Projects in technology investments, retail supply chain and implementation of Six Sigma in manufacturing were the winners at the Business Standard Best B-School Project Award, 2015. A project on discovery of artificial intelligence (AI) start-ups for automating business processes relevant to information technology services industry by Balaji Venkatesh, a final year student at the Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras won the first prize. The project was done at Wipro Technologies and, as part of it, Venkatesh recommended 10 start-ups. These start-ups use AI to automate various business processes and have high applicability to Wipro. Sourav Kumar of National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai who looked at the supply chain of ITC Lifestyle retailing business division on product development phase lead time, and suggested ways to reduce it, bagged the second prize. Pranav Bora of the Indira Institute of Management, Pune came in at the third position for implementing the Six Sigma approach to save money due to cost of rework and scrapping of damaged parts for auto component maker Bosch. The eighth edition of the awards saw a power-packed jury shortlist six candidates. The jury included Rediff.com founder and CEO Ajit Balakrishnan (Chairman of the Jury); McKinsey director and lead, energy and materials practice in Asia Rajat Gupta, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation CMD Nishi Vasudeva, Deloitte Support Services director Sandeep Chandola, Crompton Greaves executive vice-president and global head - human resources Sanjay Singh, Axis Bank group executive Rajesh Dahiya and Larsen & Toubro head (corporate centre) Hasit Joshipura. "All the projects tackled a variety of problems.
We had some outstanding projects to judge and it was difficult to choose between them," said Balakrishnan. McKinsey's Rajat Gupta said: "All projects were practical and trying to solve day to day issues; many projects were being implemented at the organisations they were undertaken at, which is excellent. These awards take me back 25 years ago when I did my summer project when I was at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta." Venkatesh's project at Wipro assessed 99 start-ups before he could shortlist the top ten which were relevant for the company and recommended it to them. "The software industry has to look out for emerging start-ups, some of which I have been able to evaluate during my project. If it makes business sense, they should look at acquisition opportunities for such start-ups that will complement their needs," he said. Sourav Kumar's project looked at Wills Lifestyle and John Players brands, part of ITC lifestyle retailing business to look at their supply chain and assess the product development lead time and also suggest ways to reduce it. "While I am happy about my win, I am also impressed with the jury. The questions they asked me are similar to the ones I was asked at the CEO round of interview that I went through recently," said Kumar. Pranav Bora, through his project at Bosch, was not only able to cut re-work quantity, but also reduce scrap quantity, which he said led to savings of Rs 20 lakh a year for the organisation. Business Standard received 193 projects for evaluation in 2015, from which six were selected for the final round. The consolation prizes included a viewpoint on construction industry for Tata International in Yangon, Burma by Pallav Angrulla and Karan Sharma of the Department of Management Studies, IIT Roorkee; XLRI student Vasudevan L's project on blueprint for career management platform for Mahindra & Mahindra and School of Management, and Gautam Buddha University student Sagar Juneja's project to study sales returns and fulfilment at Jabong.com.