I interviewed Nishchay A G, the cofounder of Jar, recently, as part of the founder conversations I have been having, for my book on product market fit (PMF here onwards). Nishchay and Misbah, well-known in startup circles, and experienced operators, saw their fintech startup Jar hit escape velocity, thanks to a clever product and some compelling growth hacking. Nishchay also has a reputation for differentiated thinking in the Indian startup sphere, so I was doubly keen to meet him.
The conversation touches upon some interesting perspectives on PMF. Per Nishchay, PMF as to be achieved not just at product level but at every feature level. He talks about how a feature, vasooli (meaning extraction of a repayment), became a hit and drove product adoption. Similarly with a feature called Roundup which sweeps up spare change. He goes on share his definition of PMF, which he says happens when the output of a system is non-linear / expanding, e.g., each investment in marketing yields non-linear returns. The returns from the marketing rupee keep going up non-linearly. There is lots of advice here for fellow founders as well (being shameless about asking for help; why product, marketing and funding don’t have to go in sync, etc.). I do think the most interesting aspect of this conversation was the section where he details how they growth-hacked their way to acquiring the first 5k customers. Lots of learnings for founders here on how they leveraged communities and hacked growth via them. It is a distinctly Indian playbook that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Enjoy my conversation with Nishchay from Jar!
Sajith Pai: Thank you for this (chat), Nishchay, really appreciate you taking time out for this. I think we have enough common friends, I think Anmol Maini, then I believe even TechCrunch’s Manish Singh is a common friend, and of course Meeta Malhotra who introduced us.
So broadly, let me give you the context. I’ve been working at Blume for the last four years. One of the areas which has obsessed me is product market fit. Because it’s really the first step to nailing before you start scaling, right? As a seed investor, that’s one of the promises to the investee that I’ll help you take to PMF. So, I got obsessed with this topic. I thought I’d write a book on this, very early steps though, but going through with it. I want to do about 100 or so founder interviews, yours is the second. Yesterday I did an interview with Asad of LambdaTest.
I’m talking to founders who have achieved PMF, and those who have not achieved PMF. In your case, it seems you have hit PMF. So, I would love to kind of talk about that. I have given you the question structure. We can go by that but feel free if you want to start with just a little bit of the Jar journey, and then we will get into a little bit of the definition, etc.
Nishchay AG: Yeah. What I will do is give a background about myself and then go about how I stumbled upon the idea; these two things. I come from a city called Hassan, which is like two-three hours from Bangalore. I was born and brought up there, grew up there, I did my engineering there. It was not like I dreamed of being an engineer. It was more like there is a good engineering college here, so I’ll study here. If there was a good arts college, I would have studied arts probably, I don’t know. It was a very good engineering college. Many people in the family had studied there. I ended up studying there, so I moved to Bangalore, got into an IT job via campus recruitment, and worked in IT for almost nine years. Again, a typical engineer. You see people driving their scooters and bikes to Infosys campus day and out. And I was that typical guy. Traveled a lot. I lived in the US for a very long time with Honeywell Aerospace. Then I came back to India, and joined Accenture, traveled a lot with them, consulting for their clients in Europe. And that’s when my childhood friends, they started this company called Wicked Ride, which later became Bounce. Wicked Ride was in its early days, still did not have a website and all. They were still running their business from Facebook page, and business was doing pretty good. And Vivek, the cofounder happens to be my cousin brother. We grew up together. If you know Vivek from Bounce.
SP: Vivekananda Hallekere?
NA: Yes. We were cousin brothers. We grew together in a joint family.
SP: I see, okay.
NA: So he caught me for a coffee and he was talking about the challenges that he faces on a day-to-day basis, and I was talking to him about how to build systems to solve those things, and he literally made me resign the same day. He said, I’m not getting up from here till you resign. I joined Wicked Ride that’s how I joined up the startup world. I never dreamed that I will be part of a startup but ended up there. And the first four years was an absolute (adventure). The demand was through the roof, we scaled, we burnt through our savings, our credit scores went negative and all those things. We survived on Maggi. We did everything to survive but we scaled. We were doing about $100,000 monthly revenue in 20 cities. Things are going great and then as we became popular, more people started coming and asking that motorcycles are all well, but I want scooters in Bangalore for a day. All I need is a scooter. I don’t want your big motorcycles, or my bike is out for service, today I need your scooter to go to the office. “It’s four hundred rupees. I’m fine with that. It’s cheaper than Uber for me. That’s all.”
