For over a decade, Flipkart has been synonymous with disruptive innovations, bringing about some of the most impactful innovations in Indian e-commerce, all thanks to the diversity of ideas that Flipsters bring to the table. In late 2017, the University Relations team took Flipkart’s quest for innovation one step ahead by launching Flipkart WiRED — an experiential case challenge. The core objective of this initiative was to give students first hand experience of challenges in the Indian e-commerce space.
In the 2018 edition of Flipkart WiRED, these young minds faced a fresh challenge at a different scale: to create experiences that would increase customer engagement on Flipkart.com.
The journey of Flipkart WiRED
“The way we approach problems internally will be quite different from the way someone external does,” says Sandeep Nainwal, senior manager of the University Relations team at Flipkart. Sandeep and his team are constantly in touch with B schools. For him, it made complete sense to reach out to them for innovative business solutions. “There is an abundance of latent ideas that students are waiting to explore, and we wanted to give them the right platform to experiment and learn. A lot of these students are also dedicated online shoppers and Flipkart WiRED became the bridge between the customer and that of our business,” he emphasizes.
IIM Calcutta, winners in 2017, had an even bigger challenge to face this year. The number of campuses participating has gone up from seven to eleven, with number of submissions almost tripling. “Last year was the pilot of the WiRED program, we were pretty conservative on inviting entries. So it was only opened up to seven of the business schools. This year, over 1,100 teams participated from 11 campuses. We were surprised to see the level of interest from campuses,” says Strafford Joe Fernandes – Senior University Relations partner. Strafford was one of the core members of the WiRED launch team and had witnessed the initiative’s journey from Day-1. “The response this year has been overwhelming, and I’m sure WiRED will only be bigger and more competitive in the years to come,” he says.
Plugging into the 2018 e-commerce challenge
In the lead-up to the 2018 WiRED challenge, the University Relations Team was scouting for a challenging business problem statement that would excite students from India’s top B-Schools. In the process, they worked with the WiRED core committee to get a pulse of the scenarios that Flipsters are tackling. “We wanted to pitch a problem that was unique and edgy enough for these students, and after discussing several business-critical problems with the core committee, we narrowed down on finding ideas to increase ‘Time Spent on Site.’ For a customer, this translates to more engaging and immersive experiences while shopping on Flipkart,” says Sandeep.
On August 3, 2018, Flipkart WiRED 2018 opened this problem statement to 11 of India’s leading business schools. Within a short time, the WiRED team received a staggering 615 proposal submissions. In the next few days, the core team was invested in evaluating these ideas. “The teams were ready to ‘Get WiRED for India,’ which was also the core theme for this year’s B-School challenge. We had conducted a detailed evaluation of all the entries. While some of the ideas were in sync with what Flipkart is already working on, there were a few that were novel and really stood out,” says Arpita Karmakar, Program Manager for WiRED and the B-School partner for the University Relations Team.
The evaluation process for the Flipkart WiRED challenge had two stages. A preliminary round of evaluation was conducted after the proposal submission stage, at the campus level. Each team comprised of 2-3 members, whose pitch went through rigorous evaluation. The Flipkart panel looked for three key aspects: the freshness of the idea, the viability of implementation and the depth of analysis of the problem statement. “There were nine teams that had a very innovative approach to solve this problem and they were chosen to enter the Grand Finale round at Flipkart headquarters,” recalls Arpita. With the case now scaled to a higher level of complexity, the battle for the best solution was underway.
Flipkart WiRED – The Grand Finale
On 20th September 2018, nine of the top B-School teams were flown down to the Flipkart Headquarters at Bengaluru, with their pitch for the next big e-commerce idea to improve customer engagement. The finalists included IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Lucknow, XLRI Jamshedpur, SPJIMR Mumbai, FMS Delhi, and MICA Ahmedabad. Before taking center stage, the teams found time to discuss ideas with their respective Flipkart mentors, who had been guiding the students throughout their WiRED journey. “The mentor connects have been really helpful. It’s helped us gain more Flipkart-specific business context while building our case. We feel more confident in facing the jury now,” says Satyam Avhad from the IIM Bangalore team.
Once the mentor-connects were over, the teams were now ready to make their pitch to two of the toughest jury members in the e-commerce business — Adarsh K Menon, VP & Head, Private brands and Electronics, and Anil Goteti, VP & Head of Flipkart Marketplace. For the next few hours, the nine teams presented their ideas, which involved gamified experiences, social media sharing, content integration & engagement programs, to name a few. At the end of an enthralling day of presentations, the CEO of Flipkart called for the team from IIM Calcutta to step on the stage and claim the winning trophy.
“We always knew it was coming home,” says Arindam Chugh from IIM Calcutta — the winners, second year running. “WiRED has been an amazing journey for us. From deep research, heated discussions and tonnes of ideation to stitch our strategy together in the dying minutes before the deadline. It’s all been worth it!” says Arindam. The IIM Calcutta team had taken a two-pronged approach. Their proposal not only had ideas to increase revisits to the Flipkart app but also increase the engagement. “We were trying to cover the entire value chain of the shopping experience. One of our ideas revolved around the integration of stories, just like the feature on Instagram into the Flipkart app,” explains Gaurav Agrawal, another member of the winning team.
“While there were some fantastic ideas showcased during WiRED this year, as the jury, we were focused on what is practical and implementable, in a real-world scenario,” says Adarsh K Menon about his evaluation experience.
Nayan Nitesh, a participant from MICA Ahmedabad was impressed with the sheer number of things he learned over a short time, “I loved the event because I gained deeper context about the e-commerce domain and the problems Flipkart is solving. It was like tumbling down the rabbit hole.”
“In been just over a year for Flipkart WiRED, and we have seen the initiative grow from a conservative campus engagement in 2017, to one of the most sought-after case challenge in Business Campuses in India, today. This has been a truly amazing experience for me, and the University Relations and Talent Branding team are already planning for the next big WiRED event for 2019. Something that B-Schools in India should watch out for!” concludes Sandeep.
Watch this video from WiRED 2018 for more.
A special thanks to the University Relations team, Talent Branding team and WiRED core team that brought WiRED alive.