India Graduate Program – Meet the Graduates

Saransh Mehta took part in the 2017 Labs Graduate Placement. He is an aspiring Product Manager, with a background in both engineering and science.

“While one would think that developers just need to know the language and the skill to write working code, the Labs placement activity made us think otherwise.

Before we jumped into writing code and building our working prototypes, we were taught about a certain way of thinking. I personally always felt that products should be designed to communicate stories, and the design thinking workshop we experienced carved out a path to understand how to do that.

Meenakshi, one of the product managers at Tesco Labs, had a couple of activities for all of us to dive into. As a mock brainstorming activity, we were asked to design a solution to improve cab journeys to the office for Tesco employees in Bengaluru. By taking a user-centric, solution oriented approach, we were able to come up with a well thought out and an in-consensus interpretation to the problem. Creating something of value being central to our exploration, we realized the importance of independent thinking in groups. It helped us come up with amazing ideas and finally with all the ideas on the table, we were able to narrow down the ones that were the most practical and that we, as a team, believed in.

The next challenge was to apply these learnings in our Labs project, our problem statement being along the lines of re-imagining the recruitment process at Tesco. We started with understanding the company recruitment and interview processes by talking to all the possible stakeholders, be it HR, or people from the interview panel. Once we understood what problems looked like from different perspectives, we started to narrow down, filter and combine the problems into separate categories and sub-categories. With the next step, we diverged, independently thinking of solutions to the problem categories.

Categorizing problems

Ideating. Breakthrough thinking. Breaking down the solution.

We matched customer needs with what is technologically feasible, and a viable business strategy.

Thinking about the future. The Next Big Thing?

Our biggest takeaway from the design thinking workshop was that we needed to pen things down, get things out of our head on to paper and create a distributed system for idea-sharing. Once you bring your thoughts out of your head into the world, you are essentially freeing up processing power. Following this practice, on parameters of need, feasibility and innovation, we could imagine and analyse our proposed solutions.

As an industry standard, agile practitioners use Kanban boards to set the priorities right and expand their memory-horizon. For our project, we used Trello boards to keep matters in check. To assign tasks, to organize our work, to ensure that we didn’t lose out on our ideas, we updated the Trello board daily during our stand-ups, which created a story line for us. With updated boards every morning, all of us knew what we had to do by the end of the day. Apart from task prioritising, we needed a structure as part of the team building process. Within the team, we tried to understand each other’s predispositions to be able to put every person in the right role. This idea revolves around making the best use of your team talents. All of us may have the same job title, yet we’re all very different people with different inclinations. After much deliberation, we decided upon four concrete roles in our team. We had a code reviewer, a researcher (product and feature critic), an integrator (breadth of technological knowledge, can get multiple things to work together) and a planner in our team. By creating well-defined tasks for every person, we were able to build confidence, reduce conflicts and cover all the aspects of product development needed for a successful outcome.”

Saransh Mehta,
Tesco Labs Graduate Programme, 2017

And the winners are…

It’s been quite the week for the Tesco Labs team: we’ve been heavily involved in Tech. powered by Retail Week and were delighted to be named as winners in last night’s awards.

The team were delighted to hear that we had been shortlisted not once, not twice, but three times at the Retail Week Tech awards. The Tesco Labs team was listed in the “Tech Team of the Year” category, whilst Kunal Ramkumar and Vidya Laxman were recognised in the “Digital Transformation Pioneer” and “Digital Native” categories respectively. The awards ceremony, held at London’s Hawker House, was an exciting take on the usual format, and brought together the leading names in retail technology to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the last year.

We’re pleased to share that we took home the award for Digital Transformation Pioneer. This award was well deserved by Software Development Engineer Kunal Ramkumar, who, having identified operational inefficiency issues within our solutions for planning in store displays, with scope for huge improvement. Through looking at the basic principles of merchandising, and applying technological solutions to a basic merchandising problem which affects all retailers, Kunal found a solution which is both cost and time effective, the impact of which could change the face of future retail merchandising.

The Labs team was also named silver award winners of Tech Team of the Year, recognising the continuing innovative work that the team produces. With the consistent aim of improving the retail experience for both Tesco customers and colleagues, and with our sights fixed firmly on emerging technology, the team strive to ensure that Tesco remains one step ahead of the curve. Work with trends such as voice activated assistants, connected home devices, and VR and AR particularly impressed the judges.

But that’s not all…

On Wednesday, Angela Maurer, Head of Tesco Labs, took to the stage to talk about our schools outreach activity, promoting STEM subjects in schools, and diversity in the technology industry. Her grand finale was the announcement that we are open sourcing all the materials needed to deliver the activity, enabling other companies all over the world to reach out to this important demographic and help to shift the needle on these key issues.

