SUCH A LONG JOUR­NEY

SURGA THI­LAKAN QUIT HER GOLD­MAN SACHS JOB TO WORK ON UP­SKILLING PEO­PLE FOR EN­TRY- LEVEL JOBS WITH THE HELP OF TECH­NOL­OGY.

Business Today - - IMPACT WOMEN - By E. KUMAR SHARMA

IN THE CLOS­ING MONTHS OF 2008, Surga Thi­lakan was in­volved with a $8-bil­lion structured loan for a client at Gold­man Sachs in the US. Shortly there­after, she was in Ban­ga­lore at Ujji­van Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices, this time in­volved with a ` 8,000 loan to a group of ur­ban poor women. It was here that she, just 29 then, found her call­ing. “My job was in­tel­lec­tu­ally chal­leng­ing but not mean­ing­ful.” This got her to re-lo­cate to In­dia and be­gin at Ujji­van, where she was in­volved in de­sign­ing and launch­ing in­no­va­tive loan prod­ucts for the ur­ban poor. “Ujji­van fa­mil­iarised me with ur­ban pover­tyre­lated is­sued and gave me a first-hand feel of the core is­sues fac­ing the poor.” Later, she and her batch­mate at In­dian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment, Ahmed­abad, and now her hus­band, Sreera­man Vaidyanathan, grad­u­ally be­gan fo­cus­ing on en­sur­ing that the poor got reg­u­lar in­come. This, they no­ticed, was at the

WHY SHE MAT­TERS She has al­ready trained 20,000 job seek­ers, of which close to 17,000 are work­ing at a salary of 15,000 and above

time (around 2010) when in­dus­try was fac­ing a se­vere skill short­age. This led to the cre­ation of iSTAR (quick­s­peak for in­te­grated Skill Train­ing And Re­cruit­ment) whose fo­cus is to find in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions to prob­lems fac­ing the masses, es­pe­cially job seek­ers who want to up­grade their skills. This led iSTAR to build Talen­tify, which lever­ages ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, ma­chine learn­ing, data sciences and nat­u­ral lan­guage pro­cess­ing. A user, with the help of a low-cost smart­phone, can in­ter­act with a bot or a vir­tual trainer and im­prove con­ver­sa­tion skills so that he or she can find a job in ar­eas such as cus­tomer ser­vice, au­to­mo­bile sales or bank­ing in sup­port or cus­tomer-fac­ing roles.

iSTAR has raised $2 mil­lion from Uni­tus Ven­tures, Michael and Su­san Dell Foun­da­tion and Na­tional Skill De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion since 2013. Talen­tify has been used by over 10,000 job seek­ers and en­try-level em­ploy­ees in the last two years. iSTAR is to­day present in eight states and has trained and skilled 20,000 job seek­ers. Of these, 17,000 have been em­ployed at an av­er­age pay of ` 15,000 per month. This meant dou­bling of in­come in most cases.

That is quite a dis­tance for Thi­lakan, an MBA in fi­nance from In­dian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment Ahmed­abad, and an as­so­ci­ate mem­ber of the In­sti­tute of Char­tered Ac­coun­tants of In­dia who started her ca­reer at Ernst and Young in In­dia and later moved to Lon­don and the US to work at Gold­man Sachs’ pri­vate eq­uity and structured fi­nance groups and orig­i­na­tion desk. She has even man­aged Gold­man Sachs’ in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture as­sets across coun­tries. For her, it has been quite a jour­ney.

SURG A THIL A K A N Co-founder and CEO, iSTAR Skil­lDevel­op­ment

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.