On a mis­sion to con­nect with the coun­try’s IT geeks

Business Standard - - OPINION - INDRANIL SENGUPTA

Twenty three-year-old Pranay Metta is on a mis­sion. He is rid­ing solo from Kanyaku­mari to Kargil to cre­ate mi­cro-com­mu­ni­ties of stu­dents and free­lancers.

Metta is the com­mu­nity head at Foun­tane LLC, an in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy con­sult­ing com­pany based in Hy­der­abad. "I have been pas­sion­ate about trav­el­ling and wanted to shoot a travel doc­u­men­tary, but noth­ing ma­te­ri­alised," he said, cur­rently stuck in a bl­iz­zard in Kash­mir. His dream came true when his em­ploy­ers de­cided to cre­ate a pool of tal­ent in In­dia. Foun­tane Maker Space has funded this project, while Back­pack­ers and Trav­eller In­dia and Travel Af­fairs have helped lo­gis­ti­cally.

On his jour­ney he has stopped at var­i­ous em­i­nent in­sti­tu­tions such as VIT, SRM, Gi­tam, IIT-H, IIT-B, Sym­bio­sis and BITS. He says, "Our goal is to in­crease the ef­fi­ciency of free­lanc­ing in the stu­dent com­mu­nity and pro­mote skill de­vel­op­ment." Foun­tane does this through its pet project, Foun­tane Clubs. He has in­ter­acted with nearly 500 stu­dents and free­lancers. "Peo­ple are keen to in­ter­act with you if you are in­ter­est­ing. Trav­el­ling solo on a mo­tor­cy­cle to spread a busi­ness idea is unique. I be­lieve peo­ple con­nect faster this way," he added.

By the end of Oc­to­ber, the firm hopes to have 1,440 free­lancers based out of 36 com­mu­ni­ties. Each com­mu­nity has 40 mem­bers. He has also formed a net­work of blog­gers, trav­ellers and bik­ers in co­or­di­na­tion with Zos­tel, Rid­ing Sul­tans of Ahmed­abad and other such or­gan­i­sa­tions.

As the world moves to­wards a gig econ­omy, Foun­tane Clubs give col­lege stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to earn and study at the same time. They re­ceive hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, which is miss­ing in many IT col­leges, says Metta. Com­pa­nies pre­fer can­di­dates with a bit of ex­pe­ri­ence and this is where Foun­tane Clubs come in. It acts as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor be­tween the stu­dents and com­pa­nies.

Stu­dents who be­come part of these clubs are ranked from level one to 10. Foun­tane trains them as well. Coders on the lower lev­els work on projects that Foun­tane gives them. As they climb the lev­els, they get bet­ter projects. A coder on the sev­enth or eighth level has the op­por­tu­nity to work on projects with out­side com­pa­nies. The pay is good as well. Keep­ing with in­dus­try stan­dards, Foun­tane pays fresh­ers around ~250,000 per an­num. Coders on level 9 get to work on projects that are worth $100,000, said Metta.

"Our coders are trained to solve tech­no­log­i­cal prob­lems across var­i­ous ver­ti­cals: From health care to restau­rants to IT," said Nikhil Sri­vatsa, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer at Foun­tane, adding: "In the US, peo­ple want to start earn­ing from col­lege, but that is not the case in In­dia. Free­lancers and stu­dents in In­dia want to work on qual­ity as­sign­ments. How­ever, they do not have the source to reach these projects."

Raghaven­dra Gau­tam, a fi­nal year computer sci­ence stu­dent at Gi­tam and a coder with Foun­tane, said, "Foun­tane al­lows me to learn and earn. It does not af­fect my col­lege sched­ule as I work on week­ends. What I learn here is dif­fer­ent from the lessons taught in col­lege, which are book­ish.”

Foun­tane, in a man­ner, leases out its coders to its clients, some of which are start-ups. These firms pre­fer coders who work on projects rather than hir­ing full-time em­ploy­ees, which is a costly af­fair. Sarat Chan­dra, head of op­er­a­tions at UIPEP Tech­nolo­gies, a Ben­galuru-based startup, said, "Foun­tane is unique be­cause it has a proper struc­ture. Their coders are trained and pick up things fast. Just hav­ing book­ish knowl­edge does not re­ally help while cod­ing real-time projects."

"Skill is as im­por­tant as ex­pe­ri­ence. They are not ex­clu­sive of each other. In­terns who are bet­ter than ex­pe­ri­enced em­ploy­ees de­serve more," said Metta.

Pranay Metta in­ter­act­ing with stu­dents at Thakur Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­ogy, Mum­bai

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