Arpan Srivastava

Career Milestones

Organization and You

Core Competencies

Go to food for thought

Favorite Products

What accomplishment in your product management career has brought you the highest level of satisfaction and joy? Can you narrate why?

I will have to go for a two-fer here: the first was building the Category Experiences charter at Myntra. It started with a simple premise that every category needs to be sold a little differently and eventually grew into the program that encompassed all of Product representation, User-generated Content and Recommendations. I started off as an IC building these pieces and eventually grew into a manager of PMs. In every instance, we put the customer at the center: the kind of details, images and videos she needs for buying Apparel are very different from what she needs for a smartwatch. We built a fashion-focussed UGC system that helped customers learn everything from the transparency of Kurtas to the thickness of sweaters. We customized recommendations (Similar items, cross-sell and cart fillers) for every category ranging from lipsticks to Shirts. When you put the customer at the center, the business results just follow naturally: several hundred crores of revenue uplifts and a couple of hundred bps of reduction in returns.

The second one is bringing together the Zoomcar Product and Design team. Almost all of us joined in the last one year and bring diverse and complementary skill-sets to the table. I am incredibly proud of everything that the team has been able to ship in the last year, which was arguably the toughest one for mobility and travel. We are well on our way to pre-Covid revenue numbers and are already at the highest-ever NPS for the company. Now the team is gearing up for international expansion in South-east Asia + MENA and to upend the car sharing market in these emerging economies.

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What aspect of product management did you struggle the most with? How did you overcome it?

For me personally, it was vertical communication. Although I always excelled at working with stakeholders from business to tech, I never paid sufficient attention to creating visibility about my work to senior leaders, with whom I had limited face time. I always assumed that that was something "my manager would take care of". That can be a big mistake, especially while working in large organizations. 360-communication is a vital part of a Product Manager's job.

There are a couple of ways one can overcome this: send regular updates about your program and its progress. You must be consistent with this. Even if you are not receiving responses, people are still noticing and reading these. Work with your managers, chiefs-of-staff etc to present your work to the leadership. Don't wait for someone to create these opportunities for you.

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What's one common myth about product management that you find common among aspiring PMs?

Hopefully, the old bogie of the PM "being the CEO of the product" has long been put to rest. :-)

However, I still see too many PMs, engineers and companies believing that the PM should work in relative isolation and call all the shots on the product. The PM's primary job is to enable product discovery. She needs to create as much visibility about the customer and the business needs, as possible. Then she listens to ideas from every part of the org with deep empathy and zero ego. And then she ensures that the best ideas are shipped first with the highest quality.

The analogy I like to use is that the PM is the CEO of the product as well as the Janitor and everything in between. She is whatever the day or the hour requires her to be. She ensures that she is always shipping to make the life of her customer better.

Your Devops engineer cannot deploy late in the evening because he has a long drive back home? You better offer to drive while he makes the deployment happen. :)

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What are some common pitfalls that product managers must be aware of?

A few that come to mind: defaulting to HIPPO (highest paid person's opinion) for product decisions, not having high agency, over-reliance on frameworks, staring at data without understanding the customer, not exercising judgment on when to move fast and when to take time to define the product.

As the bridge between business and tech, all eyes will be on you. Everyone and their grandmother will have an opinion on what you should build. With so much of the business success riding on you, you will invariably be part of heated meetings. You will have to manage a lot of emotions (including your own). If you can present a calm, rational case as to what should be built first for the customer, the business results will follow.

‍

If not product management, what career would you have picked? Are there any complimentary skillsets that you see between being a PM and your alternate choice?

I would have loved to be some sort of writer: either a journalist or an author or a screenwriter. Clear, crisp writing is a joy to read and PMs must master different forms of story-telling. These will range from: succinct, to-the-point emails; documents or decks which convey big ideas but are still readable by everyone in the company and finally of course, detailed PRDs. The audience and purpose are different in each one and the PM must cultivate deep empathy for the targeted audience. You must be able to weave a great story as to how you arrived at a product solution by synthesizing customer insights, data, business needs and competing alternatives.

As a famous film director once said after completing the screenplay, "The film is ready. We just have to shoot it!"

‍

What is something about product management that you wish you knew when you started out?

90% of our time will be spent on drudge work: answering emails / slack, writing docs, providing updates to stakeholders, pulling data, attending meetings, getting people to coordinate with each other and just generally asking for stuff. The remaining 10% is the beautiful time: days when you ship and the days when you see the metrics move in the expected direction. And that 10% makes up for everything else.

For people who like to invent and build, there is probably no better job in today's economy. However you cannot get there unless you are willing to toil really hard for that first 90%. Shipping stuff, especially scalable stuff takes much more effort than is apparent from outside.

