Articles Chronicles Experiences

Foreign Internships: Ambassadors of PGDBA

As the founding batch prepares for their final placements, we bring to you a sneak peek into the persona of a unique group of people who are going to cross the borders for their 6-month long internships.

Madhur Modi 

It was June 2015 when a set of 51 students set foot on the doorsteps of IIM Calcutta, ready to embark upon a journey filled with chaos! They had no idea how their decision to join this new course – Postgraduate Diploma in Business Analytics (PGDBA), hosted by the three prestigious institutes in India and the oldest ones in this field would shape their future career. Even though they were all convinced of the strength of data and how it could be used to disrupt entire markets, they themselves weren’t sure what a roller coaster ride they were going to go through. Then, as the time to start the internship semester draws near, 6 students were offered foreign internship offers and today, four of them are traveling to various countries to start their foreign interns. In this founding batch, these six students also contain a blend of people with work experience and freshers and come from diverse backgrounds. Here’s a showcase of their profiles:

Alok Mani Singh The civil engineer from BHEL, and the “stud” with 4-year worth of experience from a Maharatna PSU and IIT Guwahati attached in his name was the first person who secured his foreign intern in the prestigious Dunia Finance in Dubai. The “Perfect Statistician” as well as the “Management expert” who can solve any problem that comes his way “within a night or two”. He also likes to play guitar and has entertained us for past one and a half years with his pleasant voice. Now he will be working closely with the head of strategic analytics function at Dunia during his 6-month internship in Dubai.

Siddhant Sanjeev