Should USP be part of MVP

First of all, my apologies for the jargon, but this is a way to get attention of those corporate types who I hope to sell to. The MVP here in question is the startup-wala MVP (minimum viable product) and not the sports-wala MVP (most valuable player). There is no ambiguity to USP.

So it’s an accepted mantra in the startup world that product development should follow the “agile model” rather than the “waterfall model” (borrowing from software engineering paradigms). It is recommended that you put out a “minimum viable product” (MVP) out early into the market and get continuous feedback as you continue to hone your product. This way, you don’t end up wasting too much time building stuff the market doesn’t want, and can pivot (change direction to another product/service) if necessary.

The question is how “minimum” the “minimum viable product” should be. Let’s say that your business isn’t something that creates a new market but something that improves upon an existing product or service. In other words, you are building a business around “a better way of doing X” (it doesn’t matter here what X is).

The temptation in this case is to copy X and release it as your minimum viable product. This is rather easy to do, since you can just reverse engineer X, and put out a product quickly. That’s the quickest way to get to the market.

The problem with this approach, however, is that your initial set of users who experience your MVP will fail to see what the big deal about your product is – while they might hear your promises that this is only a start and you intend to do X in a “new improved way”, the first version as they see it shows no indication of this promise.

Worse, when your product is branded as a “new improved X”, it automatically gets anchored in your users’ minds with respect to X. Irrespective of what your product looks or feels like, once you’ve branded as a “new improved X”, comparisons to X are inevitable. And when your MVP is not very different from X, people might lose interest.

On the other hand, if you need to build in your USP into your MVP, it results in a longer product development cycle. In such cases, if the market doesn’t really want your “new improved X”, a lot more effort would have been expended, leading to higher risk (of market not accepting product).

Yet, if your MVP is nothing like what your “real product” is, then you are not really getting feedback from the market on your “real product” – only feedback on your MVP. And the MVP should be something such that you can make use of any feedback you get on it in terms of superior product design.

Who should the IPL franchises retain?

I have a proprietary algorithm for evaluating cricket matches. This algorithm analyzes matches ball-by-ball and then computes the “impact” of each player on the game, in terms of both batting and bowling.

I’ve been intending to do this for a while now but I finally got down to calculating the impact of different players in the past editions of the IPL, and who it makes sense for franchises to retain (incidentally, today is the last day for franchises to announce to the IPL who the players are who they are going to retain).

Let us go franchise by franchise and see who the best players are. The numbers in the brackets represent the impact of each player according to my proprietary system.

1. Chennai Super Kings

By a long way, their two best players are MS Dhoni (3.53) and Ravindra Jadeja (3.46). Interestingly, the primary reason for the latter’s high score is his batting  (2.86)- he has been bowling well, too (0.6), but it is his batting that has had significant impact.

These two are followed some distance behind by Raina (2.02) and the now retired Mike Hussey (1.75). Ashwin is some way behind at 0.7 (his bowling is at 1 and batting at 0.33; the algorithm tends to unfairly penalize bowlers for their batting abilities, or the lack of it).

Chennai have already made their decision on who to retain. They are going to retain Dhoni, Jadeja, Raina, Ashwin and Dwayne Bravo. The last is a bit of a puzzle, at -1.09. His batting has been excellent – he has contributed 1.52 but his bowling has been utter crap at 2.61. CSK would do well to use him as a batsman only

2. Delhi Daredevils

This is a team that has performed rather badly in the last bunch of IPLs, so they might be expected to dispense with some players. Virender Sehwag (3.14), though, has performed exceptionally in the rot, though this season’s domestic performance (or the lack of it) might go against him. Next is the injury-prone Irfan Pathan (1.72). Shahbaz Nadeem is a surprise package at 1.56. I wouldn’t expect them to retain anyone.

Umesh Yadav (-1.77) and Mahela Jayawardene (-2.33) have been especially poor performers

3. Kings XI Punjab

Another franchise that didn’t do particularly well in the last set of IPLs. David Miller (2.05) was their standout performer, followed by Gurkeerat Singh (1.24), Shaun Marsh (1.11) and Praveen Kumar (1.02). The latter two are highly injury prone and they may not want to part with a large part of their budget for the yet uncapped Gurkeerat. So if you expect them to retain any players, it would only be Miller.

At the other end, Parvinder Awana (-1.92) has been the standout performer.

4. Kolkata Knight Riders

Sunil Narine (4.48) and Gautam Gambhir (4.22) tower over the rest. Following them are Shakib al Hasan (1.63) and Iqbal Abdulla (1.13). One would expect them to hold on to the first two (Narine and Gambhir) and try to use their trump card to match a price for Shakib.

Jacques Kallis performed particularly badly (-2.81) and is unlikely to be retained.

5. Mumbai Indians

If you were to rank all players in descending order of impact, the standout player across teams would be Harbhajan Singh (5.04; 3.64 bowling, 1.41 batting). Despite his axing from the national team, one would expect him to be retained by the franchise. He is followed some way behind by Lasith Malinga (2.01), Kieron Pollard (1.97; with 3.05 in batting and – 1.09 in bowling) and Rohit Sharma (1.74). One would expect all of those three to be retained. Dinesh Karthik at 1.31 might also be retained, for they will only need to give up Rs. 4 Crore from their salary cap  to get him.

6. Rajasthan Royals

If one goes by the gossip, the Royals are expected to retain a large number of players. They are the “moneyball” team of the IPL. They don’t spend too much on salary but try to get otherwise undervalued players to play for them.

Brad Hodge (1.91) has been their star performer but his age might go against him – they might prefer to match him using their trump card. They are expected to retain Shane Watson (1.55 with 3.83 batting and -2.28 bowling), though. Stuart Binny at 1.34 is also a good bet to be retained.

Interestingly, the system shows a negative impact for the otherwise highly rated Sanju Samson (-0.17)! He is, however, another player they might retain.

7. Royal Challengers Bangalore

The Royal Challengers have already made their decision – they will retain Chris Gayle (4.93; with 6.51 batting and -1.58 bowling), AB de Villiers (3.12) and Virat Kohli (1.95 with 2.22 batting and -0.27 bowling). The one highly rated player they are not retaining is Zaheer Khan (3.69). Khan has been exceptional considering that his partners in the RCB pace attack are Vinay Kumar (-3.59), RP Singh (-2.83) and Abhimanyu Mithun (-1.69).

Their only other highly rated bowler is Murali Kartik (1.05). They will need to completely rebuild their bowling attack in order to compete this IPL

8. Sunrisers Hyderabad

Dale Steyn (3.43) is the standout performer and they would do well to retain him. The next best is Shikhar Dhawan, who is some distance away at 0.72. Given the paucity of quality Indian players, though, they might end up retaining Dhawan also.

I’m willing to share the full results of my analysis. Do reach out to me if you want to play around with it and I’ll send it to you. And let me know what you think of these ratings.