Less is More. Measure and Scale.

Monsoons, are generally dull and boring. I had to keep seeing the beauty in things, the beauty in nature that surrounded me, as I hopped, skipped and splotched along the puddled, graveled road. My morning walk during my holiday break, in a remote town in India. 


The sky, a giant canvas that blotted grey ink in twenty shades, the trees swaying like the fans meant for Gods. As the morning light peeped in and out, the vastness of the paddy fields, foliage and sounds of the birds, a perfect pantomime that swathed another 20 shades of green. And as though that wasn’t enough, the small town that this was, was peppered with color that even the Gods would be blinded by.


After a few minutes of walking, I notice small retail shops opening their doors. They hold tiny packets of tidbits and personal care products, hanging out like wet clothes on a drying line; 5 ml shampoo sachets, local crackers, nuts, potato wafers, all in measures as small as 25 grams; 100 ml mineral water bottles – worth one or two swigs. I wonder, why? I’ve never seen much of this back home in Singapore? Then my mind moves to the US of A and their 500 gram packets of Potato Wafers! Unthinkable in India. Largest here is 177 grams. Why?


Retail – one size fits all.  That, “All” in context of the local market conditions.


Here and now, I realize that the small sachets of shampoo are not meant to be associated with travel, but rather a daily consumption. What is deemed a necessity in the more developed world, as daily consumption/mass consumption product, takes on a different meaning and value in the less developed towns of countries like India. Not yet a necessity, not yet affordable, a momentary consumption in a place where market dynamics are different. One size fits all. That “All” is in context of market landscape.


Another observation I made involves some seemingly mundane plastic sachets filled with colored ice pops that were peddled for 2 Rs (3c) by push cart street vendors years, and years ago. These are now branded and sold for 20 Rs! The corporate world took this street idea, and with some attractive packaging, branding, and better hygiene factor, they scaled it across the country! People are willing to pay more because of an added label, quality and availability. Measure the market and scale.


I reflected back on my own business – technology driven B2B, although we also serve several 1000’s of contractors who rely on day-to-day wages, those who buy products on cash and carry basis, or now on digital payment options from our distributors. Why not build products fit for need, for a social cause, scaled for purpose and profit.


This is a transformative journey we started 3 years ago with our new CEO and his leadership team laying out strategic imperatives to grow and focus on our core competency – Test Instruments. And, it paid well and yet more to come and more to learn for me.  18 months ago, after much nays and yays, we tailored a “fit for purpose” product, for such Contractors segment.  Since then and along with our established and reputable distributor, we grabbed share, enormous share.


Less is more! We measured the market and scaled this business. More to come…


In summary:


  1. From the Forest to the Tree, and maybe the Weeds. Product Managers and Marketing people spending time in the forest and trenches provides a different perspective. Listening and learning in that environment could mean possibilities. Possibilities that typically viewed as impossible or unviable can turn to reality.


  1. Success comes before confidence. Get one right, early wins, even if small. It provides the motivation to tread the path.20 shades of grey and green in a wet boring monsoon environment.


  1. Thrive in any ecosystem. Measure the ecosystem. One size fits all, but that “All” is relative, relevant and unique to that eco-system. In the examples above, the majority of people there buy the 1 Rs shampoo sachet. But that’s not the same across the country or in developed markets. Distribution channels and retail channels, and their enablement are vital. Serve with passion and thrive to scale. Fit to scale.

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