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Nurturing Change: A Journey through the Institute of Product Leadership Product Labs and the Birth of Maa-Suraksha

<b>Mukul Joshi</b>

Mukul Joshi

is a Product Leader and an Alumnus of Exec. MBA in Product Leadership at the Institute of Product Leadership & CMR University. This article is published with the author’s permission and was first published on Medium

Context

Inthe corridors of the Institute of Product Leadership(IPL), a unique course called “Product Labs” reverberates with the energy of innovation and the pursuit of meaningful change. This two-semester journey challenges MBA candidates to conceive, nurture, and launch product ideas that address real-world problems. With a spotlight on understanding the intricate steps of new product development, Product Labs is an incubator of growth, both for ideas and the minds that conceive them. This post summarizes my journey and learnings of Product Labs in IPL.

The Genesis: Ideation

The foundation of every great product begins with an idea, but not all ideas are born equal. The journey started with a humbling lesson:

to truly make an impact, one must narrow down the scope and deeply understand the target audience.

This lesson struck a chord with me as I embarked on my brainstorming session with Prof. SaiSatish, the executive coach of Product Labs. A key takeaway from the initial brainstorming sessions with Prof. Sai emerged:

“narrow the focus and evaluate ideas through the lenses of desirability, feasibility, and viability.”

A news story of a tragic incident involving a pregnant woman struck a deep chord. Drawing from my childhood experiences in the mountainous terrains of Uttarakhand, I realised that addressing the challenges encountered by pregnant women in rural India was not just a problem but a moral imperative.

Weaving the ‘Why’ Behind the Idea

The next challenge lay in answering the quintessential questions:

Why this problem? Why now? Why me?

The answer lay deep-rooted in my connection to Uttarakhand’s mountains and my personal encounters with healthcare challenges. WHO statistics painted a stark picture: A woman dies every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth complicationsThe problem was evident, and the urgency could not be ignored.

source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternal_mortality_in_India#History

The Pitch: Clinic on Wheels for Maternal Health

Armed with conviction and an idea, the next step was the “Bring Your Own Idea” (BYOI) pitch. The ‘Bring Your Own Idea’ (BYOI) pitch session is a defining moment in the Product Labs journey, called an acid test of the ideas where each candidate has to present their idea in front of the cohort, all the coaches and the executive coach, and the idea gets shortlisted based on the votes of the audience. If the idea gets selected, the student gets an opportunity to form a team with other cohort members and work on the idea.

The stage was set to present my vision of “Clinic on Wheels” — a solution to provide comprehensive maternal health care to pregnant women in rural India via a mobile health centre. The concept resonated with the audience, earning a coveted spot in the top 10 ideas out of 30 presented.

The Team: Collaborative Synergy

Product innovation thrives on the interplay of diverse minds and skill sets. My idea attracted a team of passionate individuals, each contributing a unique perspective. Hari Priya (a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm), Vinod (GE Healthcare PM), and Sowmini(idea machine and thinker) joined me under the guidance of Coach Deepak Paramanand, an insightful mentor. Deepak’s profound advice to remain within the problem space and nurture customer empathy became our journey’s guiding principle.

Problem Discovery: Unveiling Realities

The first steps of product development require delving into the problem’s essence. We embarked on a journey to understand the challenges of pregnant women in rural areas. Conversations with gynaecologists, pregnant women, and Asha workers within Bangalore’s healthcare system illuminated the obstacles. Our focus expanded to encompass areas within 50 to 80 km of the city — a microcosm of rural India — allowing us to gather meaningful insights. Our efforts unveiled a pressing issue: the lack of access to regular ultrasound scans for rural pregnant women.

In the subsequent months, we again visited primary health centres (PHCs) and hospitals, conducting interviews with pregnant women and healthcare providers, uncovering the problems of high wait times, long travels, and affordability issues for ultrasound scans. This unveiled the root cause: a shortage of sonographers and restricted scan accessibility, leading to an alarming statistic — 2 out of 100 babies in India are born with congenital disorders, accounting for 27 million babies being born with birth defects yearly.

This led to the birth of a refined problem statement:

How might we build a solution for economically disadvantaged pregnant women to have their ultrasound scan completed in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters so that the growth of the baby is monitored?

The Pursuit of Solution: From Validation to Realization

Problem validation led the team to an ambitious solution — “Maa-Suraksha”, a non-profit endeavour that aimed to provide subsidised ultrasound scans to pregnant women at hospitals near their locations. The original “Clinic on Wheels” idea met regulatory barriers but paved the way for a sustainable model. The model was simple yet impactful:

1. Partnering with private hospitals for subsidised slots.

2. Charging a nominal fee from pregnant women.

3. Covering the rest of the cost through crowd-sourcing or corporate donations.

MAA-Suraksha: MVP

The solution envisioned a process wherein pregnant women would contact us for scanning facilities. Our software system(manually in MVP) would connect them with nearby partner hospitals with open subsidised slots for ultrasound scans, ensuring timely and affordable scans. This solution addressed the root cause of the problem: affordability, accessibility and long wait time — while leveraging technology to bridge the gap. Maa-Suraksha positioning is:

“For pregnant women in lower income strata who are looking for prenatal scans at affordable cost and less wait time, MaaSuraksha provides a digital platform to enable mothers to secure scan appointments at subsidized rates unlike PHCs and private scan centers, our product ensures exclusive appointment slots and specialized prenatal consultations throughout the mother’s 9 month journey”

Validation: From Idea to Impact

Ideas become innovations only when they prove their mettle in the real world. Our journey of validation led us back to the field, collaborating with radiologists, clinics, and hospitals.

Our experiment within two PHCs and 50 flyer distribution yielded promising results: 16 appointment calls within 15 days and a subsequent 40% return rate for a second scan.

We witnessed the solution’s desirability and effectiveness —

MAA-Suraksha has enabled the delivery of 12 healthy babies in three months.

Towards a Brighter Horizon

The journey of Maa-Suraksha doesn’t end here; it’s just begun. As our journey continues, we look forward to scaling MAA-Suraksha, automating processes, and expanding partnerships. The team envisions a future where maternal healthcare reaches the most marginalised, where pregnancy ultrasound scans aren’t a privilege but a right.

In the world of product innovation, the story of MAA-Suraksha exemplifies the potency of collaboration, empathy, and unwavering commitment to a shared purpose. As the future unfolds, we are poised to continue this legacy of impact, guided by the lessons learned within the crucible of Product Labs.

A big thanks to IPL, Prof. Pinkesh Sah, Prof. Sai Sthish, and the entire Product Lab team for crafting an experiential learning journey that has left an indelible mark on all of us. Thank you for empowering us to be change-makers and reminding us that innovation begins with the simple act of doing.

This article is a testament to the author’s journey within the Institute of Product Leadership’s Product Labs, exploring the transformative path from idea conception to innovative impact.

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