Praxis Business School, a pioneer in the full-time teaching of Business Analytics/ Data Science, has graduated 20 full-time, in-class batches – the first college to do so. Analytics India Magazine caught up with Prof. Charanpreet Singh, founder-director of Praxis Business School, to congratulate him and find out more about this success story.
AIM: Congratulations on graduating 20 full-time batches of Data Science at Praxis Business School – this must be a milestone in this nascent industry. You pioneered the full-time teaching of Analytics/ Data Science in the country – How has the journey been?
Charanpreet: Very fulfilling. When we started in 2011 and called the program Business Analytics, we were driven by just one conviction – data is going to get very big. When we see the results in terms of how our alumni are doing in the industry, we feel doubly vindicated. When you are a pioneer, you don’t have anything to go by – you set the standards in pedagogy and just hope it works! Plus the dynamic nature of the domain means that you are constantly evolving and your faculty are always re-learning to keep pace. The journey, thus, has been tough but rewarding.
AIM: You have been consistently ranked in the top 2 or 3 programs in Data Science in the country. What do you think are the factors that have led to this success?
Charanpreet: Lots of things have to come together to create successful stories – I think we have been successful over all these years because we have transformed lives and careers – 20 batches and counting; given a group of enthusiastic and committed students their break into this domain – and they have done wonderfully well! I would like to name 5 critical success factors for us:
- Student-centricity – everything that we do at Praxis is driven by what works best for the student. Whenever we have a debate on any issue, the perspective that we feel is in the best interest of the students wins …. every time. This removes a lot of clutter. Decisions like starting and sticking to a full-time in-class program (against so many other options), keeping student number to a reasonable limit and ensuring student quality through a well-defined selection process, investing in contemporary and agile pedagogy, creating a sound campus placement program – all of these reflect this core philosophy. Our students and new hires often give us this feedback – that our student orientation is something they have not experienced in their previous institutes/ assignments.
- Quality of faculty – we firmly believe that the quality of an institute is a direct function of the quality of its faculty. Components that constitute a great program – curriculum, delivery, Capstone projects, research, assessment – are all created by the faculty team. We have been fortunate to have the company of a high profile, industrious and dedicated team of professors who teach because they love to, not because they have to. The Praxis ecosystem gives them the freedom to innovate and experiment, and they use this to enhance student learning and experience. It helps a lot that this team has been with us for several years now – so there is a sense of stability that is very comforting.
- Robust campus placement program – this is a critical part of the program design because a very large majority of our students give up their existing jobs and sign up with us. We, therefore, in a way, disrupt their lives. This drives us to ensure that we have the resources, in the form of an experienced and effective team, and the processes in place to create attractive career opportunities for everyone. What helps us is that we have a good percentage of repeat purchase – recruiters who keep coming back to us – because of the performance of the alumni. The Praxis Data Science Day Zero sets the benchmark in a way – we place 60 – 65% of our batch on that one day, with the first 3 companies starting their interviews as early as 5:30 am. We monitor the quality of profiles, average salaries, the average hike that one gets from the earlier salary that he/ she was drawing etc. closely and these numbers are moving up, batch after batch.
- Contribution of our alumni – Since we started as early as in 2011, we simply have the most accomplished and experienced data science alumni in the country. This special group of people remains a critical part of our ecosystem. They are excellent mentors and guides to people aspiring to join Praxis, as well as to alumni of junior batches. Some of them are leading data science teams in their organizations, and are excellent soundboards for some of the enhancements we keep doing with our pedagogy. This network is a very valuable part of the Praxis Data Science success – and anyone joining the program gets instant access to this special pool of people.
- Industry support – We have always been close to the industry, as the senior professors have all spent substantial time in corporate India. When we started in 2011, we got knowledge support from PwC and ICICI Bank – two giants in their respective sectors. This was critical as we had embarked on a journey of discovery. As we grew and strengthened the program, we got further support from the industry – practitioners teach courses, give valuable feedback on pedagogy, participate in evaluating our Capstone projects, and, of course, recruit our students. Proximity to the industry is necessary for a program like this – it enhances the exposure students get of the real-world data science.
