Payments Innovation Week: How Razorpay’s Virtual Hackathon brought out 100+ Innovative Solutions from over 200 Employees
In the last few months, COVID-19 has altered the course of life and business for the foreseeable future. While governments and the healthcare sector have been battling on the frontlines to contain its spread and its effect on the economy, for most companies, the priority is now on business revival and survival — which majorly rests on its workforce’s ability to consistently perform well.
While some surveys indicate that employee productivity has seen a rise with the introduction of remote working in the last few months, others suggest a drop. However, one thing remains constant — employees need to be motivated, engaged and driven to realise their full potential, probably more now than ever before.
With this idea at heart, the pioneer in digital payments and business banking, Razorpay, launched a first-of-its-kind virtual hackathon for its employees in a five-day long innovation week.
Another key reason for this exercise was to unleash innovation to meet the rising demand for Razorpay’s services in the face of the lockdown. According to a survey by the company, between June 3 and July 2, 2020, digital payments in India saw a 23 percent jump.
“The Payments Innovation Week was organised to break the monotony and foster innovation within our team in a constructive manner. Given how digital payments have taken the centre stage, more so in the last 4 months, the payments industry has been experiencing pain points that need to be addressed on priority with unique ideas. This is our first time with a virtual hackathon and we are thrilled by the overwhelming response which also has the potential to solve some of these pain points. Personally as well, I am excited about the kind of ideas and hacks our teams have come up with in these 5 days. I am happy to note that a majority of these creative solutions developed by our teams will soon be rolled out to improve the payment experience for our partner businesses and end consumers,” Shashank Kumar, CTO and Co-Founder, Razorpay, told YourStory.
50 Teams, 200 Employees and 100+ Innovations!
The virtual hackathon is the brainchild of Pankaj Goel and Khilan Haria, the respective Payments Engineering Head and Product Head at Razorpay.
“At the core of this hackathon was to help imbibe customer empathy in our engineers. This is a core part of Razorpay’s culture. Such exercises are an opportunity for engineers to think like product managers and solve customer pain points and find newer innovative ways to make our products better,” said Pankaj Goel, Senior Director and Head of Payments Engineering.
Participants formed dream teams not limited to only engineers and developers but included a mix of employees from across the organisation - product managers, designers, engineers, DevOps specialists, solutions, pre-sales, technical writers, business and product analysts, product marketing and customer support, all collaborating to think freely and create something that’ll make a difference in times such as these.
“The lockdown has been hard on employees. They need something challenging and out-of-the- box to remain excited and productive beyond regular work. The response we got was overwhelming! In fact, the demo day at the end of the five-day-period went on for eight hours with some amazing ideas and innovations by different teams,” said Khilan.
While hackathons are traditionally organised to create a big impact and bring out innovation from its participants, we rarely see these ideas and solutions get practically translated into reality. Not for Razorpay though. According to Khilan, 90 percent of the ideas presented at the hackathon will go live in a week, especially those that solve challenges in onboarding customers and improving experience for existing customers, given that they are seeing a 3X increase in interest from new customers on the platform.
With the added advantage of seeing your ideas being onboarded, the top 2-3 winning teams from each category of the hackathon will also win cool cash prizes and the bragging rights that come with solving pain points for their customers!
Behind The Scenes
One of the reasons behind the massive success of this hackathon was also the ground work put into it. Pankaj said that a week before the event, participants were trained and mentored on how to identify and solve customer pain points and the real problems they face, how to be agile in the current market, the company’s new priorities and most importantly, how to delight new customers. This helped the teams come up with solutions that fit perfectly in line with Razorpay’s plans for 2020.
Each team was also assigned a mentor who guided them in the right direction and was a crucial part when it came to testing the feasibility of the products and solutions developed.
The hackathon saw teams develop products ranging from an AI-driven product discovery platform to building a fool proof security audit solution that can identify loopholes and leaks in digital payments, to a smart VPA identifier and an alerting system for fluctuations, among many others.
The Stand Out Performers
With 50 enthusiastic teams offering some great products, there were several ideas that stood out. One such was Team PayCatch, including Vikas Naidu, Moulika Kasa, Saransh Gupta, Albin Geroge, Siddharth Goswami and led by Pravir Shanker, Senior Product Manager - Card Payments. The other was Team Fabric, led by Venkatesan Vaidhyanathan- Senior Architect and Vaibhav Khurana, Raju Gupta, Srinidhi Iyengar and Kranti Deep.
“The best part about this Payments Innovation Week was the freedom we got to come up with solutions to improve payment experience for our partner businesses and end users,” said Pravir.
In the current situation, a large number of customers are moving towards digital payments, and so his team’s first target was to figure out how they could provide 100 percent successful card payment and processing solutions to partner businesses and their customers without any external intervention, he said.
Another pain point the team resolved was to help customers identify the right type of cards to use for a transaction while the third was to solve a pain point in Razorpay’s recently-launched debit card EMI facility. “Customers typically have to enter a lot of details on several pages before getting either approved or rejected for availing EMI on debit cards. Our proposed solution uses the power of data and improves the user experience by leaps and bounds. In turn making it seamless for end consumers to avail EMI as well as help increase conversions and reduce abandoned carts for customers,” said Pravir.
Venkatesan’s team of five developed solutions around improving infrastructure resilience and availability. Given the focus on cost optimisations, they wanted to solve the challenge of delivering a high world class availability of payments platform to our partner businesses customers at a significantly reduced cost. “This requires us to build a high level of resilience. We gave a platform to developers to identify resiliency gaps and empowered them to solve these to deliver a highly available system. The developed solutions enabled better cost preservation and empowered teams to analyse data points to figure out anomalies to fix them,” said Venkatesan.
“I was essentially a part of two teams which was a mix of people from infrastructure, backend engineers, data engineers and data scientists. It was the right combination of the right people and minds and we operated like clockwork, splitting shifts and goals.“
The HR team at Razorpay did their bit to help the teams stay motivated and not make it all about work, Venkatesan added. “In the five days, HR hosted ‘water cooler sessions’ with games, quizzes, poker tournaments, magic shows and much more to keep things fun and interesting. That helped a lot!
"Our leadership team also made sure that the participating teams were not pulled into meetings or given more responsibilities to give us a distraction-free five days of brainstorming and fruitful output," said Venkatesan.
Both Pravir and Venkatesan concurred on the fact that the prize money was not on anyone's minds. What drove them was the thrill of creating better experiences for our partner businesses and end users, and the knowledge that their solutions will be rolled out.
“We were like 50 mini startups trying to build amazing products,” Venkatesan added with a laugh.