How Lean startup methodologies are used at Intuit India to develop a product

Fasal (Harvest in English) with current subscription base of over 1.2 million farmers across 3 states of India, provides daily market prices of crops via mobile SMS, helping farmers to sell their crop at nearby market at highest rate possible, and earn almost 15% more than before

How it works: Farmers register/update their mobile number by calling an IVR enabled phone number, once registered the farmer can give a missed call to a designated number and get the crop prices

One may think that this is a massive undertaking to develop the product, infrastructure and reach millions of farmers across the country with diverse cultures which would need a great amount of financial muscle which may not be a problem for a big company like Intuit, However Fasal was started as a serious of experiments inside Intuit innovative department with minimal resources, as any Lean Start up would begin

Hypothesis: Farmer needs a service where they receive daily market prices of the crops they grow enabling them to sell at higher end of the price available at their nearest market

The team, started off by selecting a place which is accessible from their office and having good number of farmers, Chikballapur near Bangalore was selected to run experiments and validate their value hypothesis

Prototype on paper: Initially the team interviewed how, where and when the farmers sells their crop, after understanding the process, the team decided that a service where the farmer receives an SMS with prices of various crops nearby their place would be of great value, rather than building a complete application they created a prototype on a paper, they have written the structure of the SMS on a plain paper, showed them to the farmer if they are able to understand and improved upon with the inputs they received

Manual SMS: Instead of building an infrastructure to send daily SMS messages, one of the team members used to send SMS’s manually to a group of selected farmers who agreed to receive price alerts (early adopters)

IVR (Concierge MVP): The IVR system was also developed while running lot of experiments, Instead of buying IVR software, one of the team members depicted as automated voice behind the phone, he also experimented with various IVR scripts to gauge the emotions of the farmer which helped in optimizing and finalized the script

Push VS. Pull method: Farmers used to get 3 SMS per day at designated times (Push method), with this approach farmer did not have much control over the data he is receiving, and also he may not need all the messages and may only need them when the crop yields, Hence the team pivoted to Push method in which case farmer would receive an SMS only when he gives a missed call to a designated number, which gave more control to the farmer to receive data when needed

Revenue Mode: Fasal is a two sided product, where on one side are the users (farmers, non paid) who use the system and on the other side are the customers who pay to run marketing campaigns. I believe this is a great channel for advertisers to reach remote locations where even though the farmer is able to buy a TV (where the advertisers run the marketing campaign) they are not able to watch it because of power availability; however most of the farmers have their mobile and can be reached in most efficient way

P.S. This article is from my blog post www.LeanStartupCircle.in

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Tags: Customer, Development, Lean, Startup

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