In the dynamic world of e-commerce, constant innovation is the key to fulfilling the requirements of online shoppers. As the pace of technology changes rapidly, it is also important that this ecosystem nurtures an environment of collaboration to foster innovation. E-commerce firm Flipkart has gone ahead to nurture this spirit of innovation through collaboration with the academic world. Muthusamy Chelliah, director, academic engagement, Flipkart says, “We are all about innovation. We would like to re-invent online shopping through technology innovation.” The engagement with the top notch of the academic world for Flipkart began about two years ago as it realised that there were huge challenges with the online shopping world and such a relationship gives innovation the scope to grow by leaps and bounds.
Chelliah says Flipkart has very good technical talent pool within the company but this engagement to work with the top researchers takes the whole innovation agenda to a completely different level. Flipkart’s engagement with the academic institutions begins with laying out a problem. “We go with the problem statement to the right IIT professor and they have a good pool of students. They discuss with the Flipkart technical team about the problem and identify where we can innovate,” Chelliah says.
As of now, these engagements stretch 12-18 months while Flipkart is also looking at multi-year collaborations. Flipkart engages with the academic institutions primarily around IITs, IIMs in India and a few American universities. The collaboration with the universities encompasses activities such as product classification, product review, supply chain logistics, cloud computing platform, etc.
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Flipkart’s innovation agenda has a few successes to its credit. It engaged with an IIT to work on the area of product classification, given that there are lakhs of goods on its marketplace which includes not only of its own retail store but also that of the partners. Similar has been the case with product review. Chelliah says,customers find there is information overload but “we have come up with a solution while collaborating with IIT professors where there is easy sequencing of reviews”.
Some of the key technology areas under this collaboration has been machine learning, natural language processing, cloud computing and robotics.