Thursday saw Paul Wilkinson, Head of Research, Tesco Labs, addressing the audience on our work with voice activated assistants, and what this could mean to the future of retail.

Throughout the 2 day event, Tesco Labs was also delighted to be the headline sponsor for the Retail Week Tech Sprint. Billed as a “technology battle royale”, the Tech. Sprint brought together leading visionaries in retail tech to generate new and innovative ideas. The Challenge: 24 hours to build the shopping experience of the future in a connected world, was set by the Retail Week team and Tesco Labs. The teams pitched their solutions to an expert judging panel (led by Paul Wilkinson) with the three best teams battling it out on the Discovery Stage.

Congratulations to all the awards winners, and thank you to Retail Week – we’re looking forward to next year already!

Innovation through Inspiration: open source announcement

Earlier this year, the Tesco Labs team began looking into how we could inspire primary school children to study STEM subjects – today, we’re delighted to share what we’ve developed.

Through our research into diversity in technology, we discovered that children as young as 4 years old form stereotypes around gender roles in various careers; with the result that many girls are less keen to study STEM subject than boys. As a result, we’ve tailored our outreach activities for primary school children to impress upon them that technology is not just “for boys” and that opportunities exist in a range of diverse roles within the technology industry. You may have read about our first activity, when we spent the day with Key Stage 1 students at Roundwood Primary School in Harpenden. (If you missed it, read the blog post here).

We used “Cubetto“, Primo Toys’ friendly wooden robot which teaches children the basics of programming through hands on play and adventure. In order to give the activity a retail technology slant, we worked with Ape Creative to produce customised accessories for the robot, giving it a simplified Tesco store layout to navigate around, whilst challenging the children to collect specific items from a bespoke shopping list; all to be gathered in their personalised shopping trolley.

The success of the activity, and the popularity amongst both schools and parents, has been overwhelming. We’ve connected with around 250 children so far, and intend to continue to grow this as much as we possibly can. So, we were delighted to be invited to talk about our work on stage at Retail Week’s Tech event this week.

The talk about our work, given by Head of Tesco Labs, Angela Maurer, not only covered the why, where and how of our work, but also the passion that the team have for continuing to address the gender imbalance in our industry, and the challenges that we face if we try to continue to do this as individuals. Which is why we are delighted to be able to open this activity up to other retailers, and look to give the opportunity to connect with schools in the same way to as many companies as possible.

From today, we are open sourcing all the materials we have used to bring this activity to life; from the tried and tested activity plan through to the bright and beautiful accessories created specifically with this in mind. If you would like to deliver this activity then all you will need to do is download the items and purchase the Cubetto kits that you need.

The links below allow you to download the pdf files of the original artwork. If you would like to download the indesign files, please email the Tesco Labs team who will be happy to share these.

Activity playbook
Download 

Print materials
Shop Layout Mat
Produce Cards
Shopping Lists
Trolley

Contacts
Primo Toys

Ape Creative

Finally, we’d love to hear your stories of the activities you lead using these tools! If you’d like to share them, please feel free to share them via email or twitter.

India Hackathon 2017

Hot on the heels of our 2017 UK Hackathon is the second instalment of the competition, this time running in our offices in Bengaluru, India.

We’re delighted to announce that the 24 hour event will be running on 21-22 September, and teams will be competing to harness the technology of the future and produce a working prototype to present to a panel of judges.

Working to the theme of ‘The Future is Now’, the teams will be encouraged to think big – and look to the current emerging technological trends for their inspiration. They’ll be following in the footsteps of teams (many of whom worked through the night) who have produced a wide range of very impressive solutions, from new delivery models through to collaborative shopping propositions, voice-activated assistants, and a two-factor authentication for online shoppers.

Each team will have a matter of minutes to pitch and demonstrate their idea to our panel of judges, who will be looking for a combination of an exciting use of new technology, a smooth and enjoyable user experience, and how applicable the solution is to the business.

If you’ve never been involved in a hackathon, now’s your chance! It’s a common opinion that you have to be a coder to compete, but that’s definitely not the case – we’re looking for teams with a range of skills, so whether you’re a comms specialist, a designer, security expert or product manager, we want you!

Tesco colleagues can register online today using the link circulated – please see communications for details!

(Please note that this competition is only open to Tesco colleagues, and that you must be able to get to the Bengaluru offices to participate – remote participation will not be available).

