Understanding The Market: Lessons from an IEEE Workshop


So you have an idea for a startup. You’ve probably already developed an MVP or minimal viable product and you’re looking to raise awareness about it. This is where your go-to-market strategy comes into play. But how exactly do you enter the market with your product? Well, that’s what we were about to learn.

Organized by the IEEE, the Innovation Nation Sri Lanka  2018 kicked off a few months ago. An 8 part programme, Innovation Nation Sri Lanka 2018 would essentially cover the birth of an idea, to how it’s developed, to marketing it, and then if needed, exiting the market. With a welcome address by Chanaka Hettige – Chair – IEEE INSL, the third Innovation Nation Sri Lanka 2018 Workshop kicked off.

Learning About The Market and its Perspectives

Thilina Fonseka – Co-Founder and Director at Simplex was on stage first. He spoke about the various marketing approaches that a company can take. His topic was about the various ways that a startup can enter the market. He started off by asking the participants if they have thought of why they want to start a business?

From there, Thilina explained about the Inside out market approach. This is where a company believes that building great products and services will attract customers to use their products and services.

Thilina Fonseka – Co-Founder and Director at Simplex talking to the audience

With this approach, Thilina explained that you need to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Following that, you need to think about costs and revenue. You also need to think about profitability. If you’re here to make money, you need to know how to make money.

Last but not least, you need to think about investments as well. You need to know the market you’re catering to and how to make the best use of it. Tesla is a good example of this. They don’t think about what customer need. They went ahead and made an electric car and identified renewable energy as a potential source of income.

The outside-in market approach is the complete opposite of this. This is driven by the idea that creating value for customers is the way forward. Thilina explained that the things to look at here are the opportunities to market your product. Once again you would need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the market.

Thilina continuing his session

In addition, you also need to make note of your competition. They may not be offering the same product or service you are, but they might be innovating and disrupting the current system in a way that your services could no longer be needed. Obviously, you would also need to be aware of the latest trends in the market and also the profitability of these ideas as well.

In conclusion, Thilina explained that a startup should focus on improving their weaknesses and develop a strong and competitive unique selling point. Further, they should also have a fully functional business model. TO gain that extra edge, startups should always strive to be innovative and disruptive in anything that they do.

What is VUCA and why is it important?

Shafraz Saleem was the second speaker for the Innovation Nation Sri Lanka 2018 Workshop. He spoke to the audience about VUCA. No, it’s not some sort of war cry. VUCA is actually an acronym. Shafraz explained that our world is VUCA. It’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

Shafraz Saleem – Manager – Strategy – Fonterra talking about VUCA

The world is volatile. A startup always needs to do a market analysis. Things can happen within the blink of an eye. This, in turn, means that the purchasing power of the consumer might be dead and gone even before you realize it. With no one to purchase your product or service, your startup is a failure even before it launched.

The world is volatile (Image Credits: LeapRate)

There’s uncertainty in the air – Uncertainty makes consumers reluctant to experiment or commit to a purchase. By the time you develop your idea and go to the market with it, the entire environment might be completely different. This is especially true for apps that are based on subscriptions.

Human beings are complex creatures. Purchase decisions driven by many considerations due to “Always On” consumers. You are creating products and services for complex beings. So it’s essential to know what’s going on in the world. While you may think your idea is simple and easy to use, it might be complex to your consumers.

A good example of ambiguous marketing (Image Credits; BrockPress)

Things can always be taken in an ambiguous manner. “Brand actions are no longer straightforward”, Shafraz explained. Some of the actions you do today will be approved by some people and rejected by others. “Whatever idea you give; they may like it or not like it. It’s ambiguous” Shafraz added. As such, VUCA requires you to maneuver through the storm, always.

So how do you conquer VUCA?

You do it by being ultra-informed. This means you should know everything about what’s happening around you. By doing that, you can master VUCA and your startup will be ready to face any and all challenges that are thrown at it. From there, Shafraz spoke about the concept of 5Cs.

  • Consumers – These are the people who are going to use your product. You should understand what your customer’s wicked problems are. You need to understand a problem that a customer has and then make a solution for it. Never segment your customers based on demographics. Rather, consider Psychographics. Listen to the unspoken consumer words as well.
  • Category – Your category extends to adjacent substitutes as well. If you’re selling beverages, all beverages are a potential competition for your product. Therefore, you should always be aware of substitutes to your product.
  • Customers – Maximize your presence at your customer locations. Redefine product placement norms In outlets.
  • Competition – If you’re not No. 1, be the opposite of No. 01. While it sounds confusing at first, it’ actually quite simple. If you’re getting into a market with competition, be the opposite of what the leader in the competition is doing. Just do everything in an opposite manner.
  • Country – Identify the merging trends in the country and capitalize on it. Pre-empt potential macroeconomic challenges. Understand national issues.

With the vote of thanks being given, the 3rd Innovation Nation Sri Lanka 2018 Workshop came to an end. Further workshops would happen within the coming weeks. If you are interested in reaching out to the workshop organizers, you can do so by checking out their Facebook page.


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