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July 16, 2024
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Valliappan Narayanan: Pioneering Conversational AI in Customer Service

In the vibrant tech hub of Austin, Texas, Valliappan Narayanan emerges as a standout figure, especially in the realm of Conversational AI. Holding the role of Associate Director of Engineering and Product at AT&T, Narayanan’s impact in reshaping customer service through advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) is undeniable. His journey, rooted in a small town in India, has seen him ascend from a keen interest in mathematics and technology to academic excellence at Anna University, leading to pivotal roles at global corporations like Walmart and Best Buy, and now at AT&T.

Narayanan’s notable achievement at AT&T is the conceptualization and implementation of a Conversational AI platform, tailored for the company’s vast customer service operations. This innovative AI solution, comparable to ChatGPT but designed specifically for AT&T, has revolutionized the way customer interactions are managed. By harnessing Language Learning Models (LLMs), he has not only boosted customer engagement by 20% but also achieved significant annual savings for the company. Further advancing AT&T’s tech frontier, Narayanan led the development of an omnichannel virtual assistant for Web, iOS, and Android platforms. Built on a bespoke low-code platform, this initiative halved manpower needs, doubled efficiency, and quickened development by a factor of eight.

Narayanan’s leadership has also been instrumental in expanding AT&T’s Product & Engineering teams, growing from 15 to over 50 members across the US and India. This expansion fostered a culture of innovation, leadership, and mentorship, perfectly aligning the AI system with AT&T’s broader business goals. He has consistently prioritized user research and feedback, ensuring that the AI system is continually refined based on real-world interactions. This approach has struck a balance between product innovation and fiscal responsibility, a testament to his holistic leadership style.

Prior to his tenure at AT&T, Narayanan significantly contributed to the field of AI and ML at Walmart and Best Buy. At Walmart Labs, his expertise was pivotal in driving major engineering contributions to the company’s personalization initiatives. He played a key role in developing Walmart’s InHome Delivery, a direct-to-fridge delivery service launched in 2019, which became crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating grocery and essentials purchases for countless customers. This initiative marked a first-of-its-kind in the industry and helped Walmart maintain its relevance during a critical period.

At Best Buy, Narayanan started as a Senior Software Engineer in 2010, where he was instrumental in building a novel eCommerce platform capable of handling immense order volumes efficiently. This platform not only boosted Best Buy’s revenue but also facilitated partnerships with major financial institutions, amplifying revenue streams. Later, as an Engineering Manager, he led the development of a cutting-edge fraud detection platform powered by machine learning. This system, which still supports Best Buy’s fraud detection, reduced fraudulent transactions by 15% and cut false positives by 10%, enhancing platform reliability and customer trust. His efforts in AI and ML technology development had a tremendous impact on Best Buy’s revenue and profitability, showcasing his status as a top-tier software engineer in the digital revolution of the retail industry.

His educational foundation, with a degree in Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering, complemented by business administration studies at UC Berkeley, has been integral to his professional achievements. His academic excellence was recognized with honors at Anna University and KSR College of Technology, underscoring his intellectual prowess. Recently, he won the International Achievers Award (IAA), an internationally recognized award for excellence in Technology – LLMs for his work across companies, specifically at AT&T. 

Looking ahead, Narayanan continues to be a visionary, foreseeing the transformative impact of conversational AI in customer service at AT&T. His ability to secure executive buy-in and ongoing investment highlights his skill in aligning technological innovations with strategic business goals. Narayanan’s career is a narrative of growth, impact, and continuous pursuit of excellence, shaping the future of AI and customer service technology. As he forges ahead at AT&T, his commitment to innovation and positive change remains unwavering, making him an inspiring figure for the next generation of tech leaders.

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