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When Hackers go #ChaloNiklo @OlaCabs API Hackathon

Ola! The blog post detailing the events of the Ola API hackathon has “arrived.”

It (the hackathon, of course, and NOT the post!)  took place on the 26th and 27th of September.  Because the 26th was a bandh day in Bangalore, the hackathon started at 5 p.m.  But of course, come rain, sunshine or bandhs, hackers always want to hack! Don’t believe me?

Check out this factoid:

The total number of developers that checked in was 218. A fantastic turnout considering the circumstances!

The carrot that Ola dangled helped of course.  The prize money for the top two teams was INR 4 lakhs each along with $2000 worth of AWS coupons!

With such a tempting offer, it was no wonder then that the house was full.

Hackers registering!
Hackers registering!

Our team got there around 4 p.m. Due to the bandh, we couldn’t risk getting to the venue any earlier.  Harpreet Kaur and Akansha Shirpa took care of the registration process. Akansha had an additional responsibility as she played the part of M.C.

Several other members of our team were at the venue. Some to check things out and to help  out when required, while others participated in the hack itself!

Calling themselves team Venturesity, Nishchal Gautam, Prateeksen Choudhury, Sumit Mukhi, Sonu Kalwar and Bhargav Panth were our hackathon representatives. They did an amazing job representing us. (Guys, I know you are the tech team and all that, but you now might want to moonlight as serial hackers from now on!)

Venturesity Team Selfie!
Venturesity Team Selfie!

As usual, we had our icebreaker session once the registrations were complete. Again, as usual, the icebreaker involved spaghetti, marshmallows and structure building. It appears that the more things change, the more things remain the same!

After the icebreaker session, it was time for the announcements. There was a special guest in the house: Ankit Bhati! (For those of you who don’t know, Ankit Bhati is one of the co-founders of Ola.) He had a major announcement in store. Ola opened up its API for integration with InMobi, Samsung, HelpChat and MakeMyTrip! In light of this integration, Ola wanted to see innovative uses of their API. And that was the theme of the hack.

Post announcements, the hackers got their hands dirty. They knew that because the hackathon began at 5 p.m., they needed to get work done as quickly as possible. You know. To avoid fatigue and all that later on.

In order to keep up the spirits of the attendees, Ola made sure that their cafeteria was well stocked with food and energy drinks. Dinner was simple but tasty: noodles, jalebi and some chaat.

Come 11:00 p.m. there was a special treat in store for the hackers. There was actual live music! The Octave band, all the way from Goa entertained the hackers for an hour or so.

Band playing!
Band playing!

After the live entertainment, hackers started hacking away. Ola representatives were on the ground to mentor the participants. Our own Rashmi Jha, the head of H.R., helped to coordinate this support.

Morning time and the band returned. This was a welcome diversion for the sleepy hackers who knew that there was a long, long way to go yet!

At 9:00 a.m., the deadline for initial submissions passed. This initial round of submissions was a feeler. The Ola team got to see the thought processes of the candidates and provide valuable feedback. It was also a way to judge candidates’ quality.

Around 2 p.m., just  after lunch, we received the first of the final submissions. In order to not waste too much time, judges from the Ola team judged the submissions as and when they came in. Finally, the deadline for submissions passed and all teams submitted. A total of 64 teams submitted keeping the judges busy. 😉

 The Ola team had their hands full. They made full use of our judging app which made life a bit easier. But of course, with so many teams to judge, and so many high-quality submissions, they did not have an easy time of it!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the judges shortlisted 6 teams for the final presentations. Here they are in no particular order:

·         BROids. You might remember this team. They seem to do well in almost every hackathon they’ve signed up for! Mahendra Liya, Manan, Brijesh Masrani, Dawar Dedmari and Rajan Vyas built an elastic on-demand enterprise employee transport system. Their app “ComMute” aims to “mute the complaints” of people using existing company provided transport. Here is the fruit of their labors.

