Flipkart plans to accelerate ‘Project 1K’, its internal innovation programme, to encourage the rank and file of the company to come up with both incremental and disruptive ideas. Flipkart received over 265 ideas in Phase-1 of Project 1K.

The ideas were generated from its business, product and tech teams. Flipkart evaluated the top 50 ideas and picked up 15 that were pitched to the senior most leaders, including the company’s CTPO (Chief Technology and Product Officer). These were further whittled down to the top 4-5 ideas. Flipkart plans to execute a few of these ideas over the next 12 months, a top executive told BusinessLine .

Project 1K encourages all Flipkart employees to generate a repository of ideas that have the potential to impact Flipkart’s customers, sellers and the company as a whole and strengthen it leadership in Internet commerce. The ideas will be made accessible to all employees through a microsite, wherein they will be able to select an idea, form their own team across functions, and work on a solution.

10% time

To encourage participation from employees, Flipkart allows employees to dedicate 10 per cent of their time to ‘Project 1K’. By letting employees wear the hat of an ‘intrapreneur’, the project is expected to reinforce Flipkart’s inherent start-up culture.

“We initiated an internal innovation program called ‘Project 1K’ — which alludes to the famous quote — let a thousand flowers bloom —18 months ago. We wanted to have the internal rank and file, whether they are engineers, or in operations or in the business side of the company, to bring their self-initialised creative ideas to us. We are willing to champion the best ideas so that they become future businesses for Flipkart,” said Naren Ravula, V-P and Head of Product Strategy and Deployment, Flipkart.

Bottom-up ideas

Stating that Project 1K is just the starting point, because bottom-up ideas come in all sizes and shapes, he said: “the people who propose the ideas, may not be the same people who can take it to the next step and executive it. The first stage is to get the bottom-up ideas — in the most recent cycle we got over 250 ideas from across the company. We then evaluate which of these ideas could be potential game changers for us. If it is a business person who has proposed the idea, we make sure that he/she is paired up with a person each from tech and product, so that they can complete their ideation and create a solution. Or vice versa.”

In the face of growing competition from Amazon, Reliance and the Tatas, Flipkart is accelerating both its external (Flipkart Leap start-up accelerator programme) and internal innovation programme (Project 1K) to make its offerings across categories relevant to both metro and Tier-2 customers.

Flipkart has always been innovative and has introduced COD, easy returns policy, next day delivery and Big Billion Days over the years. But innovation took a backseat for a while after it was acquired by Walmart, as it started realigning itself to meet Walmart’s global standards, pointed out Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst at Greyhound Research. Now that it is done, Flipkart is focused on innovating to enter customer segments where it does not have a presence like pharmacy or where it needs to build deeper offerings like its grocery segment which is not strong on perishables, he said.

Asked whether Project 1K is an annual process, Ravula said: “last year was the first time we did this formally, but, we plan to do this twice a year and integrate it with some of the other things we do around innovation like Hackathons.”