Interview News

Lowe’s Innovation Labs to Push Start-up innovation

Abhay Tandon, – Director Innovation and Head, Lowe’s Innovation Labs India

How is Lowe’s accelerator program boosting innovation in India?

CONSTRUCT by Lowe’s Innovation Labs is our signature start-up engagement program, which we launched in Bangalore on 17th June. It is our first Indian cohort and has seven startups from across India, representing a diverse range of interests. It’s a flexible, lightweight accelerator, open to deep technology companies of all sizes and at all stages and focused on re-imagining, prototyping and bringing to market the future of home improvement retail.

Since CONSTRUCT in focused on both incremental and disruptive innovation, it gives startups in the country an opportunity to work with a Fortune 50 company to co-develop and/ or validate their solutions in real world retail environment through emerging technologies, resulting in highly innovative and value driven solutions. I firmly believe that India is home to a wide network of innovators developing solutions to global issues. This program enables partnerships with the brightest minds in India to reinvent home improvement retail through our guidance and support.

How are you leveraging AI & analytics to build the future of retail?

In the program we have selected 7 startups across diverse applications in retail including merchandising, AI-driven trend forecasting, automated content generation, talent acquisition, hyper real AI and sustainable, next-gen home construction technology. Many of these startups utilize technologies Artificial Intelligence (AI), Analytics, Hyper-reality, Nanotechnology etc. We believe in narrative driven innovation, where we focus on solving for problems and accordingly utilise multiple technologies in building solutions. Today AI and Analytics are applied across the value chain of retail through a huge number of applications from Procurement to Supply chain and logistics, consumer experiences across the channels from in-stores to digital etc. and thus will continue to play an important role along with other emerging technologies in building the Future of Retail. 

Can you elaborate on the accelerator programme and collaboration with startups?

Construct by Lowe’s Innovation Labs is the innovation hub of FORTUNE® 50 retailer Lowe’s Companies Inc., Seven startups from across India, representing a diverse range of interests including merchandising, AI-driven trend forecasting, automated content generation, talent acquisition, hyper real AI and sustainable, next-gen home construction technology were selected after a five-city roadshow conducted earlier this year. 

The program is designed in a way to allow a win-win relationship between Lowe’s and the startups. Basis the understanding of the key issues that startups in the country face, we have ensured an operating model that provides the flexibility to the startups and values their partnership in building unique solutions around home improvement retail. 

–    The program is open to deep technology companies of all sizes and at all stages i.e. it is stage agnostic. 

–    Programming centers around highly personalised, one-on-one working relationships, access to internal and external mentors, and an emphasis on working together to reimagine, prototype and ultimately bring to market the future of home improvement retail.

–    We have included paid PoCs (Proof of Concepts) with all the startups that we are working with.

–    We are looking at not just executing PoCs but will provide help to scale their solutions on the basis of successful PoCs.

–    It’s an ongoing intake program and is high tailored and personalised basis the SoW (Scope of Work) as well as the stage of the startup.

Key criteria for selection of startups:

1.    Application of deep/ emerging technologies to home improvement retail and to build the future of homes

2.    Appreciation and enthusiasm for enhancing home experiences through technology

3.    A strong founding team with depth in technology and ability to build unique solutions with us

4.    Alignment to our innovation focus areas

5.    Alignment with use-cases shared by our business stakeholders 

Emerging technology areas we are looking at include Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning, Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality/ Mixed Reality, Natural Language Generation/ Natural Language Processing, Robotics, Blockchain, Computer Vision/ Image Recognition, Big Data/ Data Analytics, Haptics, Nanotech and its applications across the value chain of Home Improvement Retail as well as towards the future of Home.

What would be the Impact of accelerator programme on retail sector?

We are working towards creating seamless and frictionless experiences for our consumers and associates today and building the future of home improvement retail. We continue to stay ahead of the curve in home improvement retail utilizing emerging technologies and are hopeful that with this initiative we usher in a new era of home improvement retail.

What sets Construct by Lowe’s Innovation Labs apart from other Corporate Innovation Programs?

CONSTRUCT by Lowe’s Innovation Labs is focused on enabling brilliant start-ups to deliver their best ideas on behalf of our customers. And in true Lowe’s Innovation Labs’ fashion, we expect to cover a lot of ground with these partners — in some cases, accelerating near-term technology innovations; in others, developing and testing exponential visions.

Key features of the CONSTRUCT program include:

  • SIZE AND STAGE AGNOSTIC: Start-ups of all sizes and stages are welcome to participate in this program, with projects tailored to a company’s unique strengths and capabilities. Areas of focus range from practical near-term retail solutions to longer range “Future of Home” initiatives. 
  • FLEXIBLE AND LIGHTWEIGHT: The program accepts applicants on a rolling basis and is designed to last between 2-6 months. We provide a start-up-friendly environment designed to expedite onboarding, project definition and scoping.  
  • FOCUS ON REAL-WORLD EXECUTION: Whether we’re looking at near-term solutions for home improvement retail or long-range envisioning for the section, Lowe’s Innovation Labs will work with start-up partners to quickly move project work from concept to testable reality. 
  • 1:1 ATTENTION: CONSTRUCT is designed around  our start-up partners, and as part of the program, we provide personalised attention from a group of global mentors comprising of functional and technical leaders at Lowe’s, as well as external mentors from VCs, Corporates and enablers.

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