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Hackathon Winners Announcement

With their sights set firmly on future technology, a total of 57 teams gathered last week to participate in our annual India Hackathon. Working on the theme “The Future is Now”, the hackers had 24 hours to produce a working prototype and pitch a solution to an existing problem to our panel of judges. There was a real buzz in the air as the teams got to work, with pressure and excitement building as they worked to the tight timeline.
48 teams completed the challenge, with 46 of those presenting to the judges – a very exciting event as each team had just minutes to persuade the panel of the winning attributes of their solution.

The winning teams were:
Winner: Gang of Four, with their hack to help customers choose the fastest queue for checkout.

1st Runner up: Robo Cards, whose solution was a robot which is able to use portable electronic devices, and complete transactions, as well as humans.

2nd Runner up: Smart Shoppers, with a solution to show ongoing deals and recommend shopping items with just a tap of your phone.

The winners of the “Most Ambitious” category were Grey Matter, who worked on a solution to crowdsource the Tesco delivery system, powered by Blockchain. And the “Most Creative” team were Cherry Pick, who presented a mobile app to radically simplify the in-store shopping experience. Congratulations!

A big thank you goes to Partha Roy and Bhavesh Kumar who led on the organisation of the event, and to all our participants, who made the event very special. We’re looking forward to the next event already!

Tesco Labs India – Graduate Placement Program

Tesco Labs India recently launched a first-of-its kind initiative, conducting a six-week placement programme for the technology graduates who joined us from premier institutes across the country.

The initiative launched at Tesco Bengaluru, where 48 graduates learnt and put into practice product management, design thinking and engineering skills to build working prototypes.  This programme was largely run by Krishnan Ramaswami and Jamie Holmes with the support of the Tesco Labs team and many mentors from across our Technology teams.

The objectives of the Lab Placement Programme were:

    1. To get graduates used to lean ways of working
    2. Introduce the graduates organically to the retail business and functions
    3. Instil an innovation mindset from the very start of their careers at Tesco

The graduates were divided into teams, and challenged to create their own innovative solutions to existing problems experienced by Tesco customers and colleagues. 11 teams were created with graduates from different schools, with varying and complementary skill sets. We kicked the program off with a range of workshops designed to help the graduates navigate through various stages of the programme.

The first was a Design Thinking Workshop, which I was pleased to conduct. “Design Thinking” uses design techniques to solve problems innovatively. It takes a human-centred, rather than a technology-centred approach and has clear stages that help navigate around common innovation dilemma. The aim of this was to give the graduates a taste of the entire placement in 1 day, going through the main phases of Understand, Diverge, Decide, Prototype, Validate and Reiterate.

Second was our Engineering Workshop. This was designed to help the graduates get used to working with Tesco’s APIs. Thanks to Deepsona Das and Nitin Gupta for running this.

The UX Workshop helped the graduates understand concepts like wireframing and information architecture, and was led by Harry Betteridge who conducted this session remotely from UK.

And finally, our Product Management Workshop gave an introduction to Product Management; thanks to Hemanth Kota and Aviral Gupta for conducting this session.

Various HoSDs and Directors then gave a list of problem statements which were abstracted to 6 more generic problem statements. The teams were then asked to research these topics and present their findings to the rest of the cohort. This gave each team enough information on all problem statements to enable them to choose which they were most interested in pursuing. The graduates then selected their top 3 choices, from which they were assigned 1 problem statement per team.

The teams began working through the various phases of the design thinking session – Understand, Diverge, Decide, Prototype. Every Friday they presented their progress back to the Tesco Labs team and tried to integrate any notes or feedback they received. Great care was taken not to push the teams towards any ideas, so they could develop their own way of thinking and working.

Towards the end of the programme, on 24 August, the Tesco Labs India team organised a Demo Day, where the graduate teams’ innovative prototypes were showcased for our colleagues at Tesco Bengaluru. We were delighted with the turnout of more than 400 people!

The teams have come up with an amazing range of ideas:

  1. Jetsons – Automatic ‘romanticizing’ of product descriptions
  2. AJACs – Electronic glove to help the blind locate products
  3. Backbench Studios – Digital assistant to be used by customers in store
  4. Silver Stars – Crowd sourced gap scan from customers
  5. Grey Matter – Block chain to track products through the supply chain
  6. Bits Please – Smart recruiter chat bot (candidate interaction)
  7. Narcodes – Gap prediction algorithm
  8. COEUS – Recruitment referral recommendation & personality performance matching
  9. SARK – Demand forecasting for clothing (F&F)
  10. C Squad – Real time clearance forecasting system
  11. Targaryen – Supplier queries chatbot

and we’re all looking forward to seeing what they will present at their final task – pitching to our Technology Leadership Team on 26 September!