Flipkart announced the launch of its flagship accelerator program, Flipkart Leap in August 2020 to enable new and upcoming startups to grow, scale, and navigate challenges and in turn, contribute to the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Shortlisted startups were to undergo a 16-week intensive mentorship and provided with an equity-free grant.
In January 2021, eight startups — ANS Commerce, Entropik Tech, Fashinza, Gully Network, Piggy, TagBox Solutions, UnboxRobotics Labs Private Limited, and Wolkus Technology (Fasal) — made it to the programme. Graduating from the inaugural cohort of Flipkart Leap on July 8, these startups showcased their solutions to 900+ attendees from across the globe including investors and industry leaders from 70+ organisations and varied talent from 280+businesses – making it one of the most successful Demo Days in the country in recent times. The Demo Day now marks the beginning of their journey towards scaling their offerings and attracting potential investments.
Supporting DeepTech innovations beyond just RetailTech
On the Demo Day for Cohort 1 of Flipkart Leap, Jeyandran Venugopal, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Flipkart shared, “When we began thinking about Flipkart starting an accelerator programme, we had our intention clear – we wanted to play our part in the vision of a Digital India and India’s dream of becoming $1 trillion digital economy. And, as the poster boy of digital startups in the country, we wanted to pitch in by giving back to the ecosystem by supporting innovative deep tech startups that are trying to make a mark, create disruptive transformations and value additions across sectors and verticals.”
He explained this formed the foundation for the accelerator taking a strategic stand to widen the scope of its programme beyond just retail tech. And, when the names of the eight startups were announced, the cohort reflected a diversity of sectors ranging from retail tech, robotics as well as those in agritech and fintech space. He shared that the relevance of a programme like Flipkart Leap can be gauged from the 1,000+ applications the accelerator received for its first cohort, among which 100+ were funded startups with sizable scale and maturity.
As part of the program, the startups were given access to world-class technical and business mentorship, tools, technology and business support services, as well as connect with relevant investors in the industry. Each startup was mapped with senior leaders from Flipkart based on the industry in order to fulfil gaps in the startups’ journey. In addition to this, Flipkart also partnered with Google and Microsoft to provide its cohort with cloud credits and relevant workshops that can boost their growth. For instance, the programme enabled Entropik, a five-year-old startup that has worked with 150+ enterprises across geographies, to figure out scalable use cases within the consumer internet industry and validate them with the right mentors and business stakeholders. For Fashinza, another startup part of the cohort, the accelerator enabled access to top industry leaders across fashion brands. This helped the startup get a better understanding of the problems that fashion brands were facing and thereby structure their offerings better.
“Over the 16-week period, we invested quite heavily in working with each of the startups by understanding their individual journey and needs. While some of them needed help with the refinement of their product market fit, some needed design sprints. So we enabled access to subject matter experts at Flipkart as well as from the industry who could work with them and help the startups build, grow and scale market-ready solutions,” shared Jeyandran.
Building a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurship
The Demo Day also saw Mohit Bhatnagar, Managing Director, Sequoia India; Shanti Mohan, Founder, LetsVenture and Mekin Maheshwari, Founder, Udhyam Learning, coming together along with Aishwarya Kalakata, Product Innovation, Flipkart to discuss what it would take to strengthen and grow a holistic startup ecosystem. Setting the context, Aishwarya shared, “By 2025, Indian startups are likely to create 1.6 million jobs. Despite statistics like this which make great media points, it is a fact that nine out of 10 startups fail. And here, India has significant room for improvement. We believe the ecosystem’s role is going to be critical to determine the success rate of startups in the country, which will, in turn, encourage more young minds to take the path of entrepreneurship.”
Mohit noted that a key gap so far in India’s startup ecosystem was the lack of startups that could endure and deliver value in the long term. “And one indication of an enduring company is a company going public. We just haven’t had as many tech startups hit the public market successfully. So to me, the single biggest gap and challenge is a long-term mindset of creating value,” he said. However, he shared that this was likely to change in the next 18 months, with 10-20 companies from the Indian startup ecosystem hitting the public markets both in the US as well as in India. Shanti added that the other challenge was that of startups finding it difficult to scale based on processes and making scale independent of the people leading the company. “Startups must take a long-term view of the scale and start building processes early on. This is where I believe integrations with corporates will help. CXOs of large organisations almost intuitively understand how to streamline processes and put in mechanisms that enable organisations to scale.”
Another critical aspect the leaders delved upon was diversity in entrepreneurship and ways to promote it both from gender as well as an urban-rural divide perspective. Speaking on the latter, Mekin shared that his interactions with entrepreneurs from Tier 1, 2 and 3 cities have pointed out the need to enable exposure and ecosystem connections. “I have seen that some of the most successful entrepreneurs from Tier 1 or 2 towns are ones who have had exposure in the form of studying abroad, working in corporates, etc where they are able to get a sense of the workings of the wider world and the possibilities. So providing a realistic and honest exposure is a good starting point. Another important element that will enable entrepreneurs is the access to networks they can reach out to when they need help,” he said.
On to the next leap
Technology and digital transformation have been the key themes throughout 2020 and 2021.
Tech innovation and nurturing disruptive ideas will continue to be leading factors in the new normal.
Being a homegrown platform, Flipkart – through its accelerator program, Flipkart Leap – is utilising its reach to nurture and boost the ideas that have the potential to revolutionise the retail and technology space. Flipkart is already gearing up to invite applications for its second cohort of the program and will soon be revealing the new program structure and offerings.