Target is finally launching its Accelerator Program for Indian startups with five companies that can help the retailer test and build technology solutions across 3D imaging, mobility, personalized search and social media conversations with customers. The Minneapolis-based retailer has been facing heat recently because of a large data breach last year, and had to delay the launch of its accelerator by a month.
While Target is now looking to tap into the Indian startup talent for exploring the next big online retail idea, the new accelerator is also going to be a test case for other corporates planning similar ventures in the country. And as we reported last year, this could just be the endorsement India’s $108 billion IT sector is looking for after years of being seen as a low-cost, back office for Fortune 500 customers. The accelerator will be managed by Lalit Ahuja, an Indian technology industry veteran who also helped the retailer set up its technology captive centre in Bangalore few years ago. Ahuja runs an accelerator of his own called Kyron, which will run the program for Target.
We are also hearing from several sources that Target wanted a couple of more mature startups such as TookiTaki (social audience discovery and retargeting platform) and PugMarks (offers a smart browser) to join the accelerator program, but a final decision is yet to be made. Basically, some of these companies are wondering if they should be spending a few months at an accelerator, or chasing their other long-term goals. Both these startups did not comment on the Target discussions.
We are still waiting to get more details from Target on these selected companies and the retailer’s expectations from them. Here are the first five companies selected to join the four-month program:
Turnaround Innovision: Founded by IIT graduate Sreepriya Koppula, among a growing, but small breed of women entrepreneurs in India. The startup’s product helps online retailers and other merchants use 3D modeling and offers a 360 Degree view of the products.
Konotor: Offers an app that helps companies have a two-way communication with their mobile users. The startup achieves this by offering a two-way messaging inbox within an app that can deal with customer support and even cart abandonment. The founding team includes Srikrishnan Ganesan,Deepak and Vignesh Girishankar, who earlier worked with Zynga.
MuHive: A social CRM startup that already helps some of India’s online retailers leverage social conversations. The founding team members have worked with IBM and Microsoft Research before launching the startup.
Unbxd: Offers a dashboard to help with merchandising and analytics across key metrics like searches, conversions and visitor flow. Unbxd also offers personalized search and product recommendations. The founders — Pavan Sondur and Prashant Kumar — are not new to the Indian startup scene having raised $2 million in Series A funding from IDG Ventures and Inventus last year.
InstaClique: A startup that can help retailers such as Target arrest website bounce rates and increase customer engagement. InstaClique helps online shoppers engage with their friends and family who could be online while they are shopping, and make social recommendations.