A couple of weeks back, I was invited to conduct the proceedings of AIESEC’s Local Chapter Presidential Elections. The elections are a pretty formal process for a youth organization. But the event took me back to my days in AIESEC. It was beautiful. Anyway, the three Presidential Candidates had a theme around their campaigns, much like general public elections. Each of them were allotted time to take the Local Chapter through their vision and goals, strategies and purpose. The Local chapter could then question the candidate on his/her manifesto and get reasons behind their strategies. Completely fair, formal and transparent process. This is the part I love about AIESEC, a bunch of 20 year olds, having the passion, determination and resolve to believe in changing the world around them. It’s something you don’t see in too many 20 year olds do, that would rather spend their free time sleeping, gossiping or wasting their time.
Apart from my evident love for the organization, there was one discussion that stuck with me. One statement that all candidates brought out in their manifesto – Quality vs Quantity. Even during my time in AIESEC, this topic made for a hot debate between people that believed in growing fast and the people that believed in taking it slow, but doing it right. It always tore our Executive Body (Vice President’s) meetings right down the middle, having reached no conclusion at the end. Do you go after the numbers and not focus on quality? Or, do you take it slow, build a quality product and then scale? Do you grow as fast as you can to gain market share or do you build a great quality product for the small customers and then expand?
I see the same conundrum being faced by Entrepreneurs in the startup world today. Entrepreneurs are faced with this problem of scaling too soon too quickly and build the product simultaneously. It doesn’t matter whether the product is the best, if it’s unique people will pay. They’re told to take as much VC money as they can, keep subsidizing the customer and gain as much market share as they can. What if competition overtakes them. VC’s are to blame for this. Entrepreneurs are expected to do too much too quickly.
My two bits on this is to build for quality for the following reasons:
1. Easier to scale with a strong product foundation. Creates a strong entry barrier in itself
2. Customer Loyalty cannot be bought
3. All rough edges are smoothed at a very early stage
4. Quality service/products will organically drive quantity
I strongly believe that if you build a high quality product, people will buy what you sell. When people buy it and they like it, they do two things: 1. buy again, and; 2. tell others about their experience. But if they buy and don’t like it, they also do two things: 1. never buy again, and; 2. Tell others about their experience. This is the part that spreads like the forest fire. In this case, the only option an entrepreneur has is to build a high quality product and service. Everything else will follow. What’s even better about this strategy, you gain Customer Loyalty. No matter how much money you throw at a customer in the form of discounts, cashbacks etc. you will never earn a customer’s loyalty if you do not provide a great quality service.
Quality will drive growth in Quantity. Quantity always follows great Quality
Sure, we’re all in a race. We’re all here to create a legacy for ourselves. We’re all here to change the world. Can we then do a shoddy job and get away with it? Entrepreneurs have done a great job of understanding a problem area and are trying to solve it. If these entrepreneurs stick to it, create a great experience with that small subset of customers, scale will automatically come with it, without doing much. I often see seasoned entrepreneurs fail at their products because they didn’t care too much about quality. More than a quarter of the startups I’ve seen in this year alone have shut shop. Another quarter have already pivoted thrice over. All of it happened because they weren’t too concerned with quality at a small scale. They all went for the numbers and crashed as they scaled. Today, between Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal, Uber and Ola, MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip, most of us have no loyalty towards any one site/service. We mostly buy from the site that gives us most discount. A small set of people have started finding their loyalties towards one or the other. I personally like Amazon, Uber and Cleartrip because I’ve got great service from them all the time.
Entrepreneurs, if I may give you some advice, may it be this: build for scale but focus on the few and provide a great quality and experience for them. Scale and numbers will automatically follow without having done much.
Let me know your thoughts on the Quality vs Quantity debate. Would love for an opposing view.