Launching your product during challenging times.

Is getting your market basics right, the ultimate hack?

“Don’t find customers for your product, find a product for your customers.”

                                                                                                  -Seth Godin 

It is absolutely true that COVID-19 has brought the economy to a standstill and all of us, entrepreneurs have similar anxieties about getting our products out in the market. We are amidst unprecedented times, with a lack of adequate exposure to survive and thrive through this period of crisis. 

Headstart organized a workshop for all the budding entrepreneurs in the network. The workshop was hands-on and gave the audience a chance to learn and get answers to all their queries from the very best in the industry – Vani Gupta Dandia

Vani Gupta Dandia is the founder of CherryPeachPlum Growth Consulting. She had been listed as the “Top 10 Hottest Entrepreneurs” by Business Today. Vani was behind the new product launches at Unilever and Pepsico. She is known to be the “Kurkure Girl”, for being the driving force behind Kurkure’s roaring success, at Pepsico. It was no less than an honor to host Vani for this tremendously rewarding session, where she was the guest speaker. 

First and foremost, it is important to understand how these times of COVID-19 are different as compared to normal times. All of us are short on resources but are at the same time desperate to make our product a huge hit in the market. Here is what makes these times different – 


  • Be More Frugal – There are fewer resources at hand and it’s important to save on costs.
  • Customer BaseThere is a need to narrow down the audience in order to build big. 
  • Scream Louder Get their attention and make them realize that you have a solution to a problem that they may be facing. 
  • Think SmarterTake advantage of the existing opportunities, be creative and unique. 
  • Be EmpatheticPut yourself in the shoes of the consumer and then go ahead with creation and creativity.


Vani follows a simple motto – When times are tough, go back to basics. While she assures that it will work for every entrepreneur, it is important to understand what those basics comprise of. We always have the basics to go back to, get them right, and then use them to succeed in our startups. 

Defining the market and getting to know your competition is the first basic. You need to assess the scale of the market in order to get profitability right from Day 1. There is nothing wrong with having a small business and then gradually moving your way up. Focus on the problem and the 4 main questions – What is the immediate competition? Why is the product needed? When is the product most relevant? Where do you wish to occupy and target customers? Find solutions to these questions and you are ready to launch your product!

Figuring out your consumer base is the next step. Come up with a target audience, the people who the product will be useful for. Core consumers are the most important ones since they are the ones the product is designed for. Factors like Geography, Demography, Psychography, and Behavior need to be kept in mind to build an ideal consumer profile. For equity building, it is not only important to communicate your USP but also other features that may increase the value. 

Your product needs to solve a problem that the consumers face. The solutions need to be relevant to the consumers, making sure it drives them to purchase the product. While there may be many peripheral benefits, figure out one core benefit that you offer. In other words, Start Thinking Outside In, not Inside Out! 

Vision, Mission, and Brand Purpose are three terms that will help you stay sorted and on top. Vision refers to Where you want to go and what your ultimate goal is. Mission on the other hand, refers to How you will get there and what your plan of action is. Finally, the Brand Purpose refers to why you exist and if your product can solve any prevailing problem existing in society.  However, if you do not know the answers to these terms yet, it is absolutely okay. 

Brand purpose is the fifth basic that the majority of entrepreneurs often neglect. It refers to consumer insights and is of high importance in business. Insights are the why behind the observations and can be in the form of opinions, reviews, feedbacks, etc. Articulate these inputs and get the proposition right before you enter the market. 

Finally, the brand wheel is last in the list of basics. It collectively refers to analyzing and collating the target audience, defining the market, the benefits of the product, tone of voice, values, USP, and the environment. 

Once your basics are clear and in place, all you have to do in the words of Vani is, Go Wild! What that means is to go out in the world and get your product noticed, even if you have to go overboard with outreach. Make sure that outreach in these tough times is taken care of through zero cost since saving is essential. 

Thought Leadership is another tip that may help in COVID times. Build content on subjects that are relevant to the target audience. You can build super fans, a small nucleus of people who love your product. Pamper them to increase your scales and make an attempt to get recorded testimonials for increased advertising.

Moving on, Vani gave the audience a chance to collaborate and share any challenges that they may be facing with launching their own product. It was a great way to harness the power of the group and jot down ideas of what would work for the budding entrepreneurs attending the workshop. 

What if we cannot find answers to all the When, Where, Why, and What? 

While it may be difficult to define and find an answer to all the Ws, what is important is to look from the consumer’s lens. Sometimes, you do not have to necessarily find an answer to all the 4. However, having a response to Why you want to get the product out in the market may be the most essential. 

While figuring out the consumer base, what is the best way to find out the Psychographics? 

According to Vani, there is no short cut and you have got to do the hard work. The best ways to uncover insights are to go out and observe customers in shops, read reviews on social media, and talk to shopkeepers. Your own research should never come to a stop. 

What should you do when your end consumer is not your customer? 

Here is where creative thinking comes into the picture. Think about what the big companies cannot do – personalization, customization, bringing about a change. Make that an opportunity for your business and enter the consumer’s consideration frame. Once you are a part of the consideration, you know you are doing things right. 

How to acquire the first few set of customers when you have just begun with the business? 

The first step, according to Vani is to test a concept in small geography where you are present yourself. Be efficient and pick an element of the industry that you can ace and stand out from all your competitors. Customer service is important since the first few customers shape the business. Reach out to your immediate network and take their help in expanding your reach within your target audience. 

If you have a business that requires traveling, what is the best way to reach out and retain customers during COVID times?

There is no other way but to nurture as well as invest in relationships during tough times. You can pitch about a specific problem that needs a solution and provide heavy facts and figures to increase trust. Answer questions from the consumer’s point of view and provide a constant supply of information. Look at yourself as a content-driven company and use tools like newsletters, videos, emails, etc. While there are restrictions on traveling, a flow of content and knowledge to the existing set of customers will only help them stay intact and spread word of mouth. 

If you are starting from scratch, what is the best way to build an online community and get increased interaction? 

Start building a community right now and offer the customers whatever will be of value to them. Provide users with comfort and confidence. Use your network, tie up, and invite some experts. Convince the first set of people about your credibility and quality; let word of mouth do the rest of the work. Gather resources on community building. Most importantly, focus on quality and not quantity. 

If I am only a startup, what channels should I use to reach a wider scale? 

Vani says, Small is Nimble. If you are just starting out, you do not have to worry too much about expanding. The first priority should be to succeed in the territory you are currently operating in. Gradually, expand little by little. In simpler words, be a king in the small area and let the customers come to you for your services. 

To put it all into perspective, Vani gave some very practical insights and professional tips on launching the product during COVID times. A one on one talk with the budding entrepreneurs in the audience was a huge hit. Moreover, the techniques discussed were no less than real-time expertise. The workshop was super interactive and one that will surely be remembered by everyone who was a part of it!

Contributed by –

Anoushka Chopra

A Volunteer at Headstart.