A Dropout’s One Year as Product Owner.

Alankar Sudarsan
7 min readMar 25, 2020
I’m Alankar Sudarsan and I partner with startups & E-commerce to bring Traffic, Leads and Sales.

Uh! hey Alan! For this Q1. What is the metric we are focusing on?

  • Tomorrow I need a new business model on my table.
  • Alan. I see there is a miscommunication between the release date. Can you please drop by and help to solve it?
  • I don’t understand how the system architecture works. Need to Discuss.
  • Is the product pricing ready for “Advanced Users”
  • Where is the go-to-market strategy?
  • Hey There! I’m a happy customer. Thought of dropping by to say I loved the experience of using your application. It is flawless.
  • Hi Alan, the product document for building feature is easy to consume.
  • and it goes on…

Life as a PM isn’t easy unless you “Eat, Sleep & Build” Patience, Problem-solving, Communication, Creative, etc.. and whatnot. Building strategy, Answering emails, research, communicating with the team and with user queries. Boy! it is a spin of a role.

As a matter of fact. It wasn’t hard for me. Since I was waiting for this day to happen. Else, I would have exhausted in the first few weeks.

All I want is to build value in market!

I started my career as a Designer with 1.6K INR/month as a Paycheck. Fast forward in 8 years. A Software Product Owner.

“Not bad for a dropout. Who knew or I never Imagined “ One day I’ll be a Product Owner and build a Software for Decathlon.”

A Rookie Got A Title Shot

It was midday in August. I didn’t have a job, I was writing in Medium and third blog I guess. Mobile was ringing. I saw the call was from my close friend. I picked and he shares that he is looking for a PM. I replied I can take this up If you think I can. I owe to my friend, mentor. Because without a single question or an Interview, he hired me for the role of PO.

I was hired as a PO. The first title shot!

The day I woke up and realized I have a million-dollar project to build. Meanwhile, I spent the first month studying the culture of Decathlon, best practices, how the business works, people behind the curtain, market. Thanks to my close friend and a colleague, who believed in a Delivery guy who can build a Software.

All I have to find a key to unlock the treasure. I was searching for my purpose. I knew but not exactly. When I stepped up as PO. I decided to follow three core principles.

“Objective is great than Subjective.”

“Growth, Experience and Performance are Key to a Product.”

“Take Decisions with Data Informed.”

I have to step up each and every single time to defend the user and what is right. Some might love, some might inspire, some might hate. End of the day, It is my responsibility to put a smile in the face of the user when he uses Play by Decathlon.”

Starting from research to release in the Market. Every single step has to be addressed. A behavior of PO might change the objective of a team, an individual and in product outcome. It is a psychological war I would say. I was ready for the battle.

After all my objective is to build and solve a real-world problem. At the end of the day, it is fun to play the game.

A Product Owner should be ready to battle as a Solider to Lead a troop.

An MVP version of Play was live with minimal technology built-in. There were rounds of discussion on “what is next” “How to take it forward” “What to build”. On top of all, we need a team. A team that would go to an extent to deliver things, build stuff.

Namma Bengaluru

Finally, we hired a team of 8 and moved to the Bengaluru office. Thankfully the team was young, curious and energetic to go to an extent to get things right and done.

We got the Team, We have a project with huge potential, We have a new Office and we have the New year 2019 about to kick in.

Now What?

The first thing on the first day of the year in 2019, I said “No” to things which aren’t helpful. with a huge challenge and limited go-to-market time. I know where exactly my focus needs to be.

To build a “Social Sports Platform”

Followed by.

  • Build the culture and practice of continuous Innovation + an Experiment driven product development culture. As a Product Owner, I took care of Research & Development, Product Strategy, UX & Growth.
  • Build the process, methods, and tools to make the journey seamless.
  • Lead the Business and Product.