We figured out that mobility is a much bigger problem. It was an emergent behavior. It was not an engineered thought process saying that this market is underserved and that we should serve this market. It was not like that. It was more of an emergent behavior for us. Everything was an emergent behavior. It was not like we were out there on the streets looking for an idea to build a startup, make it, raise money from investors, and all those things. In fact, when we pivoted the entire business to mobility, we had conversations with investors who had come to us. We finally ended up raising money from Sequoia and Accel. Investors and analysts, when they came to us, when they’re talking to us, the language that they spoke, we did not understand that, meaning we didn’t, we were thinking that we were building a business. It was not a startup in our mind. For example, when I was heading engineering, I used to sit in stores delivering vehicles every weekend. I used to talk to every customer who walked in, and understand where he found us, where he learnt about us, what his experience was, how he found out about the store. And when people were returning the motorcycle, we were trying to understand his experience with Wicked. And there’s one particular guy from Flipkart who said, “Are you hiring product managers?” And product manager is a startup world nomenclature. There is no product manager in normal corporates. I said “No. Not right now.” And he left, and then I googled what is a product manager.
And when we started, one of the investors was asking what is your churn rate? What is your repeat rate? And I was like, I don’t understand what is churn rate? What is your CTR? This, that. Then I said, “What exactly? Can you dumb it down for me? Can you explain it to me?” And he was kind enough to explain. I said ok, we showed our dashboards where we had built, for example if today I am getting 1000 bookings, how many of the 1000 bookings are from new customers? How many of them are from the old customers. If it is from old customers, how old are they? How much revenue have they given us so far? What is the trend line? And the everyday business we are doing, how much is from new and how much it is from the repeat. The typical way we used to measure it in our software industries is in a year if the revenue was a billion dollars, how much is from repeat customers? And how much is from new users and new business? Those standards we brought in. We learnt all the things as we moved forward and we went to raise over 200 million dollars in a short span of time. We worked pretty hard. I was managing supply, we couldn’t find someone to manage supply, all the mechanical guys out there in the market did not understand IOT and all. So, someone internally had to move to supply, so I moved to supply. I started the factory, manufacturing, procurement, assembly, on field maintenance of the vehicles, on the systems and all. We sweated it out in the roads making the product work, fought with cops, doing everything to manage. We survived everything and I later moved to the business side of things.
When I was in the business side of things, one of the agendas that I took up first was that we should become the Gojek of India. Gojek started as a mobility company but diversified into multiple other services and multiple revenue streams. We started selling ads, we sold ads to a ton of companies like Indian Oil, Amazon, Acko etc. We even sold samples in the vehicle trunks, we did sampling for FMCG companies, we did sampling for many other start-ups, this, and that. Things were going great and I was trying to sell ads to banks, and they were trying to arrive at a price that they can pay for our scooters in an annualized manner. And that’s when I kind of figured out that they spend way too much money for acquiring a consumer. Forget ads, I’ll bring you consumers, you pay me per consumer. We diversified into one more instrument, one more service, which is financial services. We started selling loans, credit cards, insurance, bank accounts, vehicle lease, and all of these things, and everything was going great and then COVID happened.
The entire industry came crashing down. We went from 150,000 rides to zero rides overnight. We had 35,000 vehicles spread across 12 cities on the streets and we had to bring these vehicles back to a safe storage location. So many friends and families were not able to run their business in the regular manner. So many people lost their jobs. And what I kind of saw at that point of time was that people were struggling with money. They were earning all their lives, and yet they couldn’t manage two months of disruption in their lives. They had no access to credit also, and they had no insurance, and I was making good money by selling these services. And I felt why is the bank spending so much money? These are the people who could afford it, and yet they don’t have it. That’s what triggered my curiosity, and that’s how it started.
