Jindal School Graduates Take Third Place in Global IT Challenge

Two recent graduates of the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas recently took home a bronze medal from Paris in a global competition to improve customer service with artificial intelligence and chatbots.

Vishal Kamble MS’18 (left) and Aman Mulkalwar MS’18

Vishal Kamble MS’18 and Aman Mulkalwar MS’18 placed third in the Atos IT Challenge for their entry Electra for the Utilities, a cloud-based chatbot that can reduce costs and provide better customer service in the utilities industry. The pair received a cash award of 3,000 euros ($3,500). 

“It’s very exciting,” Kamble said. “This was all new to us, and we really had to struggle to get this project done.”

The annual contest, open to any student enrolled in a college, university or engineering school, attracted more than 200 entries from several countries. Students were challenged to develop a prototype using artificial intelligence and conversational interfaces — chatbots — that could help both customers and businesses. A team of Columbia University students received the gold medal, and students from Russia’s Voronezh State University finished second.

Working with Amazon’s web cloud services, Kamble and Mulkalwar devised Electra to provide immediate answers to utilities customers 24 hours a day via text message, Amazon’s Alexa, Facebook Messenger and virtual reality.

“All companies compete to have top-quality products or services, but customer service is what gives them an edge,” Mulkalwar said. “Our idea gives customers a smooth, great experience: Basically, you’re talking to a virtual person who knows the answers to preset questions.”

JSOM gave us the resources and the inspiration to implement the idea in real life. The diverse and comprehensive coursework definitely contributed toward the fruition of this idea.

Aman Mulkalwar MS’18

In December, Electra made the shortlist of 20 entries. Each of the teams then met with a coach who provided technical and business insights. Kamble and Mulkalwar joined forces with Dr. Prakash Shrivastava, an Atos employee who also is a lecturer at the Jindal School.

“Their idea required a lot of patience, hard work and testing,” said Shrivastava, who joined Kamble in Paris for the awards ceremony. “The fact that Vishal and Aman’s entry made it so far in a global competition is a great accomplishment.”

Kamble said Shrivastava’s mentorship and guidance was the key to their success.

“As students, our habit is to push everything until the last moment, but he motivated us to follow the timelines, plan everything, and keep this six-month project on track,” Kamble said.

Kamble, who graduated with a master’s degree in business analytics, is now a full-time analytics consultant at Atos, where he had previously interned. He said there was no conflict of interest in entering the challenge because the contest was based in France and involves tech innovation, while his internship was in the U.S. and focused on marketing.

Mulkalwar, who earned a master’s degree in information technology and management, was so busy with his job search he could not attend the awards ceremony. His focus paid off: He landed a job with Dell in Austin.

But he is still savoring his success in the challenge, which he said would not have been possible without the Jindal School. “JSOM gave us the resources and the inspiration to implement the idea in real life. The diverse and comprehensive coursework definitely contributed toward the fruition of this idea.”

This story was reported and written by freelance contributor T.D. Christensen.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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