Our team is entrusted with the building of a robust & vibrant developer Eco-system around our Tally technology platform. Principally we work to identify, on-board & support software developers and companies to build careers and businesses on or around our platform.
Often, while working with the smaller companies (one to five man businesses) I am reminded of an old comic series called ‘Bringing up Father’. That’s a pretty odd title – fathers bring up children and not the other way round… in a similar vein, I would assume that business-men and entrepreneurs would drive us (employees) and not the other way round – and hence my reflection on the title of that comic series.
So, here we have a brilliant engineer, who develops an add-on that will cater to hundreds of establishments. It’s built, installed and working well at a few locations. We come into the picture and show him the potential of TallyShop and the reach it provides Worldwide. He decides to come on-board.
And hits a wall.
Documentation, he asks, what is that? A well articulated one paragraph note about the business benefits of the add-on? Yes, we tell him, since you will need to sell without face-to-face meetings, the sell strategy is different. The developer sees the World differently. He now needs to write in a new language – English! He needs to learn things like fonts, footers, TOC, editing, inserting and formatting images and more. Not really his cup of tea. In some cases we help out with the final edit, in many others we refuse to build the complete documentation – in which case both the developer and the World loses out.
The situation with complete products, say for a hospital, is not any better. The expectation is to additionally have a brochure, web pages, EDMs and more. Also needed is someone to professionally manage e-mails and phone calls, demos, support & other partners in the chain.
What they need is a Product Manager – of the out-bound variety. In an earlier post I had written about the skill shortage for starter PMs and that no one is looking at this business opportunity.
Since affordable (to a small business) PMs don’t exist, we went scouting for solutions. Outsourcing was an obvious place. We quickly identified small companies who were in the business of documentation. We connected the two parties together and hoped that things would fly. Nothing happened. No deal.
On analysis we found that the price quoted, reasonable as it looked to us, was not affordable. Small companies tend to operate in very cash-strapped situations, often living hand-to-mouth. Ah, well, back to square one.
A chance conversation with another company gave us the next idea. We would look for documentation setups that would quote a price, and collect twice as much in merchandise, not cash. So if the documentation costs Rs. 50,000 and the partner transfer price for the product license were Rs. 10,000, then 10 licenses will be transferred in lieu of cash. Our thinking was that the developer lost nothing, at least in money outflow terms, and the other party received twice as much, albeit in the form of risk (there was no guarantee that he would sell them all, nor the time frame it would take).
So armed with a new energy we approached a small setup, someone we knew has documentation skills and could manage the other requirements. This company welcomed the business, but flatly refused the remuneration in the form of risk. Points raised were:
- We cannot sell, that is not our model, we are into services
- We need predictable money to keep our business running
- What if the product does not sell or the developer goes bust?
Ah well, back to the drawing board. How can capacity and money constrained start-ups get the assistance they need, considering that the best people who can assist them are themselves start-ups?
How will we bring up father?