In Brief Shunya One Ep.36

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On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Soaib Grewal, Venture Partner at T-Labs and Times Internet. He is also the Founder of BOLD - a design led investment firm, since 2014.

This conversation focuses on the design approach for building products to understand user-experience better and gauging VC perspectives for new investments.   

Shiladitya enquired whether founders and entrepreneurs in India understand how critical design is for product, today. To which Soaib responded:

First of all I think, are we quite there or do Indian founders understand design better, than when I started helping people out back in 2012-2013? For sure. Back then I think there was a fundamental fight of explaining why design is relevant. Now the fight is sort of changed where it is not about why is it relevant but how indeed can you integrate it in your processes, how do you ensure that it is a cornerstone of you building product. Design itself, especially consumer designer has become quite commoditized. What I mean by that is, it is not too hard for someone to see a UI template for an app or a website that is fairly success and then just copying it off, right? So I think that worked fairly well early on for a lot of companies in India and then overtime what happened was that come say a Series A, you really need to start caring about design. And then you are like, oh shit! I need to actually change things up or I need to hire a designer, I need to hire a firm. And basically what you were doing is, the designer or the firm had to go back and essentially rebuild or recreate an experience out of something that was really built in a very peaceway approach, right. That’s essentially how you build products at early stages. You come up with an MVP and you are constantly iterating upon it. Now if you don’t take a very holistic approach from day 1 to think about the user experience you end up with something that is way too feature-rich where things don’t connect to one another, where things are broken and designers start having a very tough time. So I think the challenge has changed a little bit but Indian founders are definitely a lot more cognisant of it, they are definitely a lot more cognisant, there are lot of people putting in a lot more time into it.

Shiladitya asked about what VCs look at, beyond mapping trends. Soaib responded, saying:

It is a tricky question because you know I wish there was a magic formula or a rule-break or a cheat-key, I could keep going back to. Also, it is a bit tough. Also that I think it is case-by-case. I think that it is easy to say that, oh you know we look at founder, product and then this and that but I think but you are really talking about a couple of different levers that swing in different ways and have different weightages depending on the sector, the space and how much conviction you also have for a certain area; of course the stage in which you are investing. So I think above all though, thinking about or really thinking clearly about whether you think the opportunity could lead to a large outcome for yourself and your stakeholders and the money that you are managing, is the number one filter for any VC. I mean in fact that’s how you identify sectors and spaces in the first place and I think that it is something that entrepreneurs perhaps should be a little bit more cognisant of because companies that do not lead to large outcomes are not necessarily bad companies.