Interview of the Week: Ishan Gupta, Managing Director at Udacity, India

An interview with the newly appointed Managing Director for Udacity, Mr. Ishan Gupta

Ishan had completed his Master in Business Administration (MBA) from Stanford University Graduate School of Business; and is an Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (USA) Educational Scholarship Holder. Currently, he is handling the responsibilities as a Managing Director for India operations at Udacity, a Silicon Valley-based pioneer in online education. Udacity delivers credentials endorsed by employers, because they built them, and provides education at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional schools.

Ishan has had the prior experience of working as Vice President for Business at Paytm, where he led merchant lifecycle management team and was responsible for revenue growth of the long tail merchants. Edukart, India’s leading education marketplace was a venture initiated by Ishan Gupta. Besides, Ishan led the growth and marketing efforts as the Growth Manager of Facebook in India.

Udacity collaborates with industry giants – Google, AT&T, Facebook, Salesforce, Cloudera, etc. to offer world-class nanodegree programs. Udacity empowers its students to build a persuasive and strong portfolio by helping them learn programming and data science through a series of online courses and hand-on projects. At Udacity, Ishan is helping democratize education in India. In an attempt to comprehend the value proposed by Udacity in the e-learning domain, and to know more about Ishan’s new role at the organization, Analytics India Magazine interacted with the Managing Director (India) of Udacity. We present to you the detailed interview as follows.


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Analytics India Magazine: We congratulate you on your recent appointment as Managing Director (India Operations) for Silicon Valley-based online education provider Udacity. Please shed some light on your role at Udacity, elaborating about your plans to enforce industry-focused e-learning culture across the country?

Ishan Gupta: Thanks. I am really excited about my new venture at Udacity. It gives me immense pleasure and pride to be associated with the world’s most advanced edu-tech company.

Udacity in India has created a significant presence by connecting students & professionals with industry relevant knowledge. At Udacity, I look forward to further strengthen the teams in India and abroad. I will work towards launching more courses for Indian students & professionals to help them be at par with global education ecosystem.

My tenure with Edukart and Paytm helped me comprehend the demand for an open educational platform with varied options. I realized there is no end to learning. A lot of Indians, both students and professionals, are quickly taking up online courses from prestigious foreign universities to give an extra edge to their career.


AIM: Please talk about the journey so far until the most recent appointment. You strongly share Udacity’s mission to better serve students and industry. Besides, you have been strongly involved in integrating the education landscape in India. In 2011, you founded EduKart, a leading education marketplace. What’s your take on the education scenario in India?

IG: After completing MBA from Stanford, I joined Facebook as a Growth Manager(India). There I led growth and marketing efforts of the company as a sole representative in India. Post my stint at Facebook, I worked with One97 communications wherein my focus was to lead consumer side of the business. There, we successfully conceptualized and launched a first of its kind TV show where mobile users could dial in, give the right answers, and win prizes.

In 2011, I started Edukart, a leading edu-tech startup. Most recently, I was working with Paytm as VP Business. My past experiences have helped me develop an in-depth understanding and insights into scaling a technology focused business.

Education landscape in India has come a long way from traditional classrooms to the way students are taught now. The last two years has seen the user base for online education growing rapidly around the world. Much like the international scenario, India too has witnessed an interesting revolutionary change in online education trends. Indian colleges and universities have slowly started recognizing the need of including digitally enabled courses in their existing college curriculum to make their students job ready for globally accepted technology platforms. With SWAYAM (launched in August 2016), the Narendra Modi government is working towards the same objective, introducing online courses in the formal education system.

People are now keen to learn and explore on the digital platform to hone their skills and stand out in this competitive world. Hence the demand for online courses is growing at a phenomenal rate. With this increasing demand and the thirst to learn beyond classroom education, I see the online education hold tremendous potential for the growth of Indian students/professionals.


AIM: Please talk about the state of analytics and education in India, highlighting the most recent technological trends you take note of. How do you efficiently integrate those trends into your industry-driven courses?

IG: The advent of big data and artificial intelligence is creating billions in value for business and countless jobs. Companies are increasingly taking on the data-driven approach and there is a vast demand for professionals who can use artificial intelligence and convert it into meaningful business outcomes. Global developments in the field of artificial intelligence are going to define the future and graduates of this program will be uniquely poised to contribute to these developments in innovative and awe-inspiring ways.

We at Udacity, offer Data Analyst Training Program where the coursework and project allow employees to wrangle, extract, transform, and load data from various databases, formats, and data source; use exploratory data analysis to identify meaningful relationships, patterns, or trends from complex data sets; classify unlabeled data or predict into the future with applied statistics and machine learning algorithms; and communicate data analysis and findings well through effective data visualizations

Indian companies are ramping up on data analytics for their services, thanks to the success of Indian unicorns such as Mu Sigma in analytics and decision sciences, and InMobi for its targeted discovery and mobile advertisements platforms. Transportation aggregators such as Ola and Uber are able to provide evidence to carbon emission reduction through their cab sharing services, thanks to huge data collection enabled through their platforms.

With innovative curriculum covering topics such as game playing/search, logic and planning, probabilistic inference, computer vision, etc., we are working towards exposing students to the latest tools and techniques in the industry to operationalize artificial intelligence.

AIM: Your online courses have been designed in collaboration with tech giant such as Google, Facebook, AT&T, IBM Watson, Amazon Alexa, MercedesBenz, Didi Chuxing, and Flipkart. Would you like to shed light on this partnership and how these helps Udacity provide the best industry-dedicated courses?

IG: We believe that Udacity is different from established universities and colleges. All our courses are designed in collaboration with industry giants and we focus on adding the latest tech topics to our curriculum as quickly as Silicon Valley warms up to them. We are completely focused on the idea that education shouldn’t take too long if you focus on a particular skill set.

Udacity’s courses are not just backed by Google, but other giants such as Facebook, Amazon, GitHub, Cloudera, AT&T, Mercedes, Didi Chuxing among others. Students who are pursuing an android nanodegree from Udacity get to immediately work with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) as soon as Google launches them.

Google, in partnership with Udacity, is making android development accessible and understandable to everyone, so that regardless of the background, one can learn to build apps that improve the lives of people around.

Similarly, in a bid to spur the driverless car momentum across the globe, Udacity has tied up with Mercedes-Benz, Nvidia, Didi, the Chinese ridesharing major, and Otto, the autonomous truck outfit that Uber recently acquired to provide best of industry mentorship and guidance to students. The course, which also has inputs from Sebastian Thrun, offers students with basic coding experience and a chance to become deep learning engineer.

AIM: Udacity imparts courses revolving around predictive analytics, Artificial Intelligence, deep learning, and specific courses which train you to be a Data Scientist or a Machine Learning Engineer. Would you elaborate about these courses and describe how will they help train a new breed of analytics-skilled industry professionals?

IG: There has been a rising adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies across multiple industries such as healthcare, finance, education, retail, media, advertising and education.

The demand for these sectors has been rising because both domestic and international companies are relying upon India for the right talent. Our courses aim to close in the analytics skill gap in the country and prepare students for jobs in the international market. Global developments in the field of artificial intelligence are going to define the future’ and graduates of this program will be uniquely poised to contribute to these developments in innovative and awe-inspiring ways.

Our course on Predictive Analytics for Business Training Program equips employees to master the most important predictive skills and tools without code. It allows them to create mental models to clearly define business issues, visualize and prepare data to improve efficacy of predictive models and identify and implement a variety of predictive modeling techniques.

The Artificial Intelligence training program was built through collaboration with leading innovators in the field to bring your workforce a world-class curriculum & expert instructors. There are many learning outcomes of the Artificial Intelligence Training Program, such as search and optimization, computer logic, reasoning & planning, building models of probability, natural language processing, computer vision, etc.

Through the Deep Learning Training Program, Udacity provides a dynamic introduction to the field of Artificial Intelligence to teach your workforce the foundations of this future-shaping technology. The program helps employees develop skills in Neural Network Architecture, Cloud computing & sentiment analysis, Data preparation: cleaning, regularization, & dimensionality reduction, Drone image tracking, Stock prediction: regression with RNNs, etc.

AIM: Udacity recently launched a new deep learning nanodegree foundation program which will be co-instructed by Siraj Raval and Mat Leonard. Would you please elaborate about this course.

IG: The deep learning nanodegree foundation program is the first of it’s kind at Udacity, which has been specially designed for students who are not equipped to take up a full fledged nanodegree program. The area of deep learning is creating significant value for businesses around the world across many sectors such as medicine, car automation and search.

Our new Deep Learning Nanodegree Foundation program with Siraj Raval gives students the ability to quickly learn a topic to be able to move into our more advanced Nanodegree programs like Artificial Intelligence, Self Driving Car and Machine Learning. Students should have basic programming knowledge in Python, such as being comfortable implementing loops, conditional statements, and knowing when to use an array over a list.

AIM: Please talk about the strategy startups in India must incorporate to stay ahead of the competition curve and enroute a successful journey in the existing market scenario in India.

IG: Indian colleges and universities have slowly started recognizing the need of including digitally-enabled courses in their existing college curriculum to make their students job-ready for globally accepted technology platforms. Even, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s ambitious plan SWAYAM (launched in August 2016), is working towards the same objective – introducing online courses in the formal education system.

People today, are extremely keen to learn and explore digital platform to hone their skills and stand out in this competitive world. Startups in India should work with this mindset in order to comprehend the market.

Team, product and scalability are the three vital pillars of growth accelerator in the startup ecosystem. Over the last few years, focus has been on customer acquisition, and GMV numbers – however, with the paradigm shift in this evolving ecosystem, it’s imperative to strike a balance between the above three facets to attain profitability and scalability.

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Amit Paul Chowdhury
With a background in Engineering, Amit has assumed the mantle of content analyst at Analytics India Magazine. An audiophile most of the times, with a soul consumed by wanderlust, he strives ahead in the disruptive technology space. In other life, he would invest his time into comics, football, and movies.

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