Udit Chugh- Co-founder @pawfect and Product Manager @Zeta, Ex- @Onecard, @Papertrue

I am a Product Manager at Zeta, where we are building a neo-banking stack for traditional and new age banks. In the past, I have worked with OneCard (PM), Pawfect (Co-founder), PaperTrue (PM) and Veritas (Software Engg.). I started my career as a software engineer, and luckily I still code on the side :) As for what I do in my free time: This changes quite frequently. I am trying to learn more about the crypto and web3 space these days, so I watch, read and then try a lot of stuff in that space. And when I am not doing that, I usually read something or the other. I majorly read self-improvement, productivity and philosophy books. I do want to read some fiction.

What does your typical day look like?

A day of a product manager can have huge variations during the week. But I will try to share things that I do almost daily regardless of the varying routine.

I start by looking at my to-do list and picking items from it to plan my day.

I try to ensure that I have at least 2-3 high-impact items that I complete on that day; this is apart from the smaller items. It ensures that I don't get too busy with smaller, not-so-high impact items.

Post planning, the day usually starts with the engineering team's standup so that I can ensure that they are unblocked and have answers to all of their queries.

The rest of the day involves speaking with various business teams, and my favorite times are the catchups with design teams.

Why did you choose to become a product manager? How do you see things differently than the rest?

I started my career as an engineer, and during my first stint, I found myself always giving suggestions to my product managers, sometimes I loved spending time researching ideas and was always told to look into product management by multiple folks and once I did do it, it was then only a question of when.

What are some of the cool things that you are working on currently?

I am working on a support dashboard for agents where I have to visualise various transaction lifecycles for our support agents who will be using this dashboard. So understanding how various transaction lifecycles (Debit Card, Credit Card, UPI, IMPS, and so on) work is pretty cool.

It has to be blockchain and decentralisation because I work in the thick of finance. I am always surprised to know how many ledgers (think of them as tables) a single transaction hits and how much effort goes into reconciliation (matching) because of the number of centralised parties involved in making that one transaction happen.

Blockchain is the underlying ledger used by cryptocurrencies. So only one ledger holds millions of transactions and can be traced back to see the first-ever transaction ever made.

And when you combine that with decentralisation, the need for trusted centralised parties goes away because now even the trust is decentralised.

Apologies if this got too technical, but it's just too fascinating.

Do you follow any product/ prioritization frameworks when making decisions? If yes, what are some of the top frameworks that you recommend, and why?

I don't follow any such frameworks because, in my personal experience, they are sometimes far away from reality. The real world has too many variables. My simple strategy is to think on the user's behalf, which always helps me prioritise.

What’s the one tool you couldn’t do your job without, and which very few people know about?

It has to be spreadsheets. They are too powerful. They can be a place for your lists; they can be a place for your roadmap. You can use them for everything.

What's something that you learned/ realized recently in your work journey that you wish you knew earlier?

As a product manager, you deal with a lot of uncertainty, and it can be overwhelming at times.

I have realised that sometimes instead of waiting for stars to align, it's better to get started with what you have. It can do wonders. Sometimes you will figure out that you already had everything.

There is a quote by Arthur Ashe on this, which I find quite motivating: "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."

If you don't mind sharing, what's the one mistake you've done and will advise others not to repeat?

Not writing things and getting into execution has to be the biggest mistake.

Writing can help you avoid typical pitfalls and bring clarity to yourself, so now, before I get into execution, I make sure I write what I am thinking of getting done, so when I go to my team, I already have answers to most of their questions.

And by writing, I don't mean writing on a physical paper. It can be very well a Google Doc.

What are some of your biggest inspirations that help you get up and do your best work?

Users and their reviews.

What would you recommend to people who want to start their careers in your space?

Read a lot. If you are starting in fintech, you might even want to read RBI circulars sometimes, which helps you understand how the regulator thinks of the space because it trickles down to everyone in the industry, the banks, the bankers and finally, the code itself.

Any new companies you know of that you think are going to make a big difference, which we should keep an eye on?

I will limit my answer to the fintech space; otherwise, I will end up writing an essay for this question because there is a lot of amazing stuff happening across the country and the globe.

Firstly, it has to be my employer Zeta, the team is doing some amazing stuff and will play a major role in the banking space in the coming few years.

Then there is this company called Setu; they are building infrastructure that will be very key for some of the things that payments, banking and lending providers will be doing in the coming few years.

Then the neo-banks like Jupiter and Fi have taken up a huge responsibility of making the banking experience 10x better. So it will be key to see how that turns out.

Lastly, CRED has a very interesting value proposition, so I am keen to see what they do next because they are now in the monetisation phase. And whatever they have touched so far, they have nailed the experience, from personal loans to peer-to-peer lending to curated e-commerce.

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