Ridzwan Aminuddin is an entrepreneurial and passionate product leader with deep experience in mobile, web, digital data and e-commerce. He has over 10 years of experience leading product and technology teams to carry out large-scale, complex consumer/commercial enterprise products and services.
Ridzwan is currently the head product management guy at Ninja Van, and is focussed on building a kickass product team with world-class product practices to disrupt last-mile logistics in South East Asia. In his former life, Ridzwan led the technology and product practice at Wealth-X, a fintech startup that delivers intelligence on the world’s ultra-wealthy people.
In his free time, outside of reading product literature, Ridzwan spends most of his leisure time with his lovely wife and three adorable kids. He strives to be a nurturing product leader and is passionate about empowering and training young product professionals.
Our readers like to see how senior product leaders get to where they are. How did you come to be a Director of Product Management at Ninjavan?
Ridzwan: I wish I had a more exciting Hollywood worthy story on how I got into product management but the truth is that a combination of pure luck and inadequacy led me into this discipline. As a young undergraduate majoring in Computer Engineering, I realized quite quickly that I did not see myself working in an extremely technical function. I very quickly ditched any dreams of being a programmer and decided I should pursue a career as a systems analyst. The major dose of luck was being offered a job right out of school by a fast-growing fin-tech startup that believed in me to drive the development of their products. I spent the first 2-3 years of my career building digital platforms for a company called World-Check. The company was eventually acquired by Thomson Reuters. Little did I realize that a lot of the work I was doing was aligned with Product Management.
I left World Check after 3 years to join another startup as their first employee. This company was called Wealth-X and was also in the fin-tech space, servicing the wealth management and not for profit verticals. My remit was to build their core products and to continue iteration and innovation until we found product-market fit. I had the benefit of working under leaders who were former C level executives at Forbes Media and through this time, under their tutelage, I cut my teeth in the fundamentals of Product Management as a formal practice and discipline. My CEO at the time, Mykolas Rambus, essentially schooled me in the best practices of Product based on his knowledge and exposure to the role in his Silicon Valley days.
“ It was during this time that I managed to hone my craft and was further blessed with the opportunity to build a product and engineering team for the organization. I realized then that I had fallen in love with Product and soon left the organization looking for a new challenge to push myself to the next level.”
That opportunity came in the form of a role as Lead Product Manager for Ninja Van, a burgeoning last mile delivery startup, based in Singapore, that was changing the way logistics was being done in South East Asia. Combining cutting edge technology and operational excellence, I found myself challenged to lead the development and innovation of extremely interesting products and solutions to meet the growing needs of e-commerce shipper and consumers in the region. In my time with Ninja I’ve had the pleasure to build product management and design teams, develop processes and frameworks and influence the evolution of the organization to become more product led. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in this industry on a daily basis.
Could you share a couple of things you love and/or find challenging about your job or industry?
Ridzwan: There are two characteristics of the Ninja Van business that makes it challenging. The first is that our products and hence our business is dependent on physical assets and manual operations. What this means to us as product managers in the organization is that the deployment and eventual success of our builds are not 100% controlled by product and tech but require deep collaboration with the operational side of the business. Metrics for product success are often shared. TAs a Product Lead at Ninja Van, I’ve had to consciously plan to include and collaborate closely with regional operational stakeholders when going through the development lifestyle of the platforms we work on at Ninja Van.
The second intriguing challenge is in the nature of competition in the industry. Logistics was traditionally a pen and paper business, highly manual and dependent on operators working with hard copy documentation to complete end to end supply chain flows. Ninja Van entered the market early, leveraging technology to disrupt the industry, introducing faster, better and more efficient ways to run logistics in South-East Asia. As an organization, we have found tremendous success with our early products, finding market fit and traction but as our competitors wisen up and as new entrants come into the market, these players are catching up fast.
“As Product Managers in this industry, we have to wear our innovation hat regularly, constantly thinking about ways we can retain the lead in our markets, taking advantage of our established operational footprint and our deeper understanding of the nuances and peculiarities of logistics in this region.”
Driving value for our shippers and end users in such high growth markets is one of the most challenging and demanding aspects of my job.
You’ll be talking on “The Holy Grail of Engineering and Product Squads” at PMF and how product squads have been adopted across southeast Asia. Do you think that the effectiveness of product squads differ by region, company size, company maturity, or any other particular factors?
Ridzwan: I think we can all probably guess that the answer to that question is a ‘definite yes’.
“Product as a function in startups, growth phased organizations and enterprises in South East Asia vary quite extremely in terms of maturity.”
As part of my talk, I am going to share anecdotes of some of the challenges I faced as a lead product manager at Ninja Van. These challenges led me to investigate and analyze the state of product and engineering squads in the region and I will share some of my learnings and findings in this regard.
The real meat of my story, however, lies in the motivations for what I was looking for in terms of answers. I have a hunch that many product professionals in the region also struggle with the same problems I have faced, specifically around organizational design to overcome some of the common growth issues commonplace in product teams shifting from the startup phase into the growth phase. My intention is to share this journey with the attendees of Product Management Festival APAC 2019 with a hope that some of you might be able to take advantage of the insights I share and avoid some of the pitfalls I might point out.