I was not out looking for an idea to start up; I saw there is a gap in the market where the existing product serves the 1% high intent customer. If I am free to take names, ICICI, Zerodha and Groww are amazing products; I personally use them. But they are built for the high intent, high agency users, who has made up his mind that I will save, I will invest, and I will make my money work for me. This percentage is so small. Rest of the population is like this – they grew in a small town, very aspirational, watched their heroes flaunt everything in movies, they saw their rich cousins from tier one cities flaunt everything, wanted all those things, but they could never never afford one. But at the same time, for some reason, we (they) were sensible enough to not pester parents asking for those things. But the moment we (they) start earning, we (they) went crazy spending everything that we (they) earn.
No one taught us how to behave with money. No one taught us how to build the right habits15, right relationships with money. No one taught us discipline around money. And that’s why there is a huge gap in the market. Even though you make good money doesn’t mean that after working for 10 years, you have good savings. Because we have a very bad relationship with money, and no one is working on it. And there is no product in the market which will help you get better with your money, meaning you have CureFit kind of platforms or apps, Fitbit and all of those things to get physically fit. You have platforms like Audible and all of those things to remind you to read, you have Calm and Sleep kind of platforms to help you sleep on time, to measure your sleep quality. There is no platform for a common man to do things in a small, simple manner and that was the triggering point for us; that we can build a platform which will basically help people start. And build the right habits around money, build the right relationship with money, and slowly from there we will help them diversify into multiple investments. We will give him a loan so that he doesn’t fall into a debt trap, and we will give him insurance so that he doesn’t fall into debt trap, or burn his savings when something happens. That was a simple philosophy, and I felt there are 200 million families who can be catered through these platforms easily.
See we live in a country which is very confusing at various levels. Meaning, a guy working at Infosys making ₹30,000 is tier one white collar. An auto-driver earning ₹45,000 in the same city is blue collar for some reason. Or even a simple Panipuriwala, or who runs a Kirana Store is probably making ₹40 – 50 – ₹60,000 a month. But still he doesn’t come into the white-collar class. And there is no product which is serving them where they can do it themselves. Everything is in English, everything is pretentious, everything is filled with jargon, everything is very intimidating and not welcoming at any level. They speak a language which is alien to the common man. Like what do you mean by portfolio? I mean the common man does not have a diversified asset class to call it a portfolio. His wealth is locked in land and gold. In very rare cases, FD, that’s all. So, we felt that we need to build a platform which is very welcoming and simple, fun and non-pretentious. And I will not pinch your pocket. I will not force you to do something, and we will slowly start, and that’s what worked for us. And we chose an asset class which people understand. Gold is something which everyone understands.
My thought process is that if someone doesn’t know calculus, and also doesn’t know English, you don’t teach him calculus in English. Teach him English first and then you teach him calculus. The relationship with money is the same thing. You need to first teach him habit, discipline, behavior and then you would teach him diversified asset class, hedging the risk, long term plan, short term plan, short term goals, long term goals, retirement goals, this that. We said let’s fix this, and that’s how we started building Jar. And the whole idea for product market fit? Again, we don’t try to define a product market fit at a product level, the entire product level. For me, we need to achieve PMF at every feature level.
NA: For example, signups, someone comes onto the first screen. How many people are going to the second screen? If there’s a 40% drop off, why is that 40% drop (happening)? Are we reaching out to the wrong audience? Or is the audience who is coming not able to understand it? How do you achieve signup activation? Or how do you achieve 90%+? Now sign-up is done. Next is how to get him to do the first investment. And we went with this level of granularity at every level. See what happens for us is that the databases are our holy grail and dashboard is our window to that holy grail. That’s where we see the behaviour shift happening of the consumers. We were building a habit-forming platform and you don’t crash into a habit; you slide in into a habit. That’s the case of most of the gym sign ups. Like you sign up, you go pay for a year, but you don’t turn up, because you crashed into that behaviour assuming that you will behave. Making you slide into a habit is easier, and to do that we were very careful about data. We wanted to see how we change the behaviour, and all the behavior shift happens in a gradual, incremental and evolutionary way. And it’s very difficult to tell when exactly it happened for a certain person. Most of these behaviour shifts are not very conscious. They literally slide into it, and you need to figure out what other trigger points through which you can make him slide into that.
