Target accelerator shows the way for corporate accelerator programs in India


When Target, the Fortune 50 retailer, launched its accelerator program in India this January, it was set to be a test-case for all the other corporates who want to build innovation capabilities out of India. For long, India and Bangalore have been seen as a low-cost, back office for big corporate houses. Target's accelerator program, that it runs from its India office was a sort of an endorsement of the fact that the giants are now looking at India, especially Bangalore, as a source of innovative technologies.

Target India has been functioning for the past nine years in India and serves as an extension of the Minneapolis HQ often considered the second headquarters for Target. The five startups of the Target Accelerator Program presented on June 12, 2014 to a group of industry leaders, venture capitalists, Target leaders and media at the Demo Day.

The startups, Turnaround Innovision, muHive, Konotor, Unbxd and InstaClique, were part of the four-month, immersive Accelerator Program hosted at Target India. The first batch, chosen from hundreds of applicants, was focused on developing transformative ideas across key areas: search, content, data, social and mobile.

The accelerator's prime vision is working with the startup ecosystem in Bangalore to help create innovative omnichannel solutions that can enhance the Target shopping experience. “The first batch included a great group of startups who have made tremendous progress in maturing and testing their products over the last 16 weeks. We look forward to engaging with additional startups in our second batch later this year,"  said Navneet Kapoor, president and managing director, Target India.

The five startups who were part of the first batch are:




KonotorMobile user engagement productKonotor’s platform is being tested in severalTarget stores in order to improve real-time communications with headquarters
muHiveSocial customer relationship management with an automated workflow to manage social conversationsTarget is testing muHive’s solution for outbound social marketing priorities
Turnaround InnovisionEnd-to-end solution to generate 3D images for online catalogsTarget is testing Turnaround Innovision’s solution for select categories online
UnbxdNew age search solution for ecommerceTarget will test Unbxd’s product for select online search queries
InstacliqueSocial widget for online retailTarget will test Instaclique’s product on one of its online platforms

The startup founders seemed to have gained a lot from the accelerator program. Since the startups chosen as part of the batch were aligned with the vision of Target, all of them had an opportunity to work with Target's massive retail business and interfaces. The products are being tested across several Target stores and especially with its online offerings.

Sharing his experience, Sagar Vibhute, founder of muHive, said: “As a startup, one of the biggest challenges we face is to validate our business idea. Through this program, we have had the opportunity to work and scale up with a big retailer like Target, which provides a differentiated experience to millions of guests across multiple platforms. That has helped us emphasize on creating better solutions for social guest engagement.”

Srikrishnan Ganesan, founder of Konotor, added: “In the last few months, we have been able to work closely with Target’s business and leadership teams to identify and prioritize relevant use cases for the retail industry. It’s been a great learning and fun experience while we have had the opportunity to build cool technology solutions.”

Continuing the commitment to innovation in retail, Target also announced today it will incubate a second round which will commence later this year, focusing on: digital, omnichannel technologies and analytics. The next batch, according to Navneet, will continue to have the same number of startups.

Target is world's second largest discount retailer and with Walmart eyeing an entry into the Indian market as soon as the government relaxes its FDI norms, it'd make sense to think that Target would be interested in the same. And even as Target looks to evolve into an omnichannel company, Navneet maintains that they have no intentions of entering into the Indian market as of yet. "Unlike Amazon, we are not an e-tailer, And, our focus is on growing sales irrespective of the channel and improve the shopping experience," he adds.

To add upon its already strengthened brick-and-mortar capabilities, the accelerator is a clear way for Target to achieve the same capabilities for its digital channels. Apart from the accelerator program, the giant also works with several startups in the US to further the same goal.

Target is accepting applications from startups for its next batch that will be launched later this year. You can apply here