How to identify new business opportunities in 2 weeks – Lessons from lockdown

Crayon’s core value proposition for maya.ai is to create personalized lifestyle experiences. Be it in dining, retail or travel, we had it all covered. Until Covid-19 changed the world. Worldwide dining and travel came to a standstill. Brick-and-mortar shopping now feels like a distant past, with all non-essential retail shifting online.  

From industry reports and our clients in the US, Middle East and India, we observed a 20 to 30% decline in overall spending. With discretionary spends in travel (-90%), lodging (-80%) and apparel (-70%), these industries  are the worst hit. Consumer lifestyles have clearly changed. Which meant that we needed a way to make maya.ai #StayRelevant to our clients.  

At the same time, business priorities have also shifted. Our clients placed more pressing business continuity issues over lifestyle personalization and came to us with a set of operational problems. With clients across several geographies, we saw a common theme emerging. That’s when we had a lightbulb moment! In today’s story, I sit down with Pratyush Roy, who heads customer success (CS) at Crayon Data, and Akshaya Sreedhar, CS team lead, to understand how we identified new business opportunities to #StayRelevant  to our clients amidst this crisis. 

Four quick ways to identify more business opportunities

  1. Look inside – find a common denominator
  2. Look outside – validate the opportunity
  3. Put it together – scaling our solution to solve various problems
  4. Taking this to market

Look inside – find a common denominator

Covid-19 forced companies to go into business continuity planning (BCP) mode almost immediately. For different industries, it meant different things. Crayon’s mainstay clients in the banking and financial services have strict BCP policies to adhere to. But many of them operate legacy systems that are on-premise with multiple data sources scattered over various systems. With new curveballs coming at them every day due to the pandemic, banks had to stay on top of their game. They needed to keep track of the status of all their employees and physical branches. Multiple data sources and formats made it challenging for them to update information on employee health, and branch logistics and operations in real time.  

That’s when one of our largest clients in Myanmar came to us for help. Crayon turned around and delivered a solution for them to track their BCP operations within 72 hours. Not long after they approached us, another client spoke of a similar problem. This client needed us to track different and more metrics than the last. And they needed a solution fast. In fact, they gave us only 24 hours to turnaround a minimum viable product (MVP) for them. Additionally, they wanted to go beyond branch operations to understand how working from home has affected their productivity. To this end, we developed a collaboration module for them.   

With the perspective of these two banks, we hypothesized that their problems were not unique to them. Virtually every bank or enterprise out there, who is customer-facing and has physical locations, would have to tackle similar issues to ensure business continuity. We turned to external sources to further validate this opportunity.  

Look outside – validate the opportunity

Industry leaders such as Salesforce, ServiceNow, and HubSpot have all launched their own versions of a Covid-19 solution. The kind of services they offer though, range from an entire product suite dedicated to solving BCP issues, to resources such as blogs and handbooks on how to navigate these murky waters. Therefore, we knew that there is a market for BCP-related products. However, enterprises who are digitized and have sufficient infrastructure and resources could easily develop similar tools to tide themselves over this period. To come up with a product to satisfy a nascent need, we had to be more flexible. We needed to be faster to deploy, more affordable and be better than what a bank could do with in-house teams 

Put it together – scaling our solution to solve various problems

When designing the product specifications, we put in a place two principles to shorten our typical 3 to 6 months sales cycle: 

  1. Minimize dependencies on external data as far as possible 

  2. Standardize data flows  

The bottom line was: keep things simple. These principles ensure that deals move along faster without lengthy conversations with the customer’s IT security and legal teams. This was a time-sensitive product that needed to be procured as quickly as it could be deployed. With these principles, we designed a straightforward solution for our clients —  the COVID BCP dashboard , the first module in maya.ai’s brand new Operations Studio.  

We developed a web-based, online-form interface, which standardized data flows. This reduced the time to process data and reduced overall complexity. The form-filling interface is very easy to customize. Fields can be added or removed, which allows us to meet the demands of different customers. Standardized input of data also meant that visualization on a dashboard was simpler. Lastly, we built it on scalable architecture, which meets the load of a bank of any size.  

This solution was deployed for our client in Myanmar, for over 15,000 employees and close to 500 bank branches. The entire process from development to deployment took less than 72 hours. Since then, we have also onboarded over 76,000 employees from the Retailers Association of India for employee tracking.  

Today, a new business line, maya.ai’s Operations Studio has been born out of our speedy responses in creating new BCP-related solutions.  

Taking this to market

At Crayon we frequently practice ‘outside-in’ thinking, where we look to the outside world for inspiration to solve our challenges. But more often than not, looking within, reveals opportunities that are closer to home, easier and faster to capitalize on 

launch a product remotely

All client conversations and subsequent product development mentioned in this article took place over a span of two weeks. The obvious next step was to take this product to market. Which we did in nine days (the weekend included of course!) – another story worthy of a blog in itself. Stay tuned to the next post to find out how we devised and put into motion a go-to-market (GTM) plan, in nine days flat. 

Until then, we hope you are introspecting, to identify new needs for your business that you may have overlooked.  

Looking to launch a product remotely? Read our previous blog to learn how.

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About Lee Hwee Teo

Lee Hwee is an AI and urban planning enthusiast from Singapore. She is fascinated by all-things technology, cities, geography and communication. And she loves a good story.
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