This week, I interviewed Deboshree Dutta, Founder and CEO of RoomPlays, Forbes Contributor — Forbes Council and Chapter Lead & Founding member of the Women in Product — SF Bay Area Peninsula Chapter. Deboshree Dutta is a very motivating and driven woman, and it was such a beautiful and guiding experience to have had this conversation with her. I also had a chance to meet her very energetic and lovely pets — two dogs and one cat. Deboshree also talked about one of the most exciting books that she has read and recommends it to everyone — Thrive by Arianna Huffington, which talks about The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life, and that is, Mental Health and different tips and tactics to approach Mental Health, no matter what stage of your life you’re in. Being an entrepreneur, she believes learning resiliency, being productive consciously is primary to achieving something when you are working as your own boss and in an unstructured environment.
So, tell us about RoomPlays and what was the initial thought that motivated you to pursue RoomPlays?
So RoomPlays essentially provides end to end platforms that enable anybody, whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, to work with interior designers, anywhere in the world, to transform your house, and turn your house into a home. So the motivation behind this was that the market for interior designing is more than 20 billion in the US alone. And globally, there is no existing platform where you can go and say, hey, I want to work with an interior designer, and then it suggests an interior designer to give you modern aesthetics at affordable prices. So we’re really trying to sort of empower, interior designers to be connected with clients locally, and completely work in virtual.
The way I got into it is, in addition to doing what I do, I have been a blogger for the last seven years. And blogging was really like my creative outlet, or, you know, things that I don’t get to do otherwise at work and leisure function. So from there actually, I grew, I learned about the whole, micro-influencer market, I grew into being a communicator. So I learnt about what are the opportunities that come in front of you and you actually put yourself in that world. And the reality is I ended up meeting hundreds or thousands of upcoming designers who were putting themselves out there, on social media, just trying to get their name out so that they could meet clients. That’s a lot of work, takes a lot of time. But in reality, the opportunity is so massive, and there is no platform today for these upcoming designers to meet, and work. So that’s kind of like marrying my technical skills and this idea. I know how to code, I know how to build a product and I put them together. And I was like, hey, let’s test the market. And it all came together.
Starting your own company is challenging, in various aspects, what were the challenges that you faced and how did you resolve those?
The biggest thing about founding a startup is that a lot of people have really good ideas. The first thing is, how do you evaluate an idea to be so convinced about it, that you’re willing to sacrifice everything — quit your job and leave everything else, and commit yourself and be bought in. That takes a little bit of effort, like defining the problem statement, assessing the market, creating, and there’s a lot of hazards, you have got to know if this idea is worth exploring. Once you’re there, I think the next step is the hardest, because the biggest challenge for a startup is if you’re talking about technical startups, you need to be the person who is writing code continuously need to be the person who’s talking to customers continuously. Being a solo founder, I am the person who’s talking, who’s doing marketing, who’s trying to build on social media strategies. And deal with accounting, legal tax, all that. At the end of the day, like everything, on top of doing all of this, you have to also focus on growth, like what growth strategies were in the bar? Should I be going out to customers in the US, India and UK? What strategies do I implement for that? So as one person, how do you figure out where you want to spend your time, because you need to spend your time in all these areas, and you’re pretty much a one-person company. And in a traditional role, we don’t have to worry about that. Like, as a product manager, I think of an idea, I spend 14 to 15 hours a day focusing on that idea, coming up with the PRD, roadmap design, and so on. And then I handle crunch, and then it goes to the marketing, support because here you have everything. That’s the toughest part.
So learning to firstly, acknowledge that that is how you have to do with life going forward, at least for the foreseeable future, is the toughest part, to be honest — where do you focus? Because you can’t do everything. To figure out, out of these, what should I build — products or documents? That’s kind of where I am to be honest. From there, you get into other challenges about, recruiting the people you want to bring on your team. And then you want to figure out fundraising. There is a ton of stuff.
You have been in Tech for 10+ years, what is your story of shifting into Product?
So when I was in Cisco, I had been working for more than five years. And my idea is that wherever I am I need to be, if not the best, one of the best. And that is how you try to find your space where you can shine. So that’s the only way to grow otherwise you’re going to be mediocre, and I always look for places where, okay, I think there’s a gap that I can add value to. After one point being in that role in engineering, I wasn’t driven enough to outshine other engineers. I was trying to be the best engineer, but it wasn’t motivating me. And I realized that I needed to find someplace that genuinely drives me. I didn’t know that Product was my role. So I looked into something called Technical Marketing, I looked into Sales, I looked into Product, I didn’t even know exactly what it was. And I stumbled into it, I started, I did a stretch project. So it was a journey. It was a seven month journey, where I tried different products, in addition to my goals. And then I realized that Product is likely going to be the best fit for me because I’m a very aggressive result-oriented person. And I can lead. So yeah, it was a bit of a journey, I tried different things. And not everybody’s cut out for Product to be honest. And product is one of the most exhausting roles I have ever played. So you have to really be willing to to be a Product Manager. Takes a little bit of trial and error before you pick it up. But once you’re in it, and it is a good fit, there’s no looking back.
Being the Chapter Lead and the Founding member of Women in Product — SF Bay Area, what is your ultimate goal and how are you approaching it?
Women in Product is backed by some really talented women in the Bay Area. Our intention behind the chapter was basically to bring a large concentration of women in product from around the world. There are different groups of women, some figuring out how to break into product, some figuring out how to be a product manager, how to grow, as it is one of the most exhausting, responsible role. Most women who end up in this role, are also moms, or they already have other responsibilities that they are taking care of. So how do you balance and do well, in a role that is as demanding as product, and also be there for your family, so it was an opportunity to make everyone realise that they are not alone in it, and they do not need to be so hard on themselves. It was essentially built to be able to provide a platform to network with fellow product managers. It was again an opportunity to expose yourself to leaders who can give you mentorship and guidance and also recruitment.
What would you say is the one incident that really changed you as a person, making you who you are today?
I think to be super honest, someone has to take a chance on you. Like when you are a little bit younger, when you’re kind of stuck in this place between engineering and not knowing where you want to go. You need someone to sort of give you a chance, even though you’ve never been a product manager. I decided to take a chance at a small startup, which got acquired by Hitachi. Back then, that group, when they took a chance on me, they said, Deb, come in, do what you want to, figure it out. And so I was given an opportunity to pretty much literally make all the mistakes, learn from those mistakes, there was just so much grace in the way they like, guided me through it. And that journey gave me all the confidence I needed. To believe that I can personally do this. It’s okay to make mistakes. It is actually okay to pursue your dreams. I think that’s golden. For me, that pretty much has led me till today, and I am eternally thankful for that group of individuals. And life is freaking long, you will get there.