Are mobile apps the future? Highlights from Myntra’s mobile hack day


Hackathons are an innovative way to encourage employees and outside talent to develop an app, or work around (‘hack’) from scratch, within a given time period. The success of the trend is evident from companies and startups such as Flipkart, Sequoia, Khosla Labs, Ventursity, IBM, GSF, and Freshdesk organising a string of hackathons, or hack days, in the recent past.Flipkart had hosted an open hackathon last year and following in its footsteps, leading fashion retailer Myntra recently held its first open hack day -- ‘HackerRamp 2015’. Myntra invited tech minds in Bengaluru to hack their way into technological innovations for their mobile platform.

The event witnessed over 160 internal and external participants from companies like Yahoo, Amazon, Walmart, Intel, IBM, InMobi, and Samsung. Participants were challenged to create a game-changing mobile technology, themed around mobile API, apps, and security within a 24-hour time period over the weekend.

The event opened with talk sessions by Myntra and Flipkart spokespersons to inspire participants to explore the unexplored in mobile technology.

Chief Product & Technology Officer of Myntra Shamik Sharma delivering the keynote address, said:

While open hackathons are common at cutting edge technology companies, it’s about time that the growing m-commerce industry also benefits from it. A great deal of ingenuity can come from external expertise, which will undoubtedly deliver innovative ideas and creative solutions that can benefit everyone involved.
Shamik Sharma delivering the keynote address

Shamik addressed the gathering and gave the participants an overview of how and what a great product should be and what Myntra expected from the participants.

Idea versus product

Shamik elaborated on Steve Jobs’s quote:

“There is a disease of thinking that having an idea is 90 per cent of the work. There’s actually a tremendous amount of craftsmanship between having a great idea and a great product.”

He explained how an idea is different from the actual execution plan and building of the product. While having great ideas is good, it all comes down to execution. “I use a product and even though it’s good I sometimes feel ‘maaza nahi aaya’. A great product should look good, work good, and feel good,” said Shamik. He felt that the extra effort in making a good product more user-friendly, or simpler, is the secret sauce in making a good product a great one.

Take pride in the quality of your work

He requested developers, coders to look at all aspects of their work and not just what the consumers can see. He again brought up the example of Apple where engineers built devices that were beautiful both inside and out. He concluded the session by advising the youth in the gathering:

People are too safe; when young, be bold. Take risks. It’s time for us to hack the world.

Q&A with audience and press

Shamik felt that Indians should stop trying to ape the West and blindly copy ideas, but instead innovate and solve India-centric problems. On being asked how Indian entrepreneurs could raise funds when VCs often look to invest in proven ideas from the West, he responded: “Money is important, but should not be the end goal. Building a great product should be the focus. The money will automatically flow. The world has changed drastically in the last 12 months and there are thousands of problems that can be solved.”

Mobile vs Web

On being asked about Myntra's plans and reasons to go mobile app only, Shamik replied: “Our research and data suggests that Myntra customers mostly belong to the younger, mobile-savvy generation. Going mobile app only may make more sense for us.” He said that almost 80 per cent of their mobile traffic was from apps.

Logistics and services

Shamik confirmed that Myntra is not just holding inventory but is also going further down into the supply chain and sourcing some of the raw materials, such as yarn. He went on to add that Flipkart and Myntra are committed to offering better logistics support to tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Flipkart’s Co-Founder Binny Bansal’s main focus is on logistics. Flipkart and Myntra are also partnering with third-party logistics by giving them access to their APIs.

Recently Flipkart tied up with Mumbai Dabbawalas to improve their last mile logistics service. Shamik confirmed that Myntra has no immediate plans to use this partnership for their deliveries, and the exercise will be carried out only by Flipkart. Myntra may join suit later depending on how things go.

Myntra claims to offer services which none of their competitors currently provide. These include:

-Exchange: Customers can request for the same piece of clothing in a different size or colour.

-Alteration: If a piece of clothing doesn’t fit as expected, customers can request for alterations at their residence.

Related read: [Techie Tuesdays] Shamik Sharma, the PhD dropout computer scientist who controls the technology and product at Myntra

The jury: (L to R) Amit Somani, Amod Malviya, Shamik Sharma, and Pramod Varma

Shamik’s address was followed by insights from Sunil Pai, Senior architect at Myntra, and Punit Singh, CPO, Flipkart. At the culmination of the 24-hour event, participants got to showcase their creations to a four-member jury that included Pramod Varma, Chief Architect, UIDAIAmod Malviya, CTO, FlipkartAmit Somani, Managing Partner, AngelPrime and Shamik Sharma, CTO, Myntra.

Winners of Myntra’s Mobile Hack Day 2015

The following were the proud contestants (in teams of two to four) who walked away with the awards in different categories:

-Chat-based commerce: Himadri, Jatin, Vijay, and Mohan from the Hike iOS team bagged the first spot and took home a cash prize of Rs. 1,50,000.

- Chat with friends real time to buy products: A team comprising Nikhil Bansal, Anurag Saxena, Shivam Gupta, and Neera Singh from Flipkart, Marketshare, Vizury, and Parcelled bagged the second place and took home a cash prize of Rs 75,000.

- Augmented reality shooting game: Nilesh Hiray and Naveen Reddy from Myntra bagged the third spot and walked away with Rs 50,000.

- Smart Links - an app that links all other apps: Niketh and Niteesh from Yahoo and Fungru bagged the fourth spot and a cash prize of Rs 25,000.

Related read: Fourteen things I learnt doing 14 hackathons


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