Startups in India pivoting new business models in response to Covid-19

Startups in India pivoting new business models in response to Covid-19

Make customers always the KING

If it is a pleasant surprise, humans do not mind the uncertainty but detest uncertainty if the surprise is an unpleasant shock. Mankind views it as a problem and a disadvantage. Let us play the Covid-19 situation that has turned out disastrous to the entire world. We never anticipated nor were we prepared for a calamity of this magnitude. Instead, if the new year 2020 had taken off with a bang where businesses boomed, climates were better, lifestyles cheaper, wealth had increased we humans would had been joyous in our celebrations of life.

The human need for certainty is a survival mechanism. Humans need to feel certainty & control. We need to know what is coming next so that we feel secure. This is basically to experience comfort, avoid pain and stress, and create pleasure. After the Covid-19 people have been looking for products & services that offers them certainty, security & comfort.

What a founder needs to do in this situation is to gauge the behaviour of the consumer during & after Covid-19 so that products & services that provides certainty & comfort in the lives of the users can be delivered. The product or a service that a Start-Up offers should consider the following needs of humans-

  1. Certainty: assurance that the product will not cause pain and will provide pleasure
  2. Variety: the product or service will have added features or changes, or new stimuli that will increase the surprise element & happiness of the user.
  3. Significance: the product or service will address a unique, important, special need that will play a significant role in a person’s life.
  4. Connection, comfort & care: the product or service will build a strong feeling of closeness or union with self, someone else or something.
  5. Growth: the product or service will build an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding of the self or others.
  6. Contribution: it will furthermore create a sense of service and focus on helping, giving and supporting self or others.

Every product cannot fulfil all the above basic needs of a Customer or User, what it can certainly do is find the hidden purpose behind the user behaviour & cater to that Ostensible function or Ulterior function that is expected from a product or service by its users. Start-Up’s should develop their business models focused on their “User Experience” and create a message that resonates with their customers.  Do not forget to ensure that the same positive emotion, experience continues post-purchase too. Never let the product or service create a negative feeling, thought, emotion or reaction from the customers.

Build a real value and enjoyment that will be felt by the consumers through the help of the placebo effect. Keep in mind that users refuse to use products & services that refuse to take their needs into consideration.  The Placebo effect that is used should manifest real thoughts and physical symptoms that support the idea that the products are indeed benefiting consumers. Research, understand, analyse & manage the consumer’s expectations.

Classical Conditioning & expectations play primary role in the placebo effect process. Neurological results occur because of the placebo effect. Removing the worry & the fear factor for the consumer should be the motto of placebo effect. The combination of the person’s past experiences (conditioning) and the expectations of getting/feeling better (these expectations cause attitude and behaviour changes) act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The placebo effect is not a deception but a product of expectation. Humans anticipate outcomes, and anticipation produces these outcomes. The placebo acts as if it was the brain that was indeed producing its own desired outcomes. Studies have found that peoplesee, hear, taste, touch, and smell what they expect to.

If Start-up’s caters to the basic needs of a consumer it is better that price is not placed above the competitors. What can be done is bring in the placebo effect to your product or service that makes the user feel psychologically better. There is always someone who would be willing to price their product cheaper. Discounts and price slashes will seem like a good solution to increase short-term sales but will hurt the sales in the long-term, as people will assume, they are of lower quality.  If the Start-Up is a want, desire-based luxury product or service do not sell it at cheaper price. Luxury products should concentrate on building brand values that offers immense emotional, physical, or psychological benefits for the users.

Consumers are aware of how the products that they currently use fulfil their needs. But when something new, relevant with additional benefit(s) to the present scenario is introduced they do not know how these new solutions would fulfil their expectations. Identify the main goal that drives people’s behaviour when developing a placebo effect or added features or value to the product or service. Determine how these would fulfil expectations & provide satisfaction in people’s lives. To understand user motive(s), it is of utmost importance to ask What and Who questions to know people’s expectations towards new solutions.

Start-Up’s should use this time to nurture a research culture within their organisation. Do not ask the user the question of “WHY” too soon. It is not the customers job to explain “WHY”, it is our job to UNDERSTAND “why?” Instead of asking- WHY do you order medicines online? Ask
“WHAT happened in your life before you order medicines?
Try to analyse & understand “WHAT” works for & against when buying medicines online? “WHO are you with when you buy medicines online?”  & “WHO do you consult for advice?” It is always better to have a greater understanding of the user experience & not just settle for SUX (Some User Experience). Eye wash in the name of research to enrich user experience will not do any good for both the business & the users. Remember that if the user is having a problem in using a product or service, it is not his problem it is the business that has FAILED to satisfy & solve the user’s problem.

The existing Start-Up’s already know what consumer need their product or service satisfies & the user problem that it solves. At present, NOW, is the time to research & find out how one’s product or service can make them feel better. It is of paramount importance that Start-Up’s do not think on finding consumers for their products & services instead of providing products or services that the users want. Let the CTA of your product or service be brief, concise & direct that focuses on what is important for the user that convinces them to act. Sometimes Start-Up’s need to tell their consumers what they should do & also provide them with the motivation & drive to do so. It is not about SELLING the wares but making them see the DIFFERENCE that the product or service will bring in to lives.

In a nutshell Start-Up’s need to focus on these 5 important elements

  1. Reach out– just be there for the customers. Stay in touch, understand their fears, needs, problems and more importantly the opportunities.
  2. Respond– do what can be done. Communicate to them that the changes happening has been recognised and inform them that the product and service will make every effort to better their lives.
  3. Refocus – based on the inputs from the users, develop products that creates a sense of confidence, security & comfort in these testing times.
  4. Remodel – business models must be rethought & reworked (Pivoted) considering the sensitive nature of changing user needs, attitude & behaviour. Also validate the micro and macro-economic and social perspectives in the business model.
  5. Reassure – let the product & service be valuable, usable, useful, desirable, accessible & credible. By providing MORE THAN what the users want we build trust & loyalty thereby reassuring the customers that we are ALWAYS there to better their lives.




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