I have mentioned earlier that experimentation is at the heart of systematic innovation. We can imagine building prototypes when it comes to new products such as iPod or Nano. But what kinds of experiments are involved when you are launching a new service? Well, one dimension where you need to experiment is called “customer experience”. How does an experiment for a service look like? Let’s see one such experiment that crystallized the vision for Deccan Aviation – a pioneer in low-cost airline business in
Deccan Aviation was registered in Bangalore in May 1995 by Captain Gopinath and his friend Sam with a vision of, “Getting a helicopter easier than finding a taxi”. There were a number of questions yet to be answered. Can helicopter be brought to the sphere of public use? Could we make it possible for just about anyone to fly – and at a short notice? Gopinath soon got a chance to verify this assumption.
One day an old army friend Capt. Vishnu called Gopinath. Vishnu was nick named “Flying saucer” because of his passion for flying. After 15-20 years of service typical pilots do 1,500 to 2,000 hours of flying. Vishnu had done 6,000. He had quit the army and joined the UP government as a helicopter pilot. Vishnu was in
In preparation for the landing on the farm, Vishnu asked for a field to be cleared and a fire lit up to help him locate the smoke and find the landing spot as also the direction of the wind. Gopinath called his village friend Raju in Javagal and asked him to make the necessary preparations for their arrival the following morning. They all took off at 9:30 am in Chetak, a helicopter made by HAL under French license and offering 180 degrees aerial view. Vishnu asked Gopinath to sit next to him in the cockpit to help with micro-navigation when they approach Javagal. He sat with his map spread out on his lap.
Within fifty minutes the helicopter reached the farm-house. Raju had lit a fire in a nearby ragi patch from which smoke was visible. A host of neighbors and many others in the village were crowded around the patch. It was the first time in their life they were going to watch a helicopter from such a close distance. As soon as they alighted Raju brought them tender coconut to drink.
Vishnu left after a short break and a meal. Gopinath and the rest headed back to
What happened here? First one is that an opportunity landed on Gopinath’s feet for a joy-ride, a lucky break. But what Gopinath did was to convert the opportunity into an experience that will validate his assumption about “flying to a small village on a short notice”. This was no ordinary experiment. For a person dreaming about starting a helicopter charter service, it was an ultra-low cost experiment. Low cost experiments like these are extremely important in systematic innovation because they help you validate various assumptions about your idea. They help you course-correct and they enable you to fail and learn from the failures.