There have been many exciting updates from Warung Pintar, an Indonesia-based new retail startup backed by the likes of East Ventures and Vertex Ventures. As recent as last week, the company announced the launch of its corporate group Warung Pintar Group.
Ever since its debut in 2018, Warung Pintar has gained the attention of investors and the general public with its unique solutions. The company builds a set of technology platforms to help local mom-and-pop stores (“warung“) digitalise the different aspects of their operations –from payments to warehousing.
Working to empower warungs in the digital era seems to be a major trend in the archipelago this year, as we began to see more startups launching their products and raising funding to support their works in the segment. But as one of the earlier players in the field, we are curious about how the company works to develop the right solutions for their users: warung owners, distributors, and FMCG brands.
In this interview, e27 speaks to Warung Pintar co-founders Agung Bezharie and Harya Putra to understand the product development process in their company.
Users as the centre of our universe
The co-founders begin the interview by stressing that Warung Pintar implements a user-centric approach in developing its products.
“We can either go with designing a sophisticated, highly-detailed product with the longer production process or go with making smaller chunks that we can immediately launch to the customers. There will certainly be a number of trials and errors, but these [errors] will produce insights. We prefer to use this approach,” says Putra.
The co-founders also state that this principle is implemented not only in their product development process but also in the company’s operations in general. It is also a concept that keeps on growing and developing, supported by continuous experiments.
“When we just got started, we did not pay much attention to the complexity of the whole infrastructure and the relationship between each service. But now it has become an obligation,” Bezharie explains. “This also affects how we design and how the organisation operates … If you get back to us next year, there will certainly be changes in how we operate.”
When being asked about how these acquisitions impacted their company structure, Bezharie says that there are certain changes and adjustments that they have to make.
He further explains that the company grouped their team members based on the problems that they aim to solve, instead of the solutions that they intend to build.
“Because they can be a variety of solutions to a problem,” he says.
Once the principles have been settled, the co-founders move on to explain the process that they go through to develop a product, starting with the ideation process. According to them, their products are inspired by many different things from customers feedback, trends in the market, or even existing products.
One thing that Warung Pintar would like to stress about this process is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to every product –and things can get “chaotic” in the process.
“Sometimes we may have a product that we thought was ready to scale, but then the circumstances changed. In the end, we may have to kill or change the direction of the product. So, the product development process does not always go towards one direction,” Bezharie says.
“There is no one system that is applicable for all products. As we scale and grow our business, the complexity also grows, and the challenges also become greater,” he adds.
Bezharie further states that the company stresses the importance of speed in this matter. For example, how soon can the team validate an idea? This aspect is crucial as it determines when the team can evaluate and, eventually, grow the product.
“Even if we do something wrongly, [speed] enables us to move on quicker. The most challenging part is our readiness to move on as we cannot get too emotionally attached to an idea,” he elaborates.
When asked about the projects that the company has managed to complete, Bezharie and Putra give the example of their wholesale platform –launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an example of a product that was developed through a fast-paced ideation and validation process.
“We built this one because we were wondering how to scale faster and bring wholesalers into our ecosystem,” Bezharie says. “Many warung owners preferred to shop from wholesalers as they tend to be more affordable, despite the fact that purchasing from Warung Pintar’s network is already affordable enough. But working with wholesalers is in line with our mission and can help us acquire more warung owner users.”
The team only had five weeks to build the platform. So, Warung Pintar rented an apartment in Surabaya for its team of five members. Within the expected time frame, they managed to complete version 1.0 of the platform.
Bezharie and Putra also tell us about their distribution platform, which is an example of a product that is developed in a longer, more complicated process.
“To design this platform, we collaborate with our distributors. The process involves a few months of discussions to create a blueprint of products that we will work on for the next two years. There are indeed products that are created through this kind of process which involves plenty of high-level discussions and formal expectations,” Putra says.
Warung Pintar also tries to involve the users as early as possible in their testing process.
“We are accustomed to open our laptops [to work] at warungs. [Having users involved in the development process] gives them a strong sense of ownership of the product. They would even show it off to their peers,” Putra points out.
The challenges we all face
The Warung Pintar co-founders close the discussion by pointing a challenge that is faced not only by the company, but also the Indonesian startup ecosystem in general: talent acquisition.
Bezharie stresses that at the moment, there is no clear definition of what a product manager even is in the market.
“We have seen product managers who were once an analyst; there are even those who are fresh graduates. And not all of them are able to code. There is no clear formulation in the market as the roles of product managers vary between startups,” he explains.
“This is why talent building is the hardest aspect of the business. For example, if I were looking for a sales manager, I just have to open LinkedIn and I will have potential candidates with a similar background. They would all have a solid background as there is already an unwritten standard in the industry,” he further elaborates.
Image Credit: Warung Pintar
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