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How To Leverage Anchoring Clients to Drive Product Development Success

Srishti Chhabra


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How To Leverage Anchoring Clients to Drive Product Development Success

Srishti Chhabra



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Srishti Chhabra C2FO
Full transcript here

About Srishti Chhabra

Episode 137: In LAB #30, Amardeep Parmar from The BAE HQ, welcomes Srishti Chhabra VP Product - Global at C2FO

The discussion focuses on the significance of understanding and solving client problems through product development and relationship management. Srishti highlights the importance of prioritising customer needs, structuring internal teams around these needs, and the challenges and benefits of a client-focused approach.

Srishti Chhabra


Show Notes

00:00 - Intro 

01:23 - Discussion on defining ideal customer profiles and the shift from product-first to customer-first approaches.

02:30 - Practical examples of solving client problems using technological advantages.

03:17 - The benefits of understanding and prioritizing customer problems.

04:15 - Importance of tailored engagement strategies for different types of businesses.

06:32 - Developing direct relationships through targeted client engagement.

10:38 - Discussion on innovation challenges in competitive markets.

12:20 - Innovation and competition in high-value markets.

13:34 - The importance of understanding and addressing client and competitive landscapes.

15:17 - The joy of collaborative product design and problem-solving.

16:04 - Adjusting to new roles and the emotional challenges of change.

17:26 - The speaker reflects on the initial challenges of introducing change within their team.

18:56 - Future prospects and the potential impact of AI in their sector.

19:50 - Excitement about the integration of AI in product development and market expansion.

21:03 - Shoutouts to notable contributors in various industries.

22:19 - Information on how to connect with the speaker and learn more about their company.

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Srishti Chhabra Full Transcript

Srishti Chhabra: 0:00I love solving client problems. Like one of the things that frustrated me as a relationship manager, or the head of, you know, these teams in EMEA was that I would suddenly have a clear insight into the client problem and where the market is going and not have influence to take my company there.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:21

How to develop and scale your product, leveraging anchor clients. We're going to understand who to work with, building long-term trust with them, structuring internally to put the customer first, and the challenges and benefits of this approach. Is this the right approach for you or not? To help us today, we have our expert, Srishti Chhabra, who is an entrepreneur with FinTech, leader and VP of Product Global at C2FO. She's held several leadership roles at the rapidly growing organisation, including Vice President Operations in MIA during the Europe expansion. She really knows her stuff and it's great to learn from her today.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:54

I'm Amar from the BAE HQ and this podcast is powered by HSBC Innovation Banking. Hope you enjoy. Srishti, so great to have you on today and for people in the audience. We actually went to uni 10 years ago together, so you're one of the people I've known for the longest to actually come into the podcast. But we're talking today about anchor clients and product development. Could you let the audience know, like how do you define an anchor client and who's the most important clients to be thinking about when you're looking at product development?

Srishti Chhabra: 1:23

Yeah. So I think in the product world there's a lot of discussion around your ideal customer profile, right, you kind of think, hey, I have product X and these are the kind of clients who need X. So, for example, in my world, you look at clients that have a working capital shortfall or they have less working capital compared to other clients, and then that's basically your ideal customer profile to sell a working capital product. Now, the problem is in that approach, you have a product first and a customer second. Right, and that's exactly what I'm trying to change, and there are a lot of tech companies who've already changed that. Right, like Amazon is a customer-obsessed company. Right, they look at the customer first. So, from my perspective, an anchor client is somebody you know they have a problem and they're willing to solve it with your help and the problem is big enough. So, for example, I work at C2FO. I worked with 21 of the you of the Fortune 100 companies in the world.

Srishti Chhabra: 2:30

I worked with Amazon, Walmart, they might not be able to solve it, but we can solve it because of our technological know-how, our maybe connection to the bank, because we work at a fintech and with those clients, you know what it's so exciting to go on the journey of discovering the problem right and then you can go away. You could say, okay, I have a client who's super interested, motivated, they want to solve a problem. This is a problem they want to solve. Then you go do your business case in the back end, right? I'm not saying the anchor client means it's your entire market, right, but it tells you about an interesting problem people are super passionate to solve.

Srishti Chhabra: 3:17

You can go in the back end, figure out if it's a big enough problem to solve, and then you can go on that journey with them to solve it right, like one of our advisors, Frederick Spock, for example. You know he used to be chief procurement officer for Philips, Siemens, Huawei. He works with us and he's so passionate about these products, right? So I love even working with advisors like that who are passionate about the problems they're trying to solve, because that'll get you there there, right? So I think it's more about obsessing with the problem and a customer who's motivated as well to solve the problem than it is to take a product to an ideal customer.

Amardeep Parmar: 3:58

And what seems about that part as well there? So, with these customers really passionate about a problem, what? How do you get them to engage with you to help solve the problem together, as opposed to shipping around with different other people to see if they can get a less perfect solution? How do you get them engaged like, no, we're going to get the best solution for you to solve what your problem is?

Srishti Chhabra: 4:15

Yeah, I mean, it's a very good question and it will be different for everybody, right.

Srishti Chhabra: 4:20

Like, if you're a startup, right, and you don't have existing clients, then I think that you're at a completely different place. So, like, say yourself you would go to a conference, you'll meet somebody who you want to be a client for you. I would say, talk about them like their day to day, ask them what are their priorities, what are their challenges of meeting their priorities, and I think that gets you to a very good place with them, because suddenly they'll tell you, like my priorities X, it keeps me up at night and I cannot solve it and I need some help. I, on the other hand, have a little bit more privilege, right, because I have so many clients on this, uh, that I work for at a fintech, so I I can join any of these calls that we do with our clients and then ask them the same question. But the challenge is the same, right, if you go to somebody and you talk about yourself, it's very different to you go to somebody else and you ask them what keeps you up at night.

Amardeep Parmar: 5:22

Looking that as well. So internally right, if you might. Traditionally people used to go. You've got the team that are looking at product development, and how do you get them to have that relationship with the clients and how do you structure your team internally to make sure that they are listening to the client's problems as opposed to being a mandate from somebody higher up in the company like you need to build this, and how do you keep that relationship well within the company?

Srishti Chhabra: 5:44

Yeah, I mean, this is exactly why I was hired. So I ran relationship management for EMEA before moving to this global product flow and one of the reasons my chief product officer, chief product and tech officer kind of quoted was I want to move this to this product led org. Right, um, and the how, honestly, is the same as for anybody else. If you're a relationship manager, right, and there's a how, how do I understand the clients? And, honestly, it's all about asking open ended questions, setting up those monthly calls with the clients following up and making sure the other person is feeling heard and you're transparently informing them of how I'm going to get there, right. Same with product. Right, you've got to get product on the call.

Srishti Chhabra: 6:32

So what we are doing at C2FO at least, my team, so I have three different teams we are setting up three different personas that we're targeting. So these personas we're going through relationship management initially and sales and saying, hey, we're going to reach out to these clients and ask are you interested in talking to us about product development? People who are saying, yes, we're forming these little hubs of these personas. So we've got procurement, we've got treasury and now we're also looking at the IT persona. We're developing these hubs where we get in touch with these people, one-on-one with the product manager, every month or so, max every quarter, where we go through like, okay, what are your pinpoints, how are you thinking about our product, how does it fit in your portfolio, and then kind of go from there.

Srishti Chhabra: 7:23

But the most important thing here is okay, you have to hold the relationship. I don't think you can rely on somebody else having that relationship, which a lot of banks are structured this way. So the bank has a relationship manager, right, who's responsible for bringing up, bringing on on a call, different product people, and I think I don't know, I don't love that way of working. I understand the need for it because at scale you really do need somebody holding the account's best interest at heart. You can't just like bombard an account with 10 different things. So that has to be looked after. But the key, I think, from a product perspective, is having direct relationships and again going to these conferences where things are being discussed that our clients care about. So I'm hopefully, you know, at the end of April going to go to this institute of supply chain management conference in Vegas. I'm going to meet competitors, existing clients, potential clients. You've just got to show up.

Amardeep Parmar: 8:29

And looking that as well, so you've established a relationship building up and look at that as well. So, if you've established a relationship building it up, how do you kind of measure success with that right? How do you know that what you're doing in the relationship is going well. Like how do you know that this is the right method and this method is working? How do you judge that?

Srishti Chhabra: 8:42

Yeah, so this is a big topic in product right, because you might not see revenue for a year, right? So how do you? What are those leading indicators of success? So, first and foremost, I am one of those people where revenue has to be at the end of it. So we do put estimates down at the start of the year. We write down our annual operating plan with estimates for everything we're building and then we're kind of trying to build leading indicators at a monthly basis. So, for example, your monthly active users, if they're spiking around the product you're releasing, that tells you the future iteration you release with a subscription piece could possibly get more revenue. So there's definitely that leading indicator piece.

Srishti Chhabra: 9:32

I think there's also this piece that my professor from LBS used to talk about. So last year at LBS I did the Entrepreneurship Summer School and we had these two amazing professors, Rupert Merson, Jeff Skinner. They were so keen, we drew a painted door for the client. So when we were doing entrepreneurship summer school, they forced us to create these websites that looked like they were already a shop, right, and this painted door test. It just basically means, imagine there's a wall, I paint the door on it and you just check who walks through. So that is something I'm very, very true. Draw a painted door and see who walks in. So, for example, for one of the products I'm building today, it's there, but the back end is sort of you know, it's a wall, and you see who's actually going to pay for this. And at that point I make a decision on am I going on this path? Am I going to get this encryption revenue, or should I pivot at this point?

Amardeep Parmar: 10:38

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give a quick shout out to our headline partners, HSBC Innovation Banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, because you might start off and try to use a traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or you're talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what it is you've been trying to do. HSBC have got the team they've built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out hsbc innovation banking. com. So what do you find some of the biggest challenges in doing product in this way? Right, we're so closely connected with potential clients or existing clients. What's the challenge that people listening right now think about taking this approach? Should you really make sure they've got covered and planned for?

Srishti Chhabra: 11:29

Yeah, I mean, it's really tough. Like the first challenge just comes from competition, right. So I know Amand, you don't Amalip, you don't know um a lot on of companies in the space we're in, but we have a lot of competition. So banks are in this space, but so are a lot of other tech companies and so are a lot of other data tech companies and ERP systems. They're all sort of competing for this $40 trillion market. Of course it's not a winner-takes-all market. We all kind of understand that. But you know, when you look at Fortune 500 companies, there's only 500 of them and there is a lot of competition for the entire supply chain.

Srishti Chhabra: 12:20

And the biggest challenge is sort of innovation, right while sort of cooperating. In the MBA we used to call it coopetition. It's just MBA spiel for the fact that you know your cooperation is only going to last till you're sort of increasing the size of the buy. The moment it's about market share, um, the competition takes precedence. So the hardest thing is sort of innovating um, while keeping pace with the competitor. So that's kind of you know point one for me, because imagine I spend a lot of time with a painted door test and I and I'm still checking like, hey, is this going to make revenue? By that time maybe the competitors like launched it. Right. So balancing that base, that's the hard piece. Um, what else I think also, um, you know, having your client uh really come on the journey with you, uh is not that easy because, again, these clients are what everybody's going to pitch to and a lot of these products could be very similar.

Srishti Chhabra: 13:34

I think I'm super unique, I think C2 is super unique, I think we have a lot of scale, et cetera. But then so will everybody else and a lot of salespeople say this right, like, a sales decision is made with the emotion and then justified with logic. So I think those competition and client piece is very important. A lot of times, unfortunately, at that intersection you see competitors maybe over promising and under delivering. We definitely don't do that. We try not to do it at least. So those are kind of some of those trade-offs you know, like hey, I'm promising you the future, but what can I really deliver? And then deliver it in a timely way before the competitor.

Amardeep Parmar: 14:10

And so, looking, you got the challenges there, but it's also what's been some of the most enjoyable side of this right, where obviously doing products in the old sense, in terms of just doing it internally, versus also getting that feedback is that something you enjoy? What do you love about this process of doing things in this way?

Srishti Chhabra: 14:29

Honestly, I love solving client problems. Like one of the things that frustrated me as a relationship manager or the head of, you know, these teams in EMEA was that I would suddenly have a clear insight into the client problem and where the market is going and not have influence to take my company there. So what I'm super excited about is setting this huge vision like for the future. Right, and then being able to work backwards. It is incredible how talented our engineers are. Our product managers are even the designers. You know this is the first time I'm working with a design team and I really believe in having design at the center of your product.

Srishti Chhabra: 15:17

And the most enjoyable sessions, like on a day-to-day basis, like, yes, I love setting the roadmap, the vision. I've really enjoyed taking the market there. But my favorite time is when we're sitting with an engineering manager, a product person and a design person and designing multiple phases of a product, keeping in mind the customer's problem. Like we can solve something so much better uh, by designing it in a better way. So I'm super excited about using these new technologies with design thinking at the center. It's just, it's so fun, it's creative.

Amardeep Parmar: 15:54

They said before you were in a different role. You're scaling up the team and everything from that side and then moving into this role here. Is there anything you didn't expect about it by working in this manner?  That maybe surprised you and you're like if somebody else is doing it in this way, maybe you can give them a heads up so that they are better prepared.

Srishti Chhabra: 16:04

I think I was doing a lot of ops and hiring before, right, and then I thought I would move into product and I'll focus less on hiring, but I'll have a huge new skill set and learnings in the product and tech space. I'm actually building something from a tech perspective rather than a human perspective. So I had, I knew that. Um, I was also excited about the global role. So I have teams in the US, India and EMEA. So you know I'm very flexible on how I work. So I can take two hours out to see my baby in the evening. I can take half an hour in the morning to do my gym and then work until midnight. Right, because US hours are in the night, India hours are in the morning, UK hours are in the middle.

Srishti Chhabra: 16:57

What surprised me is, you know, some of this can be quite lonely. Right, because you're a change agent and you rock up. Right, I just assume that because I'm from the ops team. When I turn around to the ops team with my ideas, they'll be like oh duh, we all face the same problems. We have the same conviction. So what I found surprising is that's not necessarily going to be the case, even though you're from kind of that team, right.

Srishti Chhabra: 17:26

I found my voice to be a lonely voice at the start. Now it's not so much. So I think what was surprising is for the first six months, right, no matter how long you've been doing something or you've been at a company or how well you understand the customer's problem, you're going to have a change management curve, uh, which is super lonely uh, especially if you start to work a little bit remote because you know I was doing us hours. So I thought, okay, I'm gonna come home by x time. But then you're kind of some nights just sitting alone in your room working till midnight having conversations that all kind of go south and you wonder, uh, have I made the right choice? So first six months surprisingly hard.

Amardeep Parmar: 18:10

Looking at that as well. Do you have any more advice for people who are looking to do product development for using their anchor clients? There's anything we haven't covered yet that you think would be really valuable for people?

Srishti Chhabra: 18:20

I would say this so there's a lot of discussion around artificial intelligence. There are certainly many, many problems that artificial intelligence can solve for our clients and I totally am on board with it. And I think what I'm following today is I'm going deep both with the problem space and the solution space. So we're going to start out with small AI products and then we're going to learn and then kind of get to that big picture together and hopefully use Anchor clients to get to that scale, right.

Srishti Chhabra: 18:56

What I would say as learning is like just be careful on what everybody is saying is AI. So I've seen competitive products. I've seen just products out there that are doing very simple things and just because they're using English language as an output, they're claiming they're using AI. Even natural language processing is not AI in itself, same with these large language models. I think what I would say is just be, you know, responsible on going deep on customer problems and solutions and kind of going from there, rather than getting carried away with like a sexy, like hey, you know idea on AI, which may or may not have product market fit.

Amardeep Parmar: 19:40

And then, what are you most excited about coming up in the future with your role at the moment and what you're working on? What should? What's kind of keeping you going and motivated?

Srishti Chhabra: 19:50

I have a few things. I don't know how many of them I can tell you because of the intense competition in this space but I am very excited by the use of AI in our space, even just starting small. You know, because if you think about B2B markets and products, a lot of people think so. There are two ways to expand right, like when, once you have product market fit, you go lots of geographies so, for example, C2FO is in at least 150 countries already and then you can go deep into the companies you're selling at. So imagine you start out with Fortune 500, but then you can go deeper. Right. AI can solve some of these scale problems we couldn't solve earlier, whether it comes to the integration space or the negotiation space. So I'm really excited that the amount of growth opportunities we have will grow significantly with the use of AI.

Amardeep Parmar: 20:45

Srishti Chhabra: So, yeah, that's what I'm most excited about. Awesome, so thanks so much for sharing all that today. We're going to get to quick fire questions now, so ready, so first question is who are three British Asians you think are doing incredible work and you'd love to shout them out today for the audience to pay attention to?

Srishti Chhabra: 21:03

Okay, so I would first call out my sister, Sakshi Chhabra Mittal. Uh, she is the founder of Foodhak. It is a food technology company that believes food is medicine. She's doing great work, God's work especially, you know, for women who find themselves you know themselves after pregnancy in a bad health place. Yeah, I'm finding her food tech deliverables the food they deliver amazing as a product, and hopefully others do as well. There's a lot of tech behind it too, so if you want to find out, get in touch with her.

Srishti Chhabra: 21:41

I would say Priyanka Gill, another uh founders. She's a co-founder of good glamm group. Again, they're just going global. They were an india, indian company uh, only uh with their jv with Serena Williams. I'll give her a shout out. She's just joined Kalaari Capital. And then I will do another non-founder actually, actually Chetan Kotur. He's one of my friend's husbands. We actually went to Bath together as well and he's just joined the construction industry in the UK from Volvo in Sweden, and he's trying to use tech to basically make construction sites safer. So I'm kind of excited about that too.

Amardeep Parmar: 22:19

Awesome. So next question is if people want to find out more about you, find out more about your company, where should they go to?

Srishti Chhabra:

Uh, linkedin, that's a good, good place to get in touch with me.

Amardeep Parmar:

And if you want to find out more about C2FO as well, where should they go to?

Srishti Chhabra: 22:34

The c2fo. com, we have a very scalable product, like if your buyer is on our platform, they would probably email you about teacher for existing, but you could go at teacher4.com, uh, and just register there.

Amardeep Parmar:

Awesome then, is it near that the audience could help you today, so they can reach out to you and help you?

Srishti Chhabra:

You know I love fintech but in my personal life I love all sort of fem tech products not just in healthcare but you know as a new mom I'm looking a lot at technologies that help young families, young mothers. I'm definitely looking at products like that so if you're in that space, I'd love to connect.

Amardeep Parmar: 23:19

So thank you so much for coming on today. Have you got any final words?

Srishti Chhabra: 23:20

No, it was great meeting Amardeep. Thank you for reaching out.

Amardeep Parmar: 23:26

Thank you for watching. Don't forget to subscribe. See you next time.

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