How AlmaBetter helps fill data science jobs at Paytm, Zomato, Flipkart, and more
IIT-KGP alum Shivam Dutta worked as a statistical modelling engineer at Reliance Industries, and later, as a data scientist at Radware and BlackBuck.
During his startup stints, he was often tasked with hiring for data science roles, which turned out to be challenging because of the dearth of talent.
“On an average, we’d do 10-15 interviews for filling one data science position. People had certifications from places like Udemy and Coursera, but we found that their practical knowledge was lacking. And that posed the main challenge in hiring for data science roles,” Shivam tells YourStory.
As the demand for data scientists rose with the increasing digitisation of industries, the talent gap widened. Industry estimates suggest that there are 1.4 lakh data science vacancies in India today, growing at a CAGR of 34 percent.
Banks, consulting houses, and tech startups alike are struggling to fill data science positions due to the lack of skilled and job-ready talent.
“The rate of upskilling in the field of data science is way lower than the rate of job creation. There is a bigger issue at hand,” Shivam states.
What AlmaBetter solves
In August 2020, Shivam started AlmaBetter to supply skilled data scientists to the industry. His IIT-KGP wingmate Vikash Shrivastava joined as co-founder.
AlmaBetter is a community and cohort-based data science learning platform that aims to upskill aspirants through fast-paced online bootcamps. The Bengaluru-based startup claims to train talent and make them job-ready in six to eight months to meet the hurried demands of the tech industry.
AlmaBetter Founder-CEO Shivam shares,
“The market has gotten crowded with certification courses, and this has created problems for recruiters. Shortlisting candidates has become time-consuming. Data science openings stay open for 20 days more than other job openings. We want to fulfil as many vacancies as possible across startups and MNCs.”
AlmaBetter has designed its training programmes in a way that makes learning accessible to all aspirants, irrespective of their financial status. It also challenges the high-cost structure of the traditional education system.
Cohort-based course; pay-after-placement (PAP)
The platform offers a 32-week instructor-led programme with guaranteed placements at Rs 6-25 lakh per annum. Students pay only after getting placed in data science roles at high-growth startups or Fortune 500 companies.
“It’s an income-sharing model where candidates pay us Rs 10,000 for 30 months [course fee is Rs 3 lakh] after they start earning,” says the founder.
Some other startups like Newton School, Lambda School, Masai School, Konfinitty, etc. have a similar income-share agreement (ISA) with students.
While the PAP model may be risk-heavy, AlmaBetter neutralises it by beefing up its selection process and handpicking top talent.
It claims to have recorded a 100 percent placement rate for its first cohort in June. It has also partnered with education finance provider Eduvanz to cover the risk.
Shivam elaborates, “All companies are looking to explore data science capabilities today. We have seen a 50:50 distribution between startups and MNCs looking to hire data scientists. Our risk-free and guaranteed placement model enables aspirants to build a tangible career in data science.”
AlmaBetter has roped in 120+ hiring partners, including some of India’s leading startups (Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato, Paytm, Delhivery, Ola, Myntra, PaisaBazaar, PayU) and MNCs (Citibank, HSBC, Amazon, Oracle, Accenture, Microsoft). Students receive 1.8 job offers on an average, claims the founder.
The platform deploys an AI-powered course framework, which ensures competency-based and personalised learning outcomes. AlmaBetter also provides community-based learning activities, peer-to-peer sessions, experiments, gamification, and real industry projects to students.
“Our curriculum is reverse-engineered from the industry. It does not come from academia. Our 100+ instructors are industry professionals, who have spent 7-10 years in data science roles,” says the founder.
“We also receive feedback from our hiring partners that help us design the curriculum.”
Growth plans and future roadmap
AlmaBetter, which launched its first cohort in October 2020, crossed 40,000 registered users (4 cohorts and community learners) in May 2021. Paid memberships on the platform are growing at 30 percent month-on-month.
The startup aims to graduate 25,000 data science aspirants (out of two lakh applicants) by March 2022. It has allocated a fund of Rs 2 crore, a certain percentage of which will go towards merit-based scholarships, financial aid, and resources like laptops and internet connections for needy students.
Almost 70 percent of students on the platform come from non-IT backgrounds, indicating a growing interest in AI/ML roles.
AlmaBetter plans to grow its learner community to 1-2 lakh by 2022. “With increased automation, the job crunch will further heighten, making upskilling in data science a necessity to survive in the IT job market,” Shivam explains.
The bootstrapped startup is looking to raise a Pre-Series A round to launch new courses in product management and software development, and expand to other geographies to service the global demand for data science learning.
Talk of revenue run rate, which may be slow given its business model, and Shivam says, “Right now, our mantra is value and not valuation. If we can crack the formula of student success, value will come.”
With several well-established edtech players like upGrad, Udemy, Coursera, Simplilearn, and Masterclass, among others offering certification programmes in data science and AI, AlmaBetter has its task cut out.
However, Shivam is optimistic about growth. “People will be more inclined to take outcome-based programmes than certification-based ones. Most platforms put a money filter and lose out on good talent. They ask for upfront payment when students don’t have a tangible income to invest,” he explains.
“We take ownership of student success, which will determine our success.”
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta