Lead Product Manager
Shashank Raghavendra will never stop evolving. Drawing upon his skills as Lead Product Manager at Rapido Bike Taxi, he and his team are revolutionizing transportation in India, transforming people’s lives and the ride app industry.
Driven by product and skilled at problem-solving, Shashank offers groundbreaking insights into gig-worker loyalty as he introduces a tiered system that empowers workers to choose their workload. By prioritizing ethical practices and fostering a harmonious work environment, Shashank is reshaping the gig economy and ensuring fair treatment for workers.
Shashank faces the tide of increasing AI integration by being unapologetically human with his product development. Maximization is second nature for him—as a working MBA student, he doesn’t take the power of self-improvement and learning for granted.
Creating Value Out of a Vacuum
As Lead Product Manager at Rapido Bike Taxi, a motorbike taxi app service revamping commuting in India, Shashank Raghavendra is an alchemist who seamlessly blends market insight, customer needs, and technological possibilities into transformative solutions. Product managers are involved in all steps of a product’s lifecycle, from planting the seed of an idea to maintaining the thriving forest it creates.
“Product management lets me solve real-world problems for the public and also define how their lives change, or how the market changes as a whole.”
Materializing groundbreaking ideas through innovation is the essence of Shashank’s work. At Rapido, he is striking a clever balance between reliance on public transport and dependence on cars by introducing motorcycles to the mix. The sleek and swift two-wheelers allow users to zip through notorious rush hour traffic while also saving money—vanishing away the problems of intra-city commuting and inconvenient public transit. Despite the brain drain that has been taking place in the country for decades, Shashank is highly optimistic about India’s startup environment, which he states is currently rich with opportunity from the minds that have remained to cultivate it.
“At this point, India is growing at a pace that is just insane. So if you are a startup founder or you want to try something out, I think this is the best time to do that.”
Gig Worker Loyalty
Shashank has developed some unexpected insights about startups in the app service business since he’s been in it. One of them is the delicate balance between meeting high demands through ethical means of supply. During the growth phase of a startup, the focus is primarily on improving the customer experience to attract demand and supply automatically. However, gig workers often face significant pressure to fulfill tasks and have been observed to take extreme measures. To address this, Shashank proposes the tactical solution of providing the workers with tiered options, letting them choose the number of orders they want to complete. Incentives are tied to these tiers, offering higher rewards for higher order volumes. This approach recognizes the importance of ethical considerations and the gig workers' desire to maximize their earnings.
Another startling observation Shashank brings up is the creation of a gig worker’s market following an increase in app service platforms. A growing variety of options has shifted the dynamic between employers and workers, with workers having a say in where they want to take their passengers. This shift is particularly prominent in the two-wheeler space.
“Now we are asking the driver, ‘Where do you want to go?’”
The competitive market in India has forced innovation in pursuit of adaptation and prioritized the customer’s loyalty as well as the employee’s. The two-wheeler space and its relative lack of regulation have created a labour market for a smaller group of part-time workers, such as college students, who are also given more control to maximize their output within their limited hours.
Shashank’s product management magic comes into play in such decisions.
Agility in the AI Era
Artificial intelligence has slowly been seeping into every industry, transforming analytics and engineering, and shifting how we see writing and editing. But Shashank is hopeful about job displacement in the product management industry. He argues that his industry’s practices vary from place to place, as cultures and preferences differ widely, especially in a diverse country like India. Bangalore itself is a melting pot that behaves differently from other states—which means that public behaviour is never geographically standardized, and generalizing needs is impossible. In Shashank’s opinion, understanding who the users are, how they behave, and addressing gaps in problems cannot be done by AI. He thinks, or at least hopes, AI doesn’t replace the human contact that makes these observations possible.
Shashank is also incredibly steadfast in improving his skills. Striving to remain ahead of the curve, he is vigilant about the direction of current trends to see what kind of value he can offer in rapidly transforming landscapes.
“I think we need to have that agility to constantly keep asking the question of, ‘What value can I add today,’ and maybe keep changing accordingly to be relevant in this new AI space. How can we be more human? I think that's how we can survive this whole wave.”
With the integration of different roles, skills, and industries, Shashank thinks it’s time to stop evaluating careers and experiences narrowly and start thinking about how they can be transferred. Our emotional agility and self-evaluation must quickly adapt to new needs and gaps. In countries like India, students are expected to choose a prestigious career path and commit to following it with the expectation of an aligning role. However, the idea of a future full of twists and turns is becoming the norm. Technological developments like artificial intelligence are continuously transforming the landscape, and it is no longer possible to predict career trends in the future.
Instead of being asked what they want to be, students should be encouraged to think about the kinds of problems they want to solve.
“If you're too myopic or structured in the way you think—that might actually be a disadvantage in this current era.”
Maximizing the MBA
In addition to putting his efforts into Rapido, Shashank is also pursuing an MBA at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB). Most MBA students use business school as a stepping stone to a desired career, but as an individual already established in the product management industry, Shashank hopes to use it to level up his product management skills and eventually chase bigger goals. Expanding his knowledge after establishing his career also allows him to apply his understanding to his work, immensely improving it. On the one hand, tech billionaires like Elon Musk like to go against the grain by being pessimistic about the MBA graduate’s potential. But Shashank sees value in the frameworks it provides.
“For me, there has been a shift in terms of what I think I can handle—everything from better time management to my outlook towards things at work and the world.”
Doing an MBA has also widened Shashank’s perspective on hard work, resilience, and the ceiling for greatness through the people he has met and the professors who have offered him a treasure of knowledge and guidance.
Shashank Raghavendra, Lead Product Manager at Rapido Bike Taxi, is throwing new colour into traditional commuting in India. Rapido balances public transport and cars while delivering unparalleled convenience and cost savings by seamlessly integrating motorcycles into the transportation mix. Shashank proposes a tiered system of gig-worker engagement to address the shifting labour market with increasing options for workers and emphasizes the vitality of leveraging complementary industries. In an era of AI dominance, Shashank remains a staunch advocate for human interaction and empathetic understanding in product management. He is also a spirited innovator, actively working on improving himself and his skills to continue being a problem-solving expert within society.
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