See for a fitness app, it can be a morning reminder to do your 30-minute run. For a water hydration app, it can remind you every hour. For us, we had to figure out and deconstruct the day of the life and figure out what is the decision-making window? For these instruments that decision making window can be stretched over multiple hours, or multiple days. How do you find that sweet spot to nudge him at the right moment so that he ends up doing a certain task for you? For example, we have a simple feature on the platform where you open the app and, on your face, it will ask you to invest 10 rupees in a funny way. And every time you open the app itself, that funny quote changes. For example, Aah gaye ho toh 10 rupaye dey ke jao. And it’s like chalo aaj ma ko khush kar denge, tujhe aaj wo dus rupaye ki zaroorat nahi hai, kya karoge is dhan rashi ka (Funny conversational quotes, nudges to contribute small sums of money). We made it fun, absolutely fun and it became easy. The reason why it became easy for consumers, we thought through his mind frame of mind, he has gone through seven or eight decision makings to reach that home screen. That is, where is my phone? Pick up my phone, unlock my phone, think of Jar App, look for Jar App, open the Jar App, unlock the Jar App. Now I’m at the home screen. The ninth decision should not be difficult for him. And in the ninth decision if you pique his interest, if you make it fun for him, if you make him, if you bring down his guards through this funny engagement, you can make him do something. Every time when we launched this, we see the behavioural shift, and it was a step function for us. You have this one particular insight, you double down on that, and there is an immediate step function jump in the user.
SP: Yeah. I’m going to interrupt you here. Fascinating! Utterly fascinating! So I want to ask you, do you have a definition of PMF that you use? I found it interesting that you said you look for PMF at a feature level. It’s okay. If you have any working definition or do you have a feeling around it? Like to hear whatever you have in mind.
NA: See, PMF is like an evolution of a system, right? A working system where the output of the system will stop being linear. Meaning say you spent ₹100 and got 100 customers. The moment you say you achieved PMF you will start getting 110 users for the same hundred rupees, and if you spend 110 you get 130 users, and if you spend 130 you will get 200 users. And I mean, I mean this, this can change for every product. For example, for a social it can be something different, for a DropBox kind of a platform, it can be something different.
For us, what is that inflection point? For example, we recently launched a feature called Vasooli. Vasooli is a simple feature where we made it fun to ask for your own money back from her friends and family. You give small loans to your friends and family, and it’s very embarrassing to ask for that money back. Awkward conversation. So we thought we would make it fun, and we built a feature called Vasooli where it’s like a meme driven, meme powered feature where it is like Dost ko udhaar diya kya? Haan. Kisko diya? Misbah ko. Kitna diya tha? Panch hazaar. Kab diya? Last week ko. Kab wapis karega? 1 tareekh ko (Instructions to record how much money you lent to a friend in a conversational tone). Okay that’s all, you recorded the transaction. On 31st August, Jar will send a reminder to Misbah in a funny way without creating any embarrassment. And there is no transaction fee, it is not transactional in nature. Jar doesn’t send out a message like “You owe ₹5000 to Mr. Nishchay August 5th, and you promised to return on September 1st.” We don’t say that. On August 31st, we send out a funny quote like ‘De De re Baba’ (give me my money) And we give them absolute control over what sort of funny message you want to send out without being offensive, without being awkward. The moment you send that message he will call and say “De dunga re bhai. (I will return your money) Do not worry.” You see that feature grow 30-35% day on day. And here we started measuring that. Can we see a tertiary effect? Say you’re not on Jar, ok? And I recorded a transaction that I have given ₹5000 to you, and Jar sent a reminder to you telling that “Hey! Remember that money that you owe.” You are like “Wow! This is an amazing feature.” So you install Jar.
SP: Virality. It drives virality.
NA: Yeah, and you refer someone. Now in the process you also see the value prop of Jar. How Jar is helping people save, how you can save and you end up investing in Jar.
SP: Got it. This is exactly how Hotmail…the first Hotmail messages had ‘get your free Hotmail’ in the footnote. People saw it and clicked on it. So it’s (Jar’s hack) very viral, very well thought through. You are thinking of Jar as having this hero features such as Vasooli, and then for example how it asks for money like De de re Baba, like Why don’t you give 10 rupees? etc. So that’s interesting. So, you see how these features work, and you look at PMF in terms of features.
NA: Yes. We see PMF at each feature level. We see PMF at our basic offering, which is roundups. Every time you spend, we take some spare change and invest it for you. How often are people participating in that daily savings? How many people end up setting up daily savings? How many people do manual investments? That is, whenever they open the app to do one-time investments through various nudges. For each one of them we need to figure out the context like what time of the day, you need to develop geospatial intelligence that you can ask something to a Mysore guy at a certain date and time. You can’t ask a Lucknow guy to do a certain thing at a certain time of the day, and at a certain time of the month. We developed this and we have this amazing data team which will plot this data to figure out where the peaks are appearing and can there be repeatability on the peaks across. And we start repeating that and try to achieve it.
Our core belief is that – back in the days you may have read Upstarts about Airbnb and Uber. Brian Chesky operates with one core principle that 99% people are good. So you can trust this stranger into your home and you can go stay in his home. And that was kind of shown in Lyft and Uber behaviour also. That was a core principle for us to operate in Bounce also, and I carry forward the same core principle that by nature, everyone wants and has good intentions, at least about themselves. Like everyone wants to eat right? Everyone wants to sleep right, everyone wants to exercise right, everyone wants to work right, study right. They want to save and invest right. They have the right intentions. So, how do you continuously figure out the right nudges to trigger that intent into an action? We kind of double down continuously. And to be very honest, we never thought that ki haan product market fit ho gaya kya (Is PMF achieved)? That’s not a question that we ask ourselves. That’s more of a thing that others are defining that apka yeh product market fit ho gaya (you have achieved PMF).
SP: Very well put.
NA: We drive numbers and the outcome of that is a product market fit that has happened with us. We work on the core principles that people are good. Yes. Do people want good things for themselves? Yes. Do people have good intentions about themselves? Yes. Then how do you identify the window through which he can become vulnerable, and nudge him to go do certain things to get there? We are completely number-driven, and insight-driven. We speak to consumers in a disturbing way. So, we have a user search team. So we decide that this cohort is what we want to understand more now. And we give the dashboard access to user search teams. The moment someone comes into the cohort immediately they call. I assume you went and bought ₹100 gold right now in a certain way, so you qualify for that cohort and immediately the user search team calls you, and talks to you to understand what you were going through and what you were thinking of doing it? Why did you click on this button? And we don’t call from, it’s not like a toll free number is used to call or it goes out from a verified Jar account. It’s Akash calling, it’s Nishchay calling. And when he picks up the phone will not say, “Thanks for using Jar.” It’s like, “Hey! I am Nishchay. I work with Jar as product manager here.” I’m this and that. And mujhe sirf ek question puchna tha, apne yeh kyun kiya? Kya soch rahe the? (I have one question to ask: why did you take this action? What were you thinking?) That gives us a lot of insights.
SP: Fascinating, yeah. It is actually interesting. So this way you call them, I really found that interesting. Just want to go back a little bit. When you launched, how did you acquire the first thousand to 5000 users? And related to that I have a question on GTM. But just the first 5000 users, like how did you kind of get them?
NA: See we did multiple things. One of the things I did was – I have a good following on LinkedIn. I went and posted a LinkedIn post that hey I’m looking to hire marketing interns only in Tier 2 towns, Tier 1 guys don’t ping me. I put in a Google sheet and Google Form. Like I got a crazy number of, 700 plus leads through that. Then I put a guy and he had to talk to all these guys through WhatsApp and send out instructions that you need to create a WhatsApp group in your hometown with all your friends and family, and have the guy who runs a kirana store at your locality, and this, this. We gave them 7-8 profiles so that we can think clearly and create a WhatsApp group and have one of our guys in the WhatsApp group. And we started nudging and slowly talking about how from the childhood days we used to have this earthen pot as a Gullak in which we used to save. Now times have changed, everything is digital and we are not saving anything and all of those things. Don’t worry now here is a product which will let you save. We created content in Vernacular, and we started distributing this through all this WhatsApp channels.
SP: Vernacular meaning Hindi, Kannada?
NA: All vernacular languages Hindi Telugu Tamil Malayalam Kannada and all of those languages. Other than that we did a lot of other things. We partnered with the working women organisation, we partnered with Bania, Agarwal, Gupta, Shetty, and all of those communities, which are there. We partnered with kitty party communities and all of those things. Those things also gave us amazing early day traction. At the end of the day we knew that this is a push product, this is not a pull product. So, we came up with a completely new way of doing digital marketing for this particular product, and we knew that we had to create some sort of an aura around the brand at different levels for different audience. For Twitter audience we came up with a different marketing strategy. The content that is produced for Twitter audience is completely different from the content that we produce to acquire consumers from a tier-2 town. We had different strategies for different audiences and we went with razor sharp focus with each one of the audience and we were able to bring out.
SP: Great. Now, a query around metrics. At this stage, very early stage, what are the metrics that you’re tracking? I know you mentioned you are data-obsessed at Jar but you cannot think of 5000 pages of data as the CEO. As a CEO you really think of 6-7 mota mota (broad brush) metrics say brand health etc. What were those 5-7-10 metrics?
NA: Sadly, that’s not true for us. We have for example I will just show you (Sajith: shows briefly the detailed dashboard on the video call), we go insane in terms of data. There are so many things that we measure on an insane level, on a daily basis in a 20-minute window, So we do this and we have a lot of other key metrics, and all of those things we measure. I mean metrics will fall into four pillars. Sign up to the first transaction, sign up to autopay, month on month, and what is the total app time? So everything we do should fall into these matrices. Every effort that you put in should actually push any one of these four metrics.
SP: Sign up to the first transaction, sign up to auto pay, auto pay is a big one, which is the third and fourth?
NA: Month on month for manual user who doesn’t auto pay, month to how many, how many times does he invest? And finally, what is the total app time? How much time is he spending on the app? So, these are the four high level metrics that we chase and everything that you do should either go into one of these.
SP: Everything should drive one of these upward. Ok.
NA: Yes, yes, and you get 10-15% free time where you can experiment something, something really radically different.
SP: This is interesting. So a few things, now a little generic, we have 20 minutes more, a little more generic. What are the areas where you feel founders get things wrong, say with respect to GTM, with respect to customer acquisition, etc. Where you see that founders get things wrong, I am talking generically, not just about Jar but anything on your mind.
NA: One of the things I personally see which we ourselves did in the past and I can clearly see Jar wouldn’t have been where it is today if I had not had that similar experience with Bounce for seven years. We shy away from dreaming big. That is one thing. Second thing is. We need to have a razor sharp focus on one thing. You don’t have to build everything yourself in the house. You can latch onto the lot of services from the external world, and slowly internalise them as you move forward. Another thing that I see is people are not shameless. You have to be more shameless for sure. You should ask, you should seek out for more help. And we do that. We seek help from everyone, including our investors, angels, friends, and everyone. We should seek out help.
Also, don’t think that you thought of this amazing idea and no one is thinking about it. There’s no novelty to any idea. There would be thousands of people who would have thought about this in the past, and there would be thousands of people who will think about it in the future. The only differentiating factor is, how do you go about executing it? And how do you go about selling it?
SP: No, this is interesting. Some of these I am going to remember. Let us go back to a couple questions.
NA: The last one is that your product, marketing and funding, they don’t have to go in sync.
SP: Okay, how do you spend more on marketing if you have not raised funding?
NA: No, in the sense that you can’t tell that if I fix this a certain way at a certain scale, only then I will spend. Once you spend and get a certain number of users only then I will go and raise money.
SP: Got it. These timelines are artificial in our heads, some of these timelines.
NA: You should not be rigid about these things. You should be married to the problem and not to the solution. It’s quite often we romanticize about what we came up with.
SP: Got it. Yeah, I want to go back to a couple of questions. One was about churn. How do you guys think about churn? Is there a particular number that worries you? Do you have a fixed number that you get worried about? And how do you think about churn and retention? Wanted your thoughts on that.
NA: Churn can happen at, for various reasons, right? One is that the user doesn’t trust you. User doesn’t believe in the value proposition that you’re giving to him. The third is that he is just a lousy guy. He is lazy. It is as simple as that. He doesn’t want to do. You’re asking him to do way too many things. So, you need to first, if someone is going out of the system, can you identify a pattern and figure out which bucket is he falling into. And continuously put effort to improve that metric. User shouldn’t leave you because he doesn’t trust you. User should not leave you because he doesn’t see the value proposition of what you are building. How to stay relevant? That is how we look at your churn. I mean churn will happen for everyone for various reasons. You need to fix your marketing to manage churn. You need to fix your top of the funnel to manage churn. You need to fix your tech bandwidth, tech capabilities to manage churn. Your communication should be top class, the copy in the product should be top class. Finally, user may not understand a lot of things that you’re trying to tell him. Like I said, I feel sad every time I see a big billboard from a bank which says 6.54% interest rate on home loans, which no one knows what it means. It should simply say that one crore home will cost you about ₹50,000 per month in EMI.
NA: Very simple.
SP: Yeah, you’re explaining the language in terms of your product feature, not what it means to the user.
NA: Identifying the churn, bucketing them that he is going out and working on it and fixing it and moving that number is what we do constantly.
SP: There is one question about CAC. Okay. Have you historically seen your CAC coming down? Because that is one criteria for PMF as well. Overall, your CAC keeps coming down. Have you seen anything?
NA: Yes, we have seen, if I compare to what we were clocking six months from now, we’re at one-third, one-fourth of the cost, and the quality of the users is also much significantly higher.
SP: What does that mean in terms of more people going into one of the four buckets?
NA: Yeah. Intent. Signing up to the first transaction to autopay to achieve certain milestones in a certain given window time, trying to have a certain number of transactions, a certain number of savings done, all of those things, the quality is going up everyday, and it is the outcome of multiple efforts. One, we did a TV commercial with brand ambassadors like Nana Patekar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Prakash Rai and all these things. This elevated the overall trust. This gave us some credibility. Bada Company hai. Paisa lekar nahi bhaag jayenge. (Jar is a big co; they are not going to run away with my money). Second thing is we showed the value prop very clean and clear, that it is all about savings. And then the tech part also. We went through scale which we have never seen in the past. We are literally a 14 month-old platform. And we recently closed 200,000 UPI transactions per day. I have never seen this kind of scale to be very honest. Building systems at that scale, even 1% impact is like two thousand users getting impacted, 1000 people pinging your customer care team asking that my transaction failed, my money is gone, I have not received, money is not credited to my account yet this, that, that. So we need to be very careful and the team is amazing through which we built. So everything came together to bring the CAC down. It is not just that, PMF ho gaya is liye (because of PMF, CAC came down). You might have a PMF, like the user sees absolute value in what you are building. But it’s about your tech capabilities, whether it’s about your marketing capabilities, whether it’s about communication capabilities, post service, everything matters. You have to nail a lot of things. If you have watched this movie The Founder…
SP: McDonald’s one.
NA: Ya, people watch and take inspiration in so many different ways from that movies, right? But for me, that movie has the best sound design in recent history.
SP: Sound design? Okay.
NA: If you are watching you can just take a clip from YouTube and watch. You will see when the first time Ray Croc goes to the McDonald’s, that stand, he buys the bag of burger, chips and Coke. And comes back and sits on the bench, and he places that bag of burger on the side and coke bottle on the side. The sound of that very, that very moment, the background noise in the background music to the noise of that bag being placed on the bench is so sweet that it feels like he’s in the right place. And he’s doing the right thing.
SP: Interesting. I never thought of this.
NA: That psychologically impacts you and gives you the feeling that now is that moment of change.
SP: Got it. It’s really interesting.
NA: Experience has to come into the product at every level. Only then you go achieve your PMF on all of those.
SP: Got it. Yeah, lots of stuff coming together. Yeah, yeah, last 10 minutes, so I don’t think we need all 10 minutes, but very quickly, and you are free to share additional thoughts as well. But very quickly I want to get your sense. Are there specific learning materials, reading materials you recommend on PMF, etc? Or anything related to this phase of getting from zero to one, nailing down the business model. Do you recommend anything? Was anything particularly useful to you? Did you speak to some advisor, etc? Anything on your mind?
NA: I do read. I read from fiction to nonfiction, comics to everything. My favorite habit, my favorite pastime is reading Calvin and Hobbes. You open, bury yourself into that book, and you don’t know how one hour has passed. And from an advisor standpoint, we have a good number of advisors, but one thing that I have learnt over the last 7-8 years is that it doesn’t matter how many advisors you have. Listen to everyone. Take advice from everyone. You may choose to act on one of the advice, but the moment you choose it’s your decision. Yeah, you have to own that decision. And only you know what you are going through. It’s okay to be wrong.
SP: Yeah I got you.
NA: It’s okay to be wrong. You don’t beat yourself to death if you did something wrong. There are enough examples of it. I don’t know, I’ve been reading a lot since childhood, both fiction and nonfiction, fiction predominantly from comics. Lot of inspiration comes from there knowingly and unknowingly. I tell a lot of stories to my team members even from the books that I had read way early, my childhood days. Now I was talking to the team, and one of the guys was crying that “I came up with this idea and no one is acting on it.” And all of those things. I went to him and said that Archimedes had a problem statement from the king. Figure out if there is any impurity in this crown. He was thinking about it for a very long time, when finally, was getting into the bathtub, the water displacement happened, and then he figured out, it doesn’t matter, the form factor, the volume will be the same. So, if they immerse 5 kg of gold bar and that crown, the water displacement is the same. That means there is no impurity. That was that Eureka moment. He got so excited, he get out of the bathtub and starts running towards the palace, the king shouting “Eureka!” He was at an elevated Eureka moment, but the rest of the people, market people, were thinking that Archimedes pagal ho gaya, nanga hokar bhag raha hai (has gone crazy; he is running naked). Don’t be that Archimedes. You need to figure out how to construct this, and package it and sell it to the rest of the team. These stories, lot of things that I learnt over lot of years, like there is no one book which changed me forever. Lot of books you read today, which to me doesn’t make any sense to you today, becomes the gospel’s truth after 2 years.
NA: Like Satya Nadella. If you look at ‘Hit Refresh’. The way he talks about empathy is like mind blowing. And his empathy came from his son’s suffering. Everything, if you take ‘The Upstarts’, if you take ‘Actionable Gamification’, if you take ‘Tiny Habits’, if you take ‘Atomic Habits’, so many things, even ‘Shoe Dog’, these blow your mind in a radical kind of way. There are so many books it’s very difficult to pinpoint one book. I am a big fan even of books from Devdutt Pattnaik, to so many things.
SP: Got it. Yeah. Great. Thanks so much Nishchay. I came with a preset set of questions but this was very interesting also hearing you tell the Jar story; the Bounce story was also really interesting, like how the context for Jar emerged. How you saw people not saving anything, how banks are spending a lot of money to acquire customers, so very interesting all of that. So, thanks so much for this. I’m still in the very early days of the book and trying to come up with a framework. So, all of this will be very useful so thanks for this!
January 9, 2023 @ 1:32 am
Fantastic conversation sir,
Love how Nishchay sir gave insight into PMF and how to have fun along with the process.
Thank You for all these great conversations.