Furthermore, Analytics India Magazine also caught up with some of the Praxis alumni to find out how Praxis had transformed their lives. Below are some of the answers we got from the alumni we interviewed:
Chandrakanta Bajoria: Investing in this course was the most important decision taken in my entire career. I am an engineer from Jadavpur University with a passion for math – and I was not getting the right direction through online or part-time courses. The full-time program at Praxis helped me build my knowledge and infused confidence in me. Praxis also got me a great start to my career – my first job in analytics at L&T Financial Services from campus. In addition, I built connections with a great set of peers and faculty members, a powerful network which will support me throughout my life.
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Transformation: Praxis was the first place where I was taught how to learn and was rewarded for my thinking ability. This motivates me to learn and was rewarded in my success as a Data Scientist at Microsoft.
Ankita Ghosal: Praxis actually transformed my career – after 4 years of web development work after B.Tech, I trusted my aspirations to Praxis, left my job and joined the Data Science program. The well structured, industry-facing curriculum and high-quality delivery ignited the passion to learn and grow. A unique part of the program was domain analytics – where we learnt the use of data science in areas like finance, marketing, web, healthcare and telecom. My Capstone project helped me apply machine learning techniques to solve a business problem in BFSI – and I landed a job with The National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) from campus. I have since moved to Amazon as a Business Intelligence Engineer.
Transformation: Deep industry connect with exposure to the application of Data Science in multiple domains helps in contextualizing the techniques we study and makes us versatile and flexible.
Devawrat Bhave: Attending the Data Science program was an enriching experience mostly because of the amazing peers and exceptional professors. The program not only covers the regular Data Science techniques and tools but also teaches the softer aspects. The ‘process of questioning’ and the ‘art of story-telling’ are skills that have given me the greatest competitive advantage in my career. I currently work as a Senior Data Scientist at Cummins Inc. and develop Deep Learning models to build embedded intelligence on IoT data. I am lucky to be in the thick of the industry 4.0 revolution and Praxis has played a key role in my success.
Transformation: Praxis is a college, not a training company, and the relationships you build here are for life. I still demand and get guidance from my faculty, and my professors have become my mentors for life.
Shweta Singh: I came from Stats background (Hindu College, DU) and the program at Praxis was a complete game-changer for me. I had not experienced the kind of application-oriented learning – a program beautifully crafted with an ideal mix of key concepts and theories along with hands-on experience through real case studies and capstone projects from the industry. This institute will not give you the option to not learn – the excellent faculty team makes sure that you are a confident Data Scientist by the time you graduate. I was placed as a Data Scientist at Karvy Analytics and had the opportunity to be a part of some amazing, impactful projects!
Transformation: The way the Praxis community ‘owns’ you till you are placed. The placement team is genuinely concerned about your career – it’s not just a job for them. My batchmates will agree.
Karan Sharma: After B Tech from VIT, I was in dilemma – an MBA at IIM Nagpur or the data Science Program at Praxis, I chose Praxis. One year after graduating I am convinced that I made the right decision. My professional life has changed completely – from looking at what has happened, to telling my company what will happen – has been an enormous leap for me. I think Praxis has fine-tuned the art of converting rookies into data Scientists – they know what to teach, how to deliver and how to prepare students for campus placements. I was placed with Tata Capital where I work on exciting data science projects.
Transformation: The Capstone Project – we built a drowsiness detector model using Computer Vision. The whole process of conceptualizing the project, finding and creating pictures to train the model and all those night-outs to ensure that we were ready for the industry experts to access the presentation – it was just the final touches to 9 brilliantly spent months.
Sunidhi Duggal: Well, getting into Analytics was something that I planned for some time but plans changed to reality when I got into Praxis – that was the turning point. I had the right background – BSc and MSc in Stats, with a sense for business, but I could harness my skills to the maximum at Praxis. The course was rigorous and there was a pressure to perform and compete. The fruit of labour was a full-fledged analytics job with Factspan where I had a steep learning curve. At my assignment at Swiggy, I am in a leadership role. This has been a great ride and the Praxis program made it possible.
Transformation: Quality of faculty – we were taught by a high-quality faculty comprising both academicians and practitioners – and they made sure that the class understood the concepts and could apply them to solve real business problems.