HackTrain was my first hackathon and I had no idea what to except all-nighters and huge adrenaline rush.
Co-hosted by Hack Partners and MTR, the hackathon's main objective was to solve problem statements Customer Experience (CX) and Operations Efficiency. Traveling all over Hong Kong by train, we covered MTR facilities, co-working spaces and even hacked overnight at a top tourist hot spot. It was both physical and mental endurance.
As daily commuters (users) of the Hong Kong railway, better known as MTR, I can relate to so many pain points but many of which I thought can only be solved with infrastructure.
This is my current state.
And I think to myself:
I think about the “Express Train” solution all the time. But I realized that’s an infrastructure issue and not a tech solution.
MTR is hands-down one of the best subway systems in the world, achieving over 85% utilization rate during peak hours but the congestion still remains problematic. Despite all these factors, there's no need to compromise great user experience while transporting people from points A to B.
So I thought about my personal experience and mapped out my emotions throughout the commute. I wanted to focus on enhancing the commuter's journey.
Focusing on the morning commute peak hours, I wanted to improve the users' everyday emotions going in to work, like the hunger state for example. I can't ease users' discomfort when traveling on a packed train, but at the very least, I can help users control their journey and start their day right - ordering breakfast on-the-go.
I proposed this as my first pitch which is how and where we form our teams of 4. I pitched the concept name as Champs because well, "Breakfast are for Champions".
It sold and aligned very well with my newfound team mates and we got right to hacking that first night.
It was Day 2. After Q&A and a series of Instagram-worthy photoshoots at MTR's behind-the-scenes operations center, we spent majority of the day brainstorming, building, developing and being mentored at a co-working space.
We began by identifying our product's benefits for 3 key stakeholders.
As we hashed out the user flow, product features and business model, we realized that it relies on a number of dependencies - namely the tenant's operations, software and hardware integration, and each station's design and setup. We were challenged by various mentors who all represented different stakeholders' point of views and priorities.
We tried to address all their needs by pivoting our idea back and forth. But in the end, we decided to focus on the commuters and reverted to my initial pitch.
Rebranded from Champs, MTR To-Go is a mobile e-commerce platform which you can order breakfast on the train from and made ready for pick-up at station exits. This translates to reduced wait time, reduced congestion and a happier customer. The idea is to keep the commuters informed to make better decisions and ultimately be in control of their journey.
In my use case, that means catching my connecting bus because I didn’t have to wait in line for my coffee.
Video courtesy of MTR
48 hours of work and less than 10 hours of sleep later, our hard work paid off. Referred to as the "eBay equivalent mobile platform", we won second place and earned ourselves a handy Samsung Tablet.
I spent the next few days rejoicing this rewarding experience at HackTrain.
The times we were challenged on our product and business model,
The times we pivoted our product because of different stakeholders' conflict of interests,
The times we needed to keep our adrenaline high overnight,
And the time of relief and joy when MTR To-Go scored the 1st runner up.
I loved the highs and lows of hackathons, and the Agile, Collaborative environment.
I'm hooked on innovation and will be on the lookout for more.