I designed a process and system of delivery for each release. It was a tuff one to understand the individuals and bring them together at the age of the internet. The process is yet to evolve. Most of us hated the process and timings. After all, it was experimentation. But it took us some time to understand the value behind it. Glad it worked.

“The most effective meeting I organised and it was less than 1/2 an hour with decisions taken with 8 individuals.”

On the product side in less than 3months.

  • Rebuilt, re-engineered and built core features.
    Which paved the way in Growth of 5K+ active users within 3months.
    - Identified and classified user roles.
  • Positioned Product as a Social Sports Platform. First of it’s kind for Sport users.
  • Introduced the Loyalty Gamification system honored with Badges for Experts and Decathletes.
  • “As you practice, so the sport you can play.” — Introduced the Sports page. With sports at heart, a sport user can share, learn and collaborate with the sports community.
  • Identified personalities with the dedicated profile page — A profile page will give the info about you and moreover the sports you are expert and interested in. Don’t worry we got your back.
  • Identified the Business and User problem through research. — Validated with qualitative and quantitative results with Minimum Viable prototype conducting user research in Focus groups.
  • Experimented and Identified Product-Market fit. — Research and analyze user behavior and needs. Found the right fit in the market asSocial Sports Platform.”
  • Built the Design & Data culture. — Tested and shared an approach of building with the validated and frozen requirements through the Interactive prototype along with detailed PRD.
    - Reduced communication issues in requirements by 60%.
    - Increased Time of delivery from Concept to Production.
    - Simplified core user-flows and Information Architecture.
  • With Tech -
    - Built an
    Individual Microservice model, No-crash and a seamless experience.
    - Resulted from using Drupal to using Rails, React native, Elastic Search, GCP.
  • Implemented Solution first approach. — Become the owner of what you do, have a voice, debate and come with a solution as a team.
  • Improvised communication within the team x40%

Global Demo:

The cloud server which we were using including the Database, user data is completely wiped off accidentally. That’s 6 months of hard work. With less than two weeks for the Global Demo in Decathlon.

We have nothing to demo. But the individual pages without data. Shattered.”

Within two weeks of time, the team pulled back. The product was back to life. But wait it wasn’t functional. I took care of the team back in India. Two from Dev went to the UK for a Global Demo. It was a decision since the dev support was needed in person.

Next morning we have a demo. Evening, all we had was a static page. Everyone was disappointed. I was about to leave the office. I pulled back and said to myself, I can try my best till morning. If this works, we can go to the Demo. By morning when we as a team did our best.

“The Product was functioning. ”

No wonder the team effort was x200%. Everyone was looking for a Direction and I Directed that night. Was a crucial decision that I took where no one believed that we would cross the line. One person’s energy can be conceived by anyone from the team. All it takes is a push from an individual with an unmatchable spirit.

What after Demo:

Well, the demo saved us. But the game has just begun. The new horizons are waiting for me to take the challenge. It is time to measure and scale up the product and the business. So far the game was tuff and it is going to be more tuff.

The things I learned as PO

Business Strategy, Research & Development, Growth Marketing, E-commerce, Project Management, Leadership, Coaching, Measure and Metrics, Product Pitch, Mini Project — Building Voice Interface for Play(Still in research), Shipping Products and Features on time, Prioritize, Command, Challenge, Business Acumen, How to lead a Effective Meeting, How to run a team, How to run a business, How to build a product, How to channel & moreover how to remain be a HUMAN.

I feel gratitude for the opportunity and people who have helped me to get here. I owe this to my friend. After the demo, inquiries from around the globe poured in my inbox.

“How to build like PLAY?”

“Take a session for the team about the research and development”.

By the end of a year with the tea of 8. Built a “DIGITAL INNOVATION LAB” for Decathlon.

and the Product is live. https://play.decathlon.co.uk/

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Alankar Sudarsan

I help Businesses to Grow and Make Profit | Search Engine Marketer | Owner — www.2minstudio.com | Say: hello2minstudio@gmail.com