Students Solve Real Challenges for eCommerce Startup in MSBA Hackathon

In a four-week sprint, MSBA students used real data to build models and visualizations for eCommerce start-up Cirkul.

Vikas Singh (MSBA’19) and the innovative eCommerce startup he works for, Cirkul, made the first-ever MSBA first-ever Hackathon possible.

Despite the challenges of this past year, MS in Business Analytics students took part in the program’s first-ever Hackathon in March. The inaugural event was led by Professor Mohammad Soltanieh-Ha and Executive Director Francois Charvet and his team. But none of it would have happened without the help of Vikas Singh (MSBA’19) and the innovative eCommerce startup he works for, Cirkul.

Cirkul is a subscription-based enterprise that offers innovative water bottles that flavor the water as you drink. As an added benefit, the product reduces plastic waste and encourages people to stay hydrated. When Charvet was looking for a company to take part in the inaugural Hackathon, he reached out to Singh, who assists in a wide range of responsibilities at Cirkul, from digital marketing and analytics to supply chain and finance. Without hesitation, he said yes.

“Currently, we sell our products directly to customers via our website,” says Singh, senior associate of business operations. “We have a pretty good customer base so far, but we’re continuously trying to understand our customers better and get insights from the data we have.”

In a four-week sprint to build models and visualizations, MSBA student teams analyzed Cirkul’s anonymized customer data sets, applying the general methods and technology they learned in class. They conducted marketing analytics on customer lifetime value, segmentation, and retention to help Cirkul predict customer behavior and improve engagement.

“It really is different when you get to work with a fairly large data set and see how data management works in real life,” says Charvet. “It’s not always as clear-cut as it seems in the classroom.”

By the end of the month, students presented their findings via Zoom to the panel of judges, who were particularly impressed with the quality of the presentations, given the short timeframe and ongoing pandemic.

“Honestly, the results surpassed my expectations,” says Singh. “Not only did I enjoyed working with the students, I learned a lot from them too.”

As Charvet wraps up the first year of the MSBA program, he looks forward to more hands-on partnerships with real companies in the future, including initiatives like case competitions, capstone projects, and hackathons. Singh believes companies will welcome their help.

“Clive Humby, who is a British mathematician and data scientist said ‘Data is the new oil’,” says Singh. “In this age of data abundance, everybody needs analytics to convert data into actionable insights but this need is only going to grow further going forward.”


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