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Students working with a smartphone

Amway taps into young tech talent with first hackathon

University students challenged to develop apps to help with customer management, social selling

Amway’s digital team recently hosted a three-day hackathon that provided a platform for college students in India to have a hands-on opportunity to solve real business challenges.

Many of the concepts the students came up with have made their way into Amway’s future releases for digital apps, and for Amway business owners around the world to experience in the future.

“We know our business very well, but we want to get some fresh thoughts from the outside world,” said Mike Gamaggio, Manager of Owned Web and Native App Experiences, Amway Global Digital Services.

Marathon programming session

A hackathon brings people together for a marathon computer programming session. For this hackathon, Amway collaborated with software tech partner Kony Inc. and Vasavi College of Engineering, Hyderabad, a respected university in India.

During the event, the students were introduced to the Amway technology ecosystem, and given an overview of the direct selling industry. They also were trained to use Kony Visualizer, an award-winning visual design and app development tool.

The 30 students then were divided into six teams that competed to come up with innovative mobile application prototypes. The event is intended to give students a fast, focused, engaged and competitive experience that’s also fun.

The appeal for Amway of working with college students is that they are digital natives — people who grew up with technology. A veteran in the field, Gamaggio considers himself a digital immigrant.

“It’s part of their academic career, so they know things we might not know,” Gamaggio said. “Our knowledge about Amway and their knowledge about growing up in the modern world making them digital natives is a good way to get new ideas and new thinking. This is the main driver for having a hackathon with a university.”

Support for ABOs

The students were asked to come up with apps to support customer management and social selling capabilities. These two challenges were inspired by requests from Amway business owners that also been confirmed in the innovation workshops in New Delhi and Hong Kong in early 2018.

One team created the so called ABOHelper, designed to put customer management capability in the palm of the user’s hand. The application allows users register new customers on their phones, take notes about sales, send text messages and set up calendar reminders to make calls or appointments.

Another application analyzes how an ABO is performing by tracking customers, orders, and prospects, making it easier to organize follow-up contact.

“Some students stayed overnight from Friday to Saturday to keep on working to deliver software within 24 hours,” Gamaggio said. “We wanted to motivate students to go beyond and deliver something that excites us. And they did. That was a group of very talented students.”

This success has Amway’s digital team looking at organizing hackathons at other universities, possibly twice a year. Although these intense events last only a few days, a lot of work goes into preparing for them and with the follow-up of the ideas, said Saikat Ghosh, Distributor & Customer Solutions Manager for Amway’s Global Information Technology organization.

Digital First

This investment in new ideas supports Amway’s Digital First strategy. Using technology to engage with customers is very popular in India, where two-thirds of the country’s population is younger than 35. The burgeoning young workforce in India will soon be the largest and youngest the world has ever seen.

“As a leader in the direct-selling industry, we have been at the helm of promoting entrepreneurship among young talent, and we were delighted to be a part of a yet another first initiative — a hackathon in partnership with Kony,” said Anshu Budhraja, CEO Amway India.

The collaboration exceeded everyone’s expectations. The hackathon won the Kony CEO award, an internal accolade reserved for the tech firm’s best projects.