Back in 2011, when I co-founded WowMakers with my best friends, we didn’t have much idea what to do with it. We had a good experience in graphic design and a passion for it but our ultimate dream was to develop a world class product from India. We had many ideas at that time but we were not sure what to choose or how to grow it into a business.
This lack of confidence and fear of failure made us take the safe service-backed product model. Just like many Indian startup entrepreneurs today, we thought we could play it safe by starting with a service business and developing a product in parallel.
We knew if we had money coming in from the service business, we could maintain a team to develop the product. What we didn’t know was, we were trying to ride two roller coasters at once!
It took two years and a lot of blood and sweat. But we were able to formally release our product to the public only a few weeks back. If we had a chance to start all over again, we would have decided to start working on our product idea from day one
Let me tell you why:
- If you are not too bad, you will survive doing projects and generate income from service. But it demands one thing from you constantly: your time.To do any kind of service, no matter how simple it is, you have to bring in sales, talk to clients, hire people, get projects done, pay salaries and meet all the expenses. It is a full time engagement. You can’t run it as a side business if you want to generate money from it.
- We started service to support the product. Our priority was product. Few months into services, we started generating a decent revenue and hiring more people because we had to make profits. Only then could we develop our product. Finally we fell into an endless loop of projects. Paying salaries takes up a lot of focus and energy, it left us with little time for thinking of ways to get out of this loop. Service became our priority. Bringing in more projects became our main objective. Developing the product wasn’t. Our priorities changed.
- India has already received enough abuse for being the “outsourcing nation”. When you do service, even if you’re an entrepreneur, you are still getting hired to work for others. I respect those who are successful in the service and outsourcing business. But because of this fixation with services, we haven’t been able to give birth to a WhatsApp, Instagram, AirBnB or Uber. We have to change that. We can do it. Some of us are already killing it. But I think the majority is still either aiming too low or playing it too safe.
- You can start a service business at any time. It’s no big deal. Every product has a time-window inside which it is born, grows, reaches a peak and dies out. SMS reached its peak five years ago and now it barely exists. Smartphones are going places. Wearable devices and 3D printing are yet to catch on. So it’s important to ride a wave and develop a product that fits it’s time window.
- The most important lesson learned: If we had begun with product from day one, by this time we would have at least identified whether the product would work or not. With this knowledge, we could have generated a revenue, made a pivot or started working on a new idea.
So, if you are in a service-product dilemma, think no further: do your product first. You will thank me later. Good luck!
Our story continues: Luckily in our case, service business was doing good so we split the founding team into two. Two of us are taking care of service while me and my co-founders Jaseem and Nithin are working full-time on our product CrowdStudio.
(This post originally appeared on YourStory.)
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If you want to read more on the topic,
go through Alok’s PPT on Products vs Services