had to agree to the price they were quoting. While making the decision pertaining to selling their produce, they didn't have access to the prices being offered by other mandis and also didn't have any knowledge of changes in prices. Due to this, farmers were selling the stuff orders of magnitude lower than what they should have got.

So what did the engineers do, after they had qualified the problem? They didn't go and start coding the solution. They rather adopted a low cost, highly iterative approach by manually seeking the prices and texting it to the farmers on their mobile.
They eventually came with up an easy-to-use, text message-based platform that uses complex matching algorithms to help the farmers get the best prices.
Fasal has more than two million active users in India who enjoy a 20 percent increase in their bottom line.

Embracing Constraints:
I started this article with a mention of constraints and how our attitude towards them plays a part in
determining the eventual outcome. Intuit Fasal's story is a great case in driving innovation in midst constraints. Working in organizations, the constraints can come in different shapes and sizes. They can be in different forms- be it knowledge based constraints, time based or money based. In case of Fasal, the VP of Product Development offered minuscule resources for an outrageous vision.
Alternate approach could have been for them to put in large budgets in anticipation of the results.
But the scarcity of resources helped them create a sense of urgency and likely drove the engineers to maximize on the most important, non-perishable resource, time.

Shunning Analysis Paralysis:
As wikipedia defines:
Analysis paralysis describes a moment where over-analyzing or over-thinking a situation can cause it to become 'paralyzed', meaning that no action was taken therefore a solution is not reached.

One unintended consequence of having too many resources is that it leads to tendency of spending resources on over-planning i.e. to cover all the bases before taking action. The team at Inuit Fasal realized that only way they could achieve progress was to hit the ground running and reach out the rural areas to identify problems causing significant pain to the citizens.
Quite often, the lure of arriving at a perfect solution keeps us locked in the meeting rooms far away from the ground realities of the situation.

Low Fidelity Prototype:
Intuit Fasal team didn't in product development till they qualified the magnitude and relevance of problem they were looking to solve. They followed judicious approach to product development and actually didn't even start building the solution in a big-bang way till they qualified their approaches to solution.
The invested in what is termed as low fidelity prototype. As defined in this interesting design blog:

Low-fidelity (lo-fi) prototyping is a quick and easy way to translate high-level design concepts into tangible and testable artifacts. The first and most important role of lo-fi prototypes is to check and test functionality rather than the visual appearance of the product.

Intuit Fasal's team first prototype was a manual text based system where they sent the market rate based info to farmers after manually matching the type of crop. They invested in a solution only after qualifying that it really solved the identified problem.

What did you learn from this inspiring story ?

Story source:
Book: Disrupt Yourself
YouTube Video:

Image source:*xwAg16Mhmj2NRPmmhNGjBQ.png

No comments: