8 Steps to Foster a Successful Product Development – Karim Khattar, CEO at Eqwal and Money

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The right product can launch a business but it takes a series of careful steps and planning to ensure a product can secure the longevity of business. How far should businesses go towards testing a product? What are the margins of failure allowed? 

Karim Khattar has made a career out of problem-solving based on insights gleaned from data analysis and consumer trends. He shares his methodology and point of view on the extent businesses should go to test a product and why failure, is not always bad for business.

  1. Karim Khattar’s Career Development
  2. Understanding How Data Can Unlock Business Solutions
  3. Knowing your Customers Pays Well For Business
  4. Eight Ways to Approach Product Development
  5. The Value of Having Outstanding Communication Channels
  6. Knowing When the Failure can be Beneficial
  7. Lesson Learned

Karim Khattar’s Career Development

Karim’s CV boasts a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering, a Master’s in Mathematics from the Université de Montreal, and an MBA from the University of Navarra’s IESE Business School.

Career-wise, he’s worked as a Consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, a Senior Associate for Delta Partners, and Vice President for Citi Bank.

In 2015, he moved to Saudi Arabia to become the General Manager of Uber before moving over to Fetchr to work as their Chief Product Officer.

Finally, in January 2018, he took up his current role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Eqwal and Money.

Eqwal is a B2B2C SaaS micro-service provider. It allows businesses to access a turnkey solution to deploy many lending solutions: customer acquisition, a credit assessment: customer acquisition, customer communications, insights, collections, etc.

We caught up with Karim to explore his approach to product development and dive into why ‘fail fast’ is harder in some industries than others.

Understanding How Data Can Unlock Business Solutions

With a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics (specialising in Artificial Intelligence), I have always been very comfortable dealing with large numbers and datasets.

I enjoy being a CEO because it’s great to leverage my breadth of business experience and put it to good use. I’m also very passionate about technology, product, business, and data, which my current role encompasses all of these areas.

I’m also lucky to have the ability to draw on some truly fascinating experiences throughout my career. For instance, when I was Chief Product Officer (CPO) at Fetchr, I was dedicated to problem-solving and constantly thinking about our clients’ problems and their clients’ obstacles.

I had to do a massive deep dive into data and constantly communicate with the business intelligence (BI) team to ensure keeping up-to-speed with the latest developments.

I was very aware of the influence of regulation trends. For example, what are the trends that will impact our customers? How can we keep ahead of the curve?

I think my time at Fetchr has honed me on the importance of problem-solving. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s fantastic if you’re constantly trying to make your customers’ problems go away, but it’s also quite a burden to always see problems wherever you go!

My time as a consultant was eye-opening for getting an inside view into how companies operate. I assessed what strategy is, how and why people behave within a company, and how companies make money.

Working at Citi provided me with the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Financial Officer’s (CFO) perspective. My time at Uber and Fetchr also showed why products are the key to long-term commercial success.

If you have the right product to solve a specific (and widespread) problem, you’ll do well.

Knowing your Customers Pays Well For Business

Our dashboards enable business people to make data-driven decisions and use tangible indicators to understand the past and predict the future.

Every customer is different. You have to acquire them, give them a credit score, dispense the money, and work out a way to collect it when due.

This involves a tonne of data. You have to see the customer’s past behaviour to identify whether they’re low-risk/high-risk (to give them an appropriate interest rate) and analyse their previous history to determine your collections outreach.

Lending is all about insights. If you’re poorly informed, you’ll likely make a mistake. The trick to successfully lending money and recouping what you’re owed is ensuring you’re always kept in the know about your customers.

So far, Equal operates on three different continents, which typically dispense loans of around $500 and have reached over 50,000 customers to date.

Eight Ways to Approach Product Development

Our primary focus is to validate as many assumptions as we can before building a product. It is very challenging since we can’t spend too much time testing hypotheses, and sometimes we have to launch and test.

We follow these process:

1. Deploy

We deploy our solution and tracking tools to understand how end-users are flowing through our customers’ systems. This gives us the base level to improve moving forward.

2. Identify gaps

Once a benchmark standard is established, we begin identifying the most significant potential opportunities for improvement.

3. Interview customers

We try to focus on the people who are most resistant to change and the hardest to satisfy. If we always try to produce solutions to please these customers, everybody else will generally follow suit.

4. Identify best practices

We’re big fans of keeping an eye out on the industry and our competition on how they’re tackling similar challenges. We don’t always need to boast our innovative approach. If another company has a great idea that functions, why shouldn’t we take a leaf out of their book?

5. Prototyping

Once we’ve identified gaps, interviewed customers, and earmarked certain best practices, it’s time to create prototypes and start testing our assumptions.

6. Solutionising

We want to see how consumers respond to our proposed solutions before we go ahead and roll them out en masse. This requires the courage to set out prototypes free and catch consumers’ reactions.

7. A/B testing

When making big changes, we deploy different versions of the final solution to measure jumps in conversion. We want to introduce the solution with the largest impact possible and not pick a solution with any impact.

8. Optimisation

You’ll rarely get things right the first time around. Even when we roll out a new product or service we think will significantly impact our consumers, we inevitably always find areas further down the line that can be tweaked and improved upon. Optimisation plays a crucial role in ensuring we’re always getting better and never resting on our laurels.

The Value of Having Outstanding Communication Channels

We’ve built our customer communications platform to communicate more effectively with our customers. This is a crucial differentiator for customer experience.

Allow customers to ask questions and open dialogue with your company because finances can be tricky to understand. This way, you can know what they care about, anticipate their needs, and better serve them.

Knowing When the Failure can Be Beneficial

Failure is far easier in less regulated industries. In finance and banking, there’s not much room for error. If you fail, it can have disastrous consequences for individuals, so there’s a lot less leeway to experiment. You can always make tweaks here and there with regards to the customer experience.

It starts with identifying areas for experimentation. Once you earmark these, focus on what the problem is, what your proposed solution looks like, and test if it works.

Lesson Learned

  • There’s a duality to being a constant problem-solver. You’ll always stay up-to-speed with your customer’s issues and start to see problems everywhere you look.
  • In highly regulated industries, you often must validate as many assumptions as possible before you start building and deploying a product.
  • Enabling ongoing customer communication is the most critical thing you can do to transform your customer experience

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