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HackaTWOn 2021: A day full of ideas!

PhonePe Team|4 min read|06 April, 2021

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‘No idea is off-limits!’ That was the guiding philosophy behind HackaTWOn 2021, PhonePe’s second hackathon for PhonePe-rs from across the country. Unlike previous years, the event this time was a hybrid one with teams participating from the Bangalore Ashford office and from home by connecting virtually. Teams were given exactly 24 hours to ideate, execute and put together a presentation for the judges.

After 24 hours of hacking 45 teams were ready to present to their respective panel of judges, virtually. After a lot of deliberation 11 teams were shortlisted for the finals.

At the Grand Finale, 5 teams emerged as winners based on:

a) The complexity of the problem

b) The impact of the hack

c) Uniqueness of the idea

d) Presentation to the judges

We spoke to the winning teams about their ideas and their overall HackaTWOn experience:

Kanika Khetawat whose team won the ‘Best PhonePe Hack’ for their idea on ‘Behavior Biometric Authentication’, shares the inspiration behind their hack, “We selected this idea because of various reasons, one of the major motivations was to reduce the number of frauds happening in the Payments world. This required us to work on data science and the machine learning side, which is very different from what we usually do in our normal projects and this was the most exciting part of the hack. The best part was each of our team members were equally excited and dedicated to explore this area and make whatever progress possible in just 24 hours”.

For Shubham Sharma, whose idea on ‘Geo aware Foxtrot’ won the ‘Best Tools/Productivity Hack’, it was his drive to help business owners and engineers build a better product. He says, “PhonePe has been a data-driven org from the get-go. Foxtrot — Our analytics engine has allowed business owners and engineers to build powerful visualisation and real time analytics. One of the challenges with this hack was developing the feature in a way which would scale to large event sets. However, despite working from home, it was a lot of fun collaborating with others, and demo-ing the final product. I am really excited about productionizing this hack now. Can’t wait to see it go live!”

“Merchants are an integral part of PhonePe. The initial thought was to increase the discoverability for offline merchants on the PhonePe App for consumers. On discussing further we understood that in order to increase the discoverability we need to have a product catalogue for all the merchants, so that users are able to discover offline merchants by the product they are interested in, and that’s how our hack ‘Sanjeevani — Sushain’ evolved!” says, Shiladitya Banerjee, who along with Neeraj Rawat, won the ‘Best PhonePe Business Hack’. He adds, “The main challenge was to build a complete working ‘Proof of Concept’ in the stipulated time, starting from data collection to adding intelligence, to the logic of identifying products from a stream of free flowing incoming text and finally building a simple standalone app for the demo. It was an extremely fun and engaging experience for us. In spite of the event being part virtual, there was no loss in the excitement and thrill, right from the pre-event goodies the hackers received at the start till the very last stage of the competition”.

Team Paroksha won the ‘Overall Best Hack’, for their ‘Offline Payments’ idea. Tharun Krishnamoorhty, from Paroksha joined PhonePe 8 months back, and this was his first PhonePe hackathon experience. He said, “HackaTWOn was one speedy ride that we would remember forever. As soon as we formed ‘Team Paroksha’, we started brainstorming ideas. Once Krishnan, our teammate, told us about the Offline Payments idea, we were blown away by the techniques involved in it. Thanks to cryptography, we developed immense confidence in the idea. We discussed, debated, brainstormed & refined the idea with each passing day. We were so engrossed with the idea that we built it with the same focus as building an actual production level product for PhonePe. Right from the architecture, scrum board to the level of dedication and effort we put. The team was enthusiastic and motivated right from the start, and our goal was to build the best product, without which I don’t think we would have won the Best Overall Hack”.

Arpit Singla from ‘Auction in Action’ reflects how diversity in his team helped pull off their ‘Broadcast’ hack in 24 hours, “We had 1 Product Manager, 1 Designer, 1 App Developer, and 2 backend Developers. We wanted to solve for merchants and price discovery for consumers. So, our Product Manager, Animesh, came up with the idea that required us to work on 3 components: consumer app, merchant app, and the backend that powers both. The dilemma we faced during the hackathon was that we had only 1 app developer in our team, and we always knew that pulling off both the consumer and merchant app in 24 hours would require a lot of effort. Our team’s designer Siddharth came up with brilliant mock designs that we could not resist building them to reality. One of our backend developers started working on the merchant app, and the other single-handedly took care of the backend. Thanks to Sunil for getting us off to a quick start on the merchant app! After the all-nighter, we got the two apps and the backend ready just in time for the demo. Meanwhile, Siddharth and Animesh had prepared a brilliant presentation to woo the judges. The presentation was as good as a product launch video!”.

With each hack outdoing the other, the 24-hour challenge ended with the judges having a very tough time picking the winners. The 3 member panel shared how they were impressed with the quality of hacks, the evident usage of data-driven solutioning and expressed their eagerness to launch some of the new ideas as products for our customers and merchants.

We even put together a video that talks about all the things that go into organizing a hackathon, from the perspective of the organizers and the participants alike. Catch all the HackaTWOn action here

Authored by: Hitha B Gujjar, Internal Comms@PhonePe

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