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Target Accelerator Program bets big on startups looking to change the future of retail

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While it is common for technology firms to experiment with emerging technologies, retail giant, Target, is looking at pushing the limits of innovation, by engaging actively with Indian startups. The company has created an accelerator program for startups, wherein a team of startups are given the freedom to innovate in emerging areas such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and IoT.

The Target Accelerator program gives startups the ability to test their products in a live retail environment, with access to a community of mentors. By engaging with startups who are involved in shaping the future of retail, Target gets the ability to stay ahead of the game.

Explaining the rationale of investing in the accelerator program, Maheshwaran Calavai, Director – Strategy and Innovation, Target India, states, “At Target, we know great ideas can come from anywhere and we’re looking to tap the best minds to create solutions for today’s rapidly changing retail environment. We believe launching an accelerator will help spur innovative solutions that will ultimately benefit our guests.”

The program which was launched in February 2014 has already helped in incubating over 20 startups across four batches. As a part of the Accelerator Program, Target is looking at transformative ideas and the sectors of interest for it are: retail technologies in marketing, digital commerce and core retail operations; consumer products in IoT and wellness spaces; and cutting edge technologies in access, understanding and trust of food.

The initiative has already helped Target identify startups that are developing innovative solutions that are relevant to its business. For instance, startup Preksh, virtualizes physical stores and enables consumers to virtually walkthrough real-life stores and purchase products online. Preksh claims to have invented the world’s first patented augmented reality solution for retail. Similarly, Whodat, one of the startups from the second batch developed customized augmented reality and virtual reality solutions to drive customer engagement. Another firm, ‘Find Me A Shoe’ from the third batch developed an application to help customers find the right footwear using virtual shopping. Startup Blue Birch is solving reverse logistics problems through sustainable solutions for old laptops, phones and workstations.

Many of the startups, who have graduated from this program, continue to work with Target beyond the program. For example, two startups from the third batch, Discover Dollar and House of Blue Beans currently have a vendor engagement with Target. The former helps detect and resolves overpayments while the latter provides best-in class 3D product visualizations.

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