-Autar Nehru (Delhi)
Rajesh Panda is founder-managing director of Corporate Gurukul Pte. Ltd (CGPL, estb.2007), a Singapore-based ed-tech company that offers internships and immersive experiential learning programmes to secondary and tertiary education students in partnership with globally top-ranked universities.
Currently, its eight-week online internship and eight-days on-campus programmes in partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are being delivered to 1,000 secondary students from 150 schools in 21 countries and 500 tertiary students from over 60 universities worldwide.
History. An alumnus of NIT, Rourkela, and S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, Panda started his career with HCL Hewlett Packard in 1996 and quickly climbed the corporate ladder to become a core member of HCL InfiNet’s start-up team in Mumbai. In 2002, he was transferred to HCL Singapore. After working with three new-age start-ups in the island city state, he co-founded CGPL with wife Radhika in 2007.
Initially, the company conducted employability skills assessment and training programmes in partnership with the government of India in rural Odisha, Bihar, and West Bengal. Subsequently in 2011, it began offering short-term experiential on-campus learning programmes for business management students from India at NUS and NTU. Five years later in 2016, CGPL launched its schools vertical.
CGPL’s flagship programmes for class VIII-XII students are its online AI (artificial intelligence) Internship for Young Achievers (AIYA) and on-campus Global Research and Innovation Programme (GRIP). To university undergraduates, the company offers its on-campus Global Academic Internship Programme (GAIP) in data analytics and online internship in applied deep learning. All programmes are designed and delivered together with its partners — NUS, NTU and HPE. Fees range from S$1,299-3,999 (Rs.74,000-2.27 lakh).
Direct talk. “During my 11 years in the IT industry, I became aware that graduates lacked workplace problem-solving and knowledge application skills. Though initially, we trained rural students in skills development, I was very keen on addressing the experiential learning gap of school and college students by providing them applied learning experiences in partnership with the world’s top universities and corporates. Fortunately, we were able to convince NUS and NTU — ranked among the Top 15 universities globally in the QS World University Rankings — and HPE to collaborate with us to develop immersive experiential programmes for students,” says Panda who adds that though CGPL students are from 21 countries, India accounts for 40 percent of the company’s business. To date, 150,000 students have completed CGPL-certified programmes.
Panda believes that CGPL programmes “greatly enhance students’ application portfolios” for admission into globally top-ranked universities. “Our learning model combines international experiential with traditional Indian gurukul pedagogies to ensure students develop higher order thinking, knowledge and skills under the mentorship of well-qualified faculty and professionals. These 21st century skills are highly valued by premier varsities — our alumni have been admitted in UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, NUS and UCL London,” says Panda, also chairperson of the Higher Education Forum (HEF), Singapore Chapter.
Future plans. With its innovative experiential learning model having been tried and tested, the company is set to expand its operations to the US and Africa. It is also in the process of finalising partnership agreements with the top-ranked Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities. “Currently, we prepare and certify 2,000 students annually. We want to grow this number to 5,000 by 2023,” he says.