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Swiggy plans to create next gen engineers with its I++ program

Vijay Seshadari, SVP, engineering at Swiggy

swiggy I++ is an exclusive upskilling program launched by the Bengaluru-headquartered food and grocery delivery giant aimed at assisting talented engineers to obtain the practical skills necessary to design highly scalable, highly available, low latency consumer internet solutions.Vijay Seshadari, SVPengineering at swiggy talks to TOI about the logic behind the exercise. Excerpts:
Why did you launch the program?
So, I think if you look at the genesis for this program, since Swiggy’s inception over the last six to seven years, we’ve gone through an unprecedented growth phase where there has been lots of learnings from our tech infrastructure standpoint on how to build reliable, scalable applications for the consumer product ecosystem. And, with that background, when we started looking at the type of skills that we expect from a product engineer coming into a company like Swiggy, and how do we make him/her productive on day one to be able to contribute to the company, then we use that as the northstar and work backwards from that to say, how do we design a curriculum that not only imparts the tech skills, the tech skills are obviously important, but there are lots of other opportunities in the marketplace where you can learn a particular tech skill, but how do we combine that with the Swiggy expertise.
So, we designed the program in such a way that we have both content delivery which ensures that the basic technical functional skills are delivered and then combining that with the Swiggy experts, what we call as the Master classes, we felt would be a very interesting or a unique combination for us to do the talent building exercise. And in this process, we also realized that one of the other benefits of designing a program, this goes back to, why did we do this? One of the other benefits of designing a program like this is that it not only potentially benefits Swiggy, but it actually benefits the larger ecosystem. So, if we really look at the next generation of engineers that we need to be creating to foster a very vibrant consumer product ecosystem in India, (it’s still in a very nascent stage) then these are the types of skills and exposures that participants are going to need and we felt that this is something that was not available in the marketplace and something that Swiggy could uniquely contribute into and that’s the reason why we decided to do this program.
Something of this nature would require scale. What do you have in mind?
So, the first batch that we started in January 2022, we focused on quality at a small scale. We didn’t find a precedent we also spoke to a lot of Ed tech partners and discuss this concept and said, “Hey, we are thinking of doing this, we believe this could be a different way of ingesting talent, upskilling talent, giving back to the community, etc.” and what we realized was it was definitely probably a trailblazer from industry practice perspective. So, we focused on quality, meaning we said, let’s take a small cohort. We got — when we opened this interest form late last year, we got a lot of responses and, you know, we could have tried to go for scale in the first iteration, but what we did was, we said let’s focus on how can we deliver a high quality program first and let’s ensure we have the right training partner and also ensure that we are able to deliver on this. So, we are not actually looking for this to grow into a large, from a number of participants perspective, but we want to make sure that this is unique and this provides opportunity to a diverse set of candidates for them to be able to upskill their talent and be ready for the consumer tech product ecosystem.
When you spoke to other tech partners, what was the feedback?
Before the design of the program itself, we started getting feedback because obviously there are other folks who could have potentially done something similar. We spoke to a wide array of companies, from folks who are just doing content delivery, but the important thing for us was not just the functional skills part, it was exposure to the Swiggy insights and best practices. Going back to our goal, we wanted to ensure that over the last five to seven years whatever we have learned in terms of how to operate an infrastructure like Swiggy is something that is available to the public as an offering and that is where we didn’ don’t find the right match. So, most of the industry courses were more oriented towards, focusing on the tech stack or specific technical skills. So, the approach that we have taken here, is that we would use a partner for content delivery, but the curriculum like the agenda, the duration etc is completely curated and designed by Swiggy and we intend to keep it this way. We intend to keep it this way because depending upon the functional skill we choose, we may use different partners. So, that’s the reason why we are keeping that door open for us with heavy emphasis on Swiggy being the content creator and curriculum designer.
And obviously, this not only educates the talent pool or it keeps them with, you know, the necessary skills to work in an environment such as ours at this point in time, but at the same time, it also provides you with a readily available talent pool at the same time. For instance, the Times Group, they had opened their own journalism school at one point in time and some of the top journalists in the country today are editors in the country they were all from that school. I don’t know whether the school still exists or not, but this to me looks something similar. So, do you have any plans to monetize it?
The first batch we had waived the fee for the program, because there were too many variables that we were dealing with. We wanted to ensure that we are delivering something of high quality and we should also talk about the feedback we have gotten from participants at some point, but going forward, we think we’ll be charging a nominal fee. We are not thinking of this as a P&L kind of thing, it’s not a business segment that we are thinking of entering. We are more viewing this, as you rightly pointed out, as something that can benefit the ecosystem. If we look at our talent ingestion process, there are several mechanisms that are already available today. So, we do University hiring, etc. We view this is one of the pillars in that strategy in terms of ingesting talent. So, we are viewing more of this from an efficient talent ingestion and giving back to the community perspective. While we will have a nominal fee for upcoming batches, we also reserve the right to provide scholarships to deserving candidates. One thing that has been very encouraging for us in the first batch where we had about 26 participants, they were from 20 different cities, right, all over India. So, we feel that we are reaching out to a segment that is much broader than what might be otherwise available in a tier 1 type of city. So, given that, we are thinking that it’s not something that we are looking to make it necessarily profitable, but we also need to cover our costs. So, we’ll have a nominal fee and also have the option of providing scholarships to serving candidates.
Do you see other courses also coming in to the program in the future?
We are thinking about other functions. So, this particular first batch was focused on software engineering because that’s where we felt there was a lot for us to share and potentially upskill folks. But we are looking at other functions as well going forward. Even in this program, we did make it cross functional, we did make it all rounded. While it was a tech job family, we actually got senior product managers to conduct Master Classes on how to do customer backward thinking, because we feel this is an essential skill. It’s not just about knowing some piece of tech, it’s really about being able to participate in the product creation, ideation journey, which means that engineers need to have skills to be able to effectively engage with other functions in the company, like product management, data science, security etc. So, we have thought about other functions as well, but to answer your question more directly, yes, we are looking at a few other job families, for example, testing — testability, software test engineers. How do we test such a large infrastructure at scale is also something that we are looking at as one potential option and we’ll keep this open. Like I said, if we are successful, I think we would have not only changed to the way Swiggy ingest new talent, but also, we are hoping it will set a precedent for the industry that, you know, there is this alternative model of bringing in new talent that you might otherwise not tap into, for example, tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Most large companies typically focus on university hiring and that’s definitely one of the valid opportunities. This might be another option where companies can provide such a mechanism to upskill talent in India and also create the right set of engineers with the right set of skills that will help us in the long term. So, that is our long term goal and we’ve made a modest start right now. We’ll see how it goes.

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