“Right now, artificial intelligence is a huge vault in the education industry. Both learners and facilitators can benefit from this innovation. Personalisation is also the key to a 21st Century education. Embracing knowledge is not complete until learners are capable of executing it,” said Ayush Jaiswal, cofounder, Pesto.
Edtech, a term unknown a decade ago, is today an industry that has reached the streets of small towns and even some villages of India. It has leapfrogged into areas in the country where offline education was still trying to reach. With the new revolution in the form of internet penetration, the latest technologies such as experiential learning tools, artificial learning and gamification of learning are changing the way Indian students have traditionally been formulating preparation strategies.
Superskilling And Upskilling India’s Engineers
Gurugram-based edtech company Pesto is trying to bridge the skill gap between engineers and multinational companies. The startup offers two different programmes – Pesto PRO and Pesto Remote – designed for experienced engineers who want to “superskill” themselves to go from good to great and become proficient to break into international high tech careers.
Pesto Remote is the online version of their pioneering upskilling programme. Through this addition to its academic repertoire, Pesto will now provide its next-level learning, development, and skills solutions to candidates across the country from the convenience of their homes.
Pesto basically aims to enable global pay parity and borderless opportunities for Indian engineers. “Our current programmes are only suitable for experienced engineers – and it’s by design. The aim is to build on the experience and help engineers get better so that they can get international opportunities in line with their capabilities,” Jaiswal added.
Pesto claims to be working towards not just helping engineers finding a high paying remote job, but transforming engineers into lifelong learners with the ability to tackle and solve any problems thrown at them. In Jaiswal’s words,
“We are the career accelerators for top engineering talent to break into international tech careers via full-time remote jobs.” – Jaiswal
Income-Sharing Agreement, International Hiring Partners And Data-Driven Processes
Pesto works on the ISA model i.e., income sharing agreement. Once the engineers are hired, it takes 17% of their salary for the next three years. Students have to make 36 monthly payments based on their estimated income. These payments are verified every year by tax return and over or underpayments are adjusted accordingly. The agreement also caps payment at INR 20 Lakh so no students pay more than that. If a graduate doesn’t make double their last salary, then they don’t have to pay anything.
The startup works with multiple employers in Silicon Valley and has received a total funding of $2Mn from Matrix partners & Angel Investors. The startup doesn’t work with clients. It has many international companies as hiring partners and the graduates are employed for remote working for these companies. 99% of our Pesto graduates work remotely, regardless of where the specific company is located. “Although some of our Pesto grads are open to relocating, the expectation is that Pesto hires will work remotely while living in India,” said Jaiswal.
Currently, there are over half a million open software engineering jobs in the US alone. That number is predicted to be over 1.4 Mn by 2020. There are 5 Mn software engineers in India. Their average salaries are between $6,600 (entry-level) and $11,400 (senior-level) per year.
“We have proven that if we find the hardest working software engineers in India and invest in them with world-class, intensive training, they can be effective remote team members in US companies, earning more money than they ever thought possible,” Jaiswal said.
Pesto has developed an India specific curriculum that not only teaches software development but focusses on bridging cultural gaps and being an effective remote employee. Its data-driven processes ensure productivity and also helps the startup monitor students’ progress. Further, it monitors all data in the funnel and keeps records of each student to keep a check on their progress personally and then customise training methods accordingly.
“It’s still very early days though and as the volume of data increases in our organisation, we foresee using Data Sciences quite extensively. We are also using technology to automate everything — including the tax, legal, and logistical complexities of hiring overseas employees,” said Jaiswal.
This makes it easy for foreign companies that don’t have their own set up in India to hire remote teams in the country. It also gives graduates a much broader selection of companies to work for, especially startups that are working on interesting technological challenges, claims the startup.
Where The Pesto Journey Began
Jaiswal had always dreamt of starting a business. However, he soon realised that entrepreneurship only looks good in magazines and it is a lot of hard work than anyone can comprehend. He ended up spending the next two years bankrupt, living out of a coworking space.
However, soon the tables changed. During a casual conversation with a stranger, Andrew Linfoot, (who later became the cofounder of Pesto) at a coworking space, the idea for the startup was born.
When Linfoot shared a lot of insights about software engineering in the US, they both realised how Indian engineers can easily be on par with them with some upskilling. “I felt this emotion arise in me that was akin to an insane sense of urgency. I convinced him to do a test project with a US client and an Indian engineering team. We’d hire the best engineer’s in India. They’d start out writing code that was simply impeccable by Silicon Valley standards,” Jaiswal recalled.
He went on to add, “Andrew and I quickly realised how good our engineers were. They were fluent in English, had computer science degrees and worked harder than most of Andrew’s peers in Silicon Valley. If they had US visas, they would easily get jobs at US tech companies. We couldn’t get them visas but we could match them with US tech companies where they could work as full time, remote contractors. Clients loved it. It was just like hiring a remote employee in-house, only cheaper, faster and easier,” he added. Soon, the startup had signed up more companies than they had engineers trained to offer.
After contrasting the lives of engineers in India versus engineers in Silicon Valley, the founders realised that Indian engineers are not given the opportunity to realize their true potential. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. “India is an IT leader in terms of the number of engineers. I believe if we can get every engineer to match the quality of engineers in Silicon Valley, we can become global leaders,” Jaiswal said.
Hungry, Humble, Happy and Honest: Pesto’s Motto
At present, Pesto’s team size is 15 and plans to expand to Bengaluru soon. The startup follows more than just a culture of Friday bars, free coffee and a place for friendships to blossoms. “We often arrange off-sites for our Pesto family so that they can get a break from their daily hectic work-life. Pesto also has a Pesto house where we organise get-togethers for our Pesto family,” said Jaiswal.
Pesto claims to have an environment that encourages taking control of the situation, being innovative and creative and looking beyond everything.
“Pesto allows everyone to challenge their ideas and express themselves. Our main motto is to follow 4H’s i.e., stay Hungry, Humble, Happy and Honest. We also emphasize building relationships beyond work and have fun while on the journey and not solely commit to doing something only because it’s our job,” he added.
Talking about hiring the right talent, he said, “We are a very small team, one additional employee has the potential to contribute massively and drive growth in the company, they also have the power to disrupt the workflow and organization. We often look for a special kind of hire, passionate and professional people.”
Future Plans And Challenges
The startup plans to soon build a programme for lesser experienced engineers or freshers as well. “We would love to help someone get started on the journey of becoming a full-stack engineer and we are working on it.”
Talking about the growing edtech sector and competition in India, Jaiswal said. “We always try to come up with new ideas, offering that can help us to achieve our mission and our mission is to give everyone equal access to opportunity, regardless of where they were born.”
The startup plans to train 3,000 engineers over the next year.
“In 2020, we’ll scale our operations and accept a lot more people. Our goal for 2020 is to give India’s first crorepati developer working from tier towns totally remote and I think this will make us different from every other else in this field.”
Data analytics and artificial intelligence will play a very key role in the future of work.
“While we haven’t added an analytics specific programme yet we do use data as a core for almost every process, decision within the company,” he added.
Pesto Remote is the way the company is trying to scale up the business. The startup started the first batch with 30 students and now is scaling up to 100 students per batch.
Right now, the startup’s all focus is on Indian engineers and “once we accomplish our mission then we might think about targeting other verticals” Jaiswal said.