After serving as a judge in the 2020 KPMG Ideation Challenge (KIC), a hackathon-style competition for STEM and business students that took place virtually on 24-25 August, James Powell had the opportunity to (virtually) sit down with the team from the Indian Institute of Technology, Dhanbad, Team Navacharitam (Technology Replaces Repetitiveness), who won this year’s competition. Here are just a few of the inspiring things he learned from this talented group of students and innovators:

To start, tell me a bit more about yourselves and your winning solution.

Team Navacharitam: We are a team of engineering students who attend the Indian Institute of Mines at the Indian Institute of Technology in Dhanbad. As courses here tend to be more hypothetical, we were looking for a way to gain hands-on experience and really make an impact. So, we decided to participate in KIC. Using our knowledge of the mining industry, we applied AI and analytics to create a custom algorithm that enables a safer and more sustainable mining process. In short, our algorithm allows mining companies to use imagery and drone technology to more precisely pinpoint where minerals are present in mines above and below the surface.

Your winning solution is quite impressive. Personally, I was fascinated by your solution’s potential, especially from an environmental standpoint. Can you expand upon its sustainability impact?

Team Navacharitam: Absolutely. Traditional mining methods are time-consuming, less accurate and highly pollutive. With our solution, we are reducing the time it takes to drill by about 90 percent, increasing accuracy by about 85-90 percent and reducing the cost by 25-30 percent. Most importantly, we are helping the world fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions by 25-30 percent. We can achieve this due to our algorithm, which requires miners to drill 25-30 percent fewer holes. Over time, as we gain credibility in the market – and our model improves its accuracy – we are confident we can reduce carbon emissions by up to 75 percent. We hope to make this a reality in the coming years and are currently in the process of patenting our solution and presenting it to companies in India.

Great. Switching gears a bit, can you tell us more about your experience with KIC?

Team Navacharitam: KIC was a phenomenal experience and we are very pleased to have had the opportunity to compete in a hackathon-style competition for which the objective was to solve real-world issues and problems. Over the last nine months, we honed both our analytical and presentation skills as we received constant feedback from our University’s alumni base and our KPMG coach and other staff. Our team often met twice per day, which became more challenging amidst COVID-19, but we made it work. In particular, the final round of KIC was one of the most intensive and rewarding experiences we’ve had. Overall, the competition taught us the importance of cultivating out-of-the-box ideas and building our confidence.

What advice do you have for future students looking to participate?

Team Navacharitam: No university or any kind of education can teach as much as you’d learn through a global competition such as KIC. Through this experience, we learned something new through every step in the process. Similarly, it is critical to incorporate the feedback you receive throughout the entire process – even at the finals. We learned so much at the national finals, in particular, and it was incredibly helpful to incorporate these learnings into our final global presentation.

As we heard from you and the judges, when it comes to your solution, the more you can show real-world, global market implications, the better. One of the biggest reasons we made it to the finals, and ultimately won KIC, was because we could show how our solution was a viable market option in many countries and territories.

Also, before the competition, we took our solution to industry experts and considered patenting options. We strongly advise that future participants gather insight from outside experts and think of other ways to show the market value.

Finally, now that you’ve won KIC, what’s next for your team?

Team Navacharitam: We remain passionate about our solution and its obvious potential to help address critical environmental problems, so our plan now is to bring this idea to life. While we put the finishing touches on our solution, we’ll remain in contact with patenting companies with the goal of patenting our technology in major mining countries and territories. To help with funding, we will continue working with investors and leverage our large alumni base to secure additional funds from our university. We’re grateful to have our idea already backed by KPMG International and KPMG in India, and for the KIC event which helped us get started.

More information:

The winning team members from Team Navacharitam are: Sanchit Kumar, Varnika Kumari, Parth Hetamsaria and Srajan Gupta of the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines) in Dhanbad, India. As champions of KIC 2020, the team was awarded $50,000 in seed funding to further progress their idea with the guidance and support of KPMG professionals.

To find out how to participate in KIC next year, visit

More about James Powell

James Powell is the managing partner for KPMG in the US’s Nashville office and the National Partner-in-Charge of Campus Recruiting and University Relations within the US. He is an Audit partner serving a wide variety of clients from small private companies to large multinational, multibillion-dollar corporations—specializing in retail, consumer markets, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies. Simultaneously, James is actively involved in other internal KPMG initiatives & activities, like the KPMG Ideation Challenge where he served as a judge, and externally within his local communities.

James Powell

James Powell
Office Managing Partner, Audit

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