It all began during a casual chat in the office canteen between the then chief technology officer Amod Malviya, and Utkarsh B, who is currently vice-president and principal architect at Flipkart, almost a decade ago.
Those days Flipkart was just finding its feet in the yet to be proven e-commerce space in the country. Though Hack Day as a concept was somewhat popular among IT companies, the seed was not yet sown in other non-technology firms, especially in e-commerce.
A decade later as the e-commerce giant holds its ninth Hack Day this year, it has gathered an array of innovative ideas through these events over the years, and has even taken 20 of those to their logical conclusion by building solutions for improving business processes.
“Those days, we had 60-70 employees. When we first launched the Hack Day, all participated. Even Binny (Bansal) and Sachin (Bansal) also joined in and wrote codes,” said Utkarsh.
The intent behind organising the Hack Day is to flare up the imagination of employees to help them think out-of- the box.
“You can be innovative in your thinking during a Hack Day. It helps to unlock your energy as there will be no pressure. Even e-commerce is a kind of box mindset. So, we encourage guys to think beyond,” Utkarsh added.
Giving an example of the kind of problem statements which the e-tailer is working on, Utkarsh said the replacement of old cellphones or detecting resellers who buy from Flipkart's platforms in bulk and sell it on a margin in the open market, were huge challenges.
“How do I assess the actual condition of your cellphone (before replacing it with a new one)? So currently we are working on an app, which will scan the condition of your mobile phone.
It will help us to understand the camera condition or the battery life since the app will do the diagnostics,” Utkarsh added.
If it sees the light of day, the new app will be a sub app, which will be voluntary for users, but can be useful for both the seller and the buyer as the current technologies only allow both to quote a price for the old phone based on the model and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number.
Besides, its engineers are also working on a breakthrough technology to help detect a reseller from a genuine buyer.
“Fraud detection is another area we are working on. We are also looking to pinpoint the exact geo-location of the customer based on past purchases and the kind of items he/she buys among others,” Utkarsh said.
“There are multiple signals through which we can identify a reseller, like we get data from the delivery guy who has gone and delivered the goods. So we can tap those kinds of data and with the use of a systematic algorithm, identify the reseller.”
This year, Flipkart expects 60-70 per cent of its 2,000-odd engineering team, including subsidiaries, to be part of the Hack Day.
“Hack Day is an event where people from one functional team reach out to other teams and come up with a logical solution in 24 hours.
We see search engineers reaching out to the supply team or data scientists, which creates a cross collaboration and also help deliver the best results,” Utkarsh said.