Digital-led businesses have taken the market by storm to the extent that if you are not digital, you aren't official. And so, when Mahindra decided to incubate new age digital businesses, it started my most incredible learning journey.
Mahindra began this journey with SmartShift; the first intrapreneurial venture in the intra-city logistics space, which I had the privilege to head. Along with SmartShift, I also had the chance to work with the pioneering, all-electric premium, shared mobility business Glyd, and here are my four lessons on building successful digital-led businesses.
I believe that "Every business germinates when you identify a genuine customer need and look at ways to address that need." For me clearly and sharply identifying your customer's need is the very first lesson. For example, we realized the need to ‘solve for the information asymmetry’ that exists in the intra-city logistics space. We understood how digitizing the process of connecting MSME’s and transporters would drive significant efficiencies in the industry and that gave birth to SmartShift.
The second lesson is to look for ways to solve needs for both customers and producers for enhanced value creation. For example, when it came to daily commuting services, customers had several options in the market but had to trade-off between affordability and comfort. In addition, Electric vehicle fleet owners needed to drive efficiency by ensuring the vehicles operated for a certain minimum kilometres per day to meet ROI expectations. Solving for needs of both demand and supply sides led to the birth of the first sustainable premium-shared mobility service offering, Glyd. Glyd challenged what were inherent paradoxes like premium and shared, affordable and luxurious and addressed the ROI challenge of Electric vehicles for fleet owners with well-balanced, holistic value propositions for each stakeholder.
The third and potentially most crucial lesson is the humility and agility to continuously refine and work to build the right Product-Market fit. Digital-led businesses often have an inherent advantage of being able to test multiple new features, concepts in a quick and economical fashion. This allows for a greater spectrum of different customer cohort trials (also known as A/B testing). Driving constant experimentation and building a refined product-market fit drives engagement and network effects that allow for value unlocking of disproportionate scale. In SmartShift, our pricing model alone was experimented with more than 100+ ways to find the right way for both MSME’s and transporters to see value.
The fourth golden lesson is always to value your customers and co-create with them. All businesses should constantly seek feedback and improve each aspect of the customer’s journey and moments of truth to deliver delight. In Glyd, the physical vehicle which was designed for comfort, privacy and luxury was a critical moment of truth as was the digital booking process, as was the chauffeur’s behaviour and performance. Each aspect was reviewed daily through multiple tools to ensure every ride was delightful and any early indicators of customer distress was addressed real-time and suitable changes were made in long term processes. One best example of this was chauffeurs were rated post every ride on critical aspects of the experience and chauffeurs also rated each rider allowing us to address early warning signs optimally.
My experience with 3 digital businesses, SmartShift, Glyd and Krish-e has taught me to always stay connected and obsessed with your customer, grounded to timely inputs from users and agile enough to innovate rapidly. Surround yourself with an enabling ecosystem and driven team to unlock true potential. And most importantly, build villages that enable creation and growth.
Looking back and ahead, I can say with confidence that as an employee if you have the desire to contribute, Mahindra will provide the opportunities.
Kausalya (Kausalya Sreenivasan) Nandakumar is currently Sr. General Manager - Business Transformation FES. She earlier headed Strategy, Marketing, Operational Excellence and Special Projects for Krish-e, the Farming as a Service division of Mahindra. In this role, she was responsible for delivery of short to long term strategy for FaaS, Marketing for the brand Krish-e and design and deployment of key projects of strategic importance for the division. She is a focused, creative and result oriented leader with over 16 years of experience across various roles in Business Management, Strategy, Technology, Brand management, Sales and Market Research.