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Creating tech leaders to meet industry needs via Plaksha’s Fellowship

1. Tell us a little about TLF 2021. What kind of industry connect, global network & opportunities a Fellow is exposed during and post completion of the Tech Leaders Fellowship (TLF)?

Tech Leaders Fellowship is a postgraduate level program offered by Plaksha. It nurtures tech leaders by combining Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science with Design Thinking and real-world applications as well as developing entrepreneurial ability and leadership skills.

The program is co-delivered with top global institutions like University of California, Berkeley. The experiential learning environment, highly intensive coursework and rigor of the program has helped transform each Fellow’s personal and professional lives.

The Fellowship has an unparalleled global network of tech entrepreneurs, industry leaders, academicians, and alumni who are deeply invested in the Fellows. Structured interactions throughout the Fellowship help students build a lifelong connection with: 

  • Top global faculty from institutions such as UC Berkeley, UPenn, Purdue, IIT Bombay, Google, and Microsoft 
  • Mentors who are CEOs, academics, or entrepreneurs. Each Fellow is matched to a mentor and the mentorship sessions focus on goal setting, self-reflection, group dynamics and leadership. Mentors include Priyanka Aggarwal, Partner, BCG; Ritesh Malik, Founder, Innov8; Sairee Chahal, Founder, Sheroes; Pankaj Chaddah, Co-founder, Zomato; Rakesh Jaggi, President, Completions, Schlumberger; Rajat Monga, Ex- Head, TensorFlow; Dr. Vineet Gupta, ML Group, Google Brain; Hitesh Oberoi, CEO & MD, InfoEdge and Srikanth V, Group CEO, Fractal.
  • Research ecosystem at Purdue, companies like BCG and Fractal Analytics where they complete their Capstone projects. 
  • Plaksha Founders, who invest their time in making sure that each Fellow can follow their dreams.

    2. With many potential applicants already graduating from some of the top higher education institutions, what is it that the TLF offers which influences them to apply?

TLF offers them the opportunity to use tech to make an impact. By nurturing them to be tech leaders the program enables the Fellows to have a seat at the table where business decisions are made. 

Those who are entrepreneurs at heart have the support of the entire Plaksha community to follow their dream. Many students from the founding cohort enrolled for the Plaksha Entrepreneurship Support Program, where they were assigned two mentors, and given full support to connect to the relevant people in the industry.

3. If we look at the tech ecosystem in India, we see it primarily dominated by men. How does the TLF plan on bridging the gender divide?

Plaksha is fully committed to bridging the gender gap in tech. Our outreach team focuses on reaching out to the non-male audience and applicants. They identify and build relationships with the relevant colleges, communities and forums to spread awareness about the program and help with the application process. 

While the selection process is based on merit alone, once shortlisted the team moves heaven and earth to ensure that the drop-out of women candidates at this stage is minimal. We offer 100% scholarships to women and they are mentored by the best through their journey at the Fellowship.

The number of women students at TLF every year has been about 25%. We aim to increase it to 30% over the next couple of years.

4. This is the second cohort of TLF. Help us understand the growth trajectory of the first batch of TLF? 

The first batch of TLF had 80:20 mix of working professionals and freshers from college. They students were from colleges like IIT Delhi, IIT Gandhinagar, IIIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Roorkee, BITS Pilani, DTU and VIT and had worked in organizations like Tata, Philips, Suzuki, UpGrad, Policybazaar, Accenture, Deloitte, Bank of America, Infosys and IBM.

Despite the fact that the placement season took place under the shadow of a raging pandemic and ensuing lockdown, the Fellows embarked on career paths of their choosing.

– 69% joined reputed organizations including Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft, Fractal Analytics, Paytm Payment Bank, Cisco, eightfold.ai and Silicon Valley Internship Program

The joined as Data Scientist, Product Manager/Sr. Product Engineer, Lead Researcher, Chief of Staff/CEOs Office
– 24% chose to build exciting startups
– 7% took up research roles in institutions and are working on cutting-edge technologies
– Fellows got a 40% hike as compared to their last drawn salary
– Average domestic salary of Fellows placed was Rs 17 lakh per annum

5. A sizeable percentage of fellows choose to pursue entrepreneurship post the TLF. Can you highlight a few and the support they received?

After completing the Fellowship, almost 24% of the cohort chose to become entrepreneurs. These Fellows founded companies or joined startup teams as founding members, and are using cutting-edge technology to find solutions to several societal challenges such as mental health diagnosis, edtech in virtual classrooms, socialising in a post-pandemic era and efficient organising of meetings. 

Of the 7 startup ventures, 4 enrolled for the Plaksha Entrepreneurship Program (PESP) – Stimveda, Synth, Kaksha.ai and Friday. Stimveda has been ranked among the 7 most promising mental wellness startups of 2021. Among the other 3 Meripay has made notable progress. 

The Fellows-turned-entrepreneurs were supported by the PESP. The primary aim of PESP is to encourage entrepreneurship amongst Plaksha students as well as the broader community. It aids the journey of students from Fellows to entrepreneurs by offering mentorship and support from the founding group at Plaksha. For example, founders of Stimveda were mentored by Hitesh Oberoi of Naukri.com and Mohit Thukral of Vivtera. Hear them talk about their startup journey here.

6. Tell us a little about Plaksha, the founding team and what motivated the leadership to launch the TLF program?

Plaksha is an upcoming technology university, that aims to reimagine technology education and research in India and the world. It has been established on a model of collective philanthropy by 60+ technology and business leaders from 5 countries.

The upcoming university collapses the traditional boundaries of engineering and promotes interdisciplinary learning by introducing concepts of design and entrepreneurship in the curriculum as well as combining science and liberal arts subjects in the classroom. Plaksha aims to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that connects technology education with ‘grand challenges’ of the current times to create a new generation of catalytic leaders.

TLF is an outcome of this collective founding vision. It is a precursor to the upcoming Plaksha University. The program has been designed to enable graduates to become tech leaders who will lead organizations, build path-breaking ventures and help solve real world challenges for India and the world. TLF will become a part of Plaksha once the University becomes operational.

The leaders behind Plaksha include luminaries such as CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra; Gagan Hasteer, VP, Content Engineering, Netflix; Hitesh Oberoi, Co-promoter, MD & CEO, Naukri.com; Mohit Thukral, Founder and Managing Partner, Vivtera; Neeraj Aggarwal, Chairman – Asia Pacific, BCG; Pankaj Chaddah, Co-founder, Zomato; Pramod Bhasin, Chairman, Clix Capital; Sujeet Kumar, Co-founder, Udaan.com; Vineet Gupta, MD, Jamboree Education and Founder & Trustee, Ashoka University; Vineet Nayyar, Former Executive Vice Chairman, Tech Mahindra; Ashish Gupta, Founder, Benori Knowledge Solutions and Founder & Trustee, Ashoka University; Manas Fuloria, Co-founder and CEO, Nagarro, among others. 

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