·         Null: Anirudh Kalkotwar and Amrith Yerramilli came up with an app that would enhance users’ travel experience. OlaSurprise, OlaStory and OlaExplore were the three main features of this app. OlaSurprise provides a curated list of places to visit, OlaStory essentially is a personalized travel journal, and OlaExplore helps to manage user’s travel itinerary. If you want more details, take a look here.

·         Wimters: Arun Kumar, Nizam, Balasubramoniam, Meenakshi Sudnaram and Anish came up with OlaAssist. The feature enables people unfamiliar with technology to book cabs with the aid of friends or family members. How? A “long press” of the home button would do!

·         HackRiders: Now finding a potential date has never been easier! Users can find a set of potential matches in their preferred area, book separate cabs and get to the date venue. And who were these Romeos (and Juliet!) who came up with this app? Devvrat Nayyar, Saransh Ghildiyal, Aparna Ramesh and Sumeet were the protagonists. Here is their project.

·         Diemen:  I assume that this is a play on Siemens. Be that as it may, this four member team (Anuj Kumar Singh, Vivek, Pavan Gonagur and Nikhil R) came up with a way to book Ola rides without having an internet connection. Very useful!

·         Team7: Prem Anand, Chandrashekar, Gautam Jeyaraman, Bharanidharan and Divakar Vikram were the five members of Team7. Their idea was to provide Ola services for all. Even those without smartphones! Take a look at their project.

It was astonishing to see how energetic the teams were during presentations. You remember that they had been hacking all night and all day. But they still managed to conjure up enough energy to present!

A team presenting.
A team presenting.

 It was very hard to pick a winner but at the end of the day, there has to be one! (Or in this case, two. 😉 )

The top two teams who walked away with the top honors were Broids and Null. Congratulations to them! (Hey you guys, enjoy your Goan vacation with all that prize money. And can we join you?? :))

Before signing off, we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to all participants. You’ve put with several frustrating situations. But that did not dampen your spirit for coding! Without your participation, we would have never filled up the room.

Want to be like Broids or Null? Win big at our next big hack. Head on over to our webpage, select a hack and get hacking!



Ram Kalanathan

Team Broids cheated. I’m pretty sure of it. There isn’t even a link to their github project, because the app was pre-made (or not even made). They just posted screenshots and mocks, and everyone gulped it all up. Wow.


Dearest Ram

I am a part of Team Broids and would like to clarify your doubts.

The app was coded on the hack day. Our team worked throughout the night without any sleep. We submitted our code apk on the venturesity site as required during the submission and you can ask them to release it for verification. Also, we didn’t show mock ups, we gave a live demo to the judges. Due to the technical issues during the presentation (not because of anything in our control), they asked us to come down and show it to them and we did so. Otherwise we would have been happy to show it on the big screen as well.

Hackers are a close community and we believe in the highest standards of ethics. Raising questions is one thing, maligning a team is not part of the hacker code.

Bharat Ramakrishna

Hi Ram, if you have any doubts over the integrity of the submission, we will be more than happy to send you over the apk file.

P.S. Next time, we will not publish comments sent from a mailinator account.

Amrith Yerramilli

Hi Arun,

I am the proud co-owner of the winning app that apparently crashed on stage with an inappropriate error message 🙂

But, since I cannot just let your snide comment go by, I am going to clarify – the error messages in the app is my way of telling myself “Dude, you screwed up, again”. I am one of those guys who isn’t afraid of screwing up.

Also, the app crashed because the chromecast app ate all the memory of the borrowed 1st gen Moto G that we used to present the app.

How to Conduct a Killer Hack!

[…] If you are going for a branding exercise, then, you can leave a bit more open-ended and encourage participants to have a bit more fun with your product. For example, when Ola conducted its API Hack, it was looking to spread the word on its exciting integrations. So, the problem statement was to explore the innovativeness of API integrations. You can read all about it here. […]

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Bharat Ramakrishna

Blogger. Part-time mathematics enthusiast. Loves esoteric and quirky things. Bibliophile. Has a wide range of interests including playing chess and pool, juggling and creating puzzles of fiendish difficulty. Grammar Nazi.