‍

What accomplishment in your product management career has brought you the highest level of satisfaction and joy? Can you narrate why?

I will have to go for a two-fer here: the first was building the Category Experiences charter at Myntra. It started with a simple premise that every category needs to be sold a little differently and eventually grew into the program that encompassed all of Product representation, User-generated Content and Recommendations. I started off as an IC building these pieces and eventually grew into a manager of PMs. In every instance, we put the customer at the center: the kind of details, images and videos she needs for buying Apparel are very different from what she needs for a smartwatch. We built a fashion-focussed UGC system that helped customers learn everything from the transparency of Kurtas to the thickness of sweaters. We customized recommendations (Similar items, cross-sell and cart fillers) for every category ranging from lipsticks to Shirts. When you put the customer at the center, the business results just follow naturally: several hundred crores of revenue uplifts and a couple of hundred bps of reduction in returns.

The second one is bringing together the Zoomcar Product and Design team. Almost all of us joined in the last one year and bring diverse and complementary skill-sets to the table. I am incredibly proud of everything that the team has been able to ship in the last year, which was arguably the toughest one for mobility and travel. We are well on our way to pre-Covid revenue numbers and are already at the highest-ever NPS for the company. Now the team is gearing up for international expansion in South-east Asia + MENA and to upend the car sharing market in these emerging economies.

‍

What aspect of product management did you struggle the most with? How did you overcome it?

For me personally, it was vertical communication. Although I always excelled at working with stakeholders from business to tech, I never paid sufficient attention to creating visibility about my work to senior leaders, with whom I had limited face time. I always assumed that that was something "my manager would take care of". That can be a big mistake, especially while working in large organizations. 360-communication is a vital part of a Product Manager's job.

There are a couple of ways one can overcome this: send regular updates about your program and its progress. You must be consistent with this. Even if you are not receiving responses, people are still noticing and reading these. Work with your managers, chiefs-of-staff etc to present your work to the leadership. Don't wait for someone to create these opportunities for you.

‍

What's one common myth about product management that you find common among aspiring PMs?

Hopefully, the old bogie of the PM "being the CEO of the product" has long been put to rest. :-)

However, I still see too many PMs, engineers and companies believing that the PM should work in relative isolation and call all the shots on the product. The PM's primary job is to enable product discovery. She needs to create as much visibility about the customer and the business needs, as possible. Then she listens to ideas from every part of the org with deep empathy and zero ego. And then she ensures that the best ideas are shipped first with the highest quality.

The analogy I like to use is that the PM is the CEO of the product as well as the Janitor and everything in between. She is whatever the day or the hour requires her to be. She ensures that she is always shipping to make the life of her customer better.

Your Devops engineer cannot deploy late in the evening because he has a long drive back home? You better offer to drive while he makes the deployment happen. :)

‍

What are some common pitfalls that product managers must be aware of?

A few that come to mind: defaulting to HIPPO (highest paid person's opinion) for product decisions, not having high agency, over-reliance on frameworks, staring at data without understanding the customer, not exercising judgment on when to move fast and when to take time to define the product.

As the bridge between business and tech, all eyes will be on you. Everyone and their grandmother will have an opinion on what you should build. With so much of the business success riding on you, you will invariably be part of heated meetings. You will have to manage a lot of emotions (including your own). If you can present a calm, rational case as to what should be built first for the customer, the business results will follow.

‍

If not product management, what career would you have picked? Are there any complimentary skillsets that you see between being a PM and your alternate choice?

I would have loved to be some sort of writer: either a journalist or an author or a screenwriter. Clear, crisp writing is a joy to read and PMs must master different forms of story-telling. These will range from: succinct, to-the-point emails; documents or decks which convey big ideas but are still readable by everyone in the company and finally of course, detailed PRDs. The audience and purpose are different in each one and the PM must cultivate deep empathy for the targeted audience. You must be able to weave a great story as to how you arrived at a product solution by synthesizing customer insights, data, business needs and competing alternatives.

As a famous film director once said after completing the screenplay, "The film is ready. We just have to shoot it!"

‍

What is something about product management that you wish you knew when you started out?

90% of our time will be spent on drudge work: answering emails / slack, writing docs, providing updates to stakeholders, pulling data, attending meetings, getting people to coordinate with each other and just generally asking for stuff. The remaining 10% is the beautiful time: days when you ship and the days when you see the metrics move in the expected direction. And that 10% makes up for everything else.

For people who like to invent and build, there is probably no better job in today's economy. However you cannot get there unless you are willing to toil really hard for that first 90%. Shipping stuff, especially scalable stuff takes much more effort than is apparent from outside.

‍

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