Introduction to Product IIT-JEE
Just like all things living, or stars for that matter, every product has a life cycle. Which means that it is born, it has its days under the sun, and then, eventually, it dies. The ‘gurus’ of product management have identified four stages of a product’s life as: Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline. What I, here, am trying to get your attention to, is the fact that every product does eventually die! It is not as sad as the demise of a person, is not proceeded by a funeral, there is hardly anyone mourning; but it does happen.
The case in question, is that of the product IIT-JEE, the exam. The shiniest product that has been on the education market for the last two decades. Unfortunately, and many would agree, the product has reached the stage of maturity, and in all probability will see a steady decline in the years to come. And as is the case with all other products, the factors nudging it towards its death are saturation of markets, change in demand, and possibly the government policies. But we are not discussing the reasons here. We are just mourning or maybe celebrating the imminent and inevitable death of this glorious product. It will not happen any time soon though, the death, products die very slowly.
Now this product, to the amounts of insanity, resembles a cow! To start with, it has been, at least in the last two decades, treated as holy as the holiest of the animals. The product itself has no utility, but it consumes the greener grasses and finally gives you milky graduates, who make the nation strong, but can also cause gastro-intestinal problems to some people. And for the entire duration for which it has been on the market, in the last one decade especially, there have been people interested in killing it and have been in constant opposition of those who worship it. Please breathe out any religious sentiment that you might have breathed in with the last sentence. The other important similarity is that the owners of this product are not making much money. In fact there is hardly any profit in keeping it, other than the sanctity it brings to the campus (of IIT). The real money is with those who are trading in fodder! Or those who are buying the milk and making other products out of it. Like curd and cheese! One can make you smart, the other will give you stinky farts.
Birth of the product IIT-JEE
Talking about the birth of this product, the seeds of conception, which eventually took form of this dairy producing animal cum product, were planted well before that historic midnight hour, when the world slept, and India awakened to life and freedom. The wise men of pre-independence era, most of whom were of Bengali origin, no surprises there, saw the need to create institutions which would be centers for technological advancement, in the independent nation, if and when created. A modern Gurukul of technology, they must have thought. I am not in a position to tell you what became of that dream, but India did manage to do fairly well as far as technology is concerned. Not so much with the socio-economic upliftment though. Where are the dreamers and workers of those dreams? Anyways! So, yeah, that is how the IITs were established, who eventually wombed and nursed and groomed this glorious product.
At the early stages, the product could only give a single output. The simple yet magical liquid which was proving to be very effective at the task of creating machines and make them smarter. Much of it though, was exported to other countries. Now, there was milk available from other sources as well, but this particular cow was giving something that was leaving a mark on everyone. In no time, this product, our metaphorical cow, started becoming popular and stepped out its childhood.
Growth of the product IIT-JEE
The product IIT-JEE, right from its inception, has always had the perfect Marketing Mix. Hence the insane growth it saw, was a given. The product is amazing! The most amazing part probably is that most consumers of this product do not eventually get what they buy it for (a seat in an IIT) but they all, nonetheless, are thrilled by the experience it provides. The place and timing for the launch could not have been more perfect. Just as the dreamers had dreamed, after Independence, we needed technology and people who knew about it. As far as promotion is concerned, a waiting game was played and it played out well for this product. The consumers who manage to get into IIT, had a considerably high probability of doing well, in the conventional sense, of defining a good life.
And what fueled the fire, the fire of growth, was the fact that even when the industry of industrial technology slowed down, due to the anticipated saturation, the demand for the milky graduates did not decline, in fact it kept on increasing. That created an insane customer value for the product. The belief in this product, had now turned into faith. And that is a dream come true for any product owner. Everyone had faith in the milk that this cow gave. You could turn it into any kind of diary product, and they will all turn out to be perfect. But even while the demand for milk was increasing, they decided to change the way the fodder is screened. It had to be done, because the vendors had increased and they were bringing huge varieties of fodder. And it was becoming extremely overwhelming, selecting the right kind of fodder. The one that, after getting eaten and digested, turns into high quality milk.
Maturity of the product IIT-JEE
Now it is never easy to identify when a product goes from one stage to the next. It is not an exact science. Well as far as I know! But a clear indication of maturity, is when the numbers start to stagnate, as opposed to the constant rise, that the product enjoys during its growth. So, for me, the product transitioned into this phase close to the time when they turned the methods of screening, from the subjective judgment by the experts, to objective evaluation of the fodder, in the year 2006. The effects though, were felt much later. Now, what this did was, made it extremely easy for the traders, of the fodder, to identify what works and what does not. And that information, thus, was easily available with the consumer as well. And thus, the special subjective skill of screening, that only the few people had, the owners, was suddenly available with everyone.
Now, nobody likes to milk a dead cow! Don’t confuse it with our product, this is just an expression, meaning that nobody wants to do what is known to not be possible. What I mean to say is, that with this information available, about what gets selected and what does not, most consumers could very easily judge whether or not they are part of the fodder that this cow, the product IIT-JEE, likes. And so, they started focusing more on other cows. The cows, who could help them turn into the quality of milk that they have the potential to becoming. Now, this did not result in a decrease in number of applicants for product IIT-JEE, but it sure did stop the rise.
The other major factor, contributing to maturity, is the competition that this cow has been facing. There are other major cows in the market now, and they are trying their very best, to give milk, which matches the quality of this cow. They are claiming that their milk also has the iron and intelligence required to drive change and bring growth or perform any of the miracles that IIT-JEE’s milk has been performing over the years. And it seems their claim is being taken seriously by the consumers, as they do have some data to prove it. And the last factor, that has stagnated growth, is probably the attempts of the government to over feed the cow, so that it gives more milk. Though it seems to be working, but some are complaining about the dilution in quality due to the forced production.
Decline of the product IIT-JEE
Now, since the product has not really come to this stage, so anything that I say would be an attempt to predict future. Usually, when people start predicting future, that is my cue to put my earphones on. But then, I am going through this phase, where I am trying to re-invent myself as the ‘Renegade of this Digital age’, much like every other person with an internet connection. So I am going to give it a try. Though I am sure it will be hilariously wrong, but I will try predicting it using the life cycle of a product.
In its final stages, the product loses its ability to make profit. As we discussed, the only profit that product IIT-JEE makes is bring some sense of nobility to the campus of IITs. So, by the super scientific method of extending a logic, I predict that soon the glamour of being a graduate from IIT will be gone. I don’t mean that these future milky graduates will be sub-standard, they just wont have the brand value that was once enjoyed by their ancestors. And this will create a new group of happy cows who will enjoy a good life together.
These cows will not have to compete among each other because they probably will be supplying to very specific and dedicated markets which are exclusive of each other. And I see the rise of a scrappy, ballsy puppy. This brave-heart will take these cows out to graze, without fear. So they wont need anyone to bring them fodder. They will find their own fodder, which is most suitable to the kind of milk they intend to produce. And that, though will mark the end of the glorious product IIT-JEE, but it will still be a happy day, because it will work out for the best, for everyone involved.