Target is the second largest retailer in United States. Though the retailer is yet to start its full fledged retail operations in India, but this global retailer has initiated its Accelerator program, primarily targetted to start-up community. Based in Bengaluru, Target has the strength of over 3000 working professionals and considered as second head quarter after United States. Started in 2014, under the accelerator, so far Target India has brought 36 start-ups onboard in five cohorts.
With accelerator the company endeavored to leverage from the start-up community by engaging them in a symbiotic partnership. In an exclusive interaction with Ravi Kanniganti Director of Innovation, Target India sheds light more on Target India Accelerator initiative and way forward.
What are your criteria to select the start-up for Target Accelerator Program (TAP)?
Accelerator program is the part of strategy and innovation. Since we are a global organization, we have a yearly agenda of strategic priorities. Our strategic priorities are always corresponding to business reality. There are five –six niche areas that we focus for accelerator. Each year we do analyzise the tech priority and required business process improvement, based on we decide which start-up community to engage with. This gives us the roadmap to take the Accelerator program ahead.
Thereafter, we organize road shows in the different part of the cities. When it comes to selecting the start-up, technology is an important factor but not the sole criteria. The final selection happened on multiple factors. For us, it is important that their mindset should match with our enterprise goals. And, the solution they are offering is capable to bring some sort of transformation within the retail industry.
Primarily, we focus on their ability to add value that we can implement within Target. In return, we help them better product visibility. Hence, it is a win-win situation for both.
What do you offer these start-ups under the accelerator program?
In current start-up scenario, raising funds is easy but gaining market access is really a cause of concern. We help them in market access and validation of the product. For example, there is a Delhi based start-up called StoryXpress which is into generating video content in an effective and efficient way.
And, if you look at our need, many important activities such as interaction with the guests, marketing and branding activities requires a lot of video content. Hence, with StoryXpress we did see a good opportunity of engagement.
After bringing them on board, our business leader provided them the support in scaling the product and validating the technology. Therefore, the start-up got the advantage of working with leaders. Despite being in the early stage, we helped them in serving the US retail industry without shifting their base.
We encourage the start-ups to work with others retailers as well.
Since the Target Accelerator is already operational in India, can we expect Target India retail store in near future?
As of now, the focus is on scaling up in US market as far as retail expansion is concerned. That is our primary focus at the moment.
What kind of in-house work you do before selecting any start-up for Accelerator program? Do they have to go through any process?
Yes, we have a very established and mature process for same. We have a qualified team to identify the startup. Since, India has a very wide ecosystem that prompts us to work with other corporate accelerator and we do share data with them.
Apart from road shows that I have mentioned earlier, we work with industry body such as Nasscom. We also work with VC community and other eco systems for data access.
We don’t engage in any kind of equity participation with start-ups. Our objective is to help them in gaining larger market access and open new avenues. Also being Target select start-up they are able to grab the eye balls of VC community.
Since there is no equity participation how do you ensure the long term association with the selected start-ups?
Retail is very dynamic and fast changing industry and has accelerated immensely over last four-five years. Target is experience and transformation driven organization. With Accelerator we lend the supporting hand rather than behaving as investor. We don’t see this as an investment tool. This is our approach towards getting fresh ideas that can create impact.
Our focus is on engagement that we can create with startups that are capable to bring transformation in our business. And, the kind of business they generate from us and other retailers is the binding factor for us. Moreover, we help them in maturing their product.
In total how many start-ups you have done so far? And, there solutions are still active with Target Us?
We have 36 startups so far. Among this, three start-ups got strategic vendor relation with Target and some of them working effectively as year over year contract basis.
Do you only focus on technology based start-ups? How about product companies which constitute one of the biggest chunks in Indian start-up community?
Product based start-ups are covered under the global accelerator program called as “Take Off”. This program is successfully running since last one and half years. We are yet to start “Take Off” program in India. Under this program we look at product/ brands which are capable to create sustainable story.
We don’t have any immediate plans to bring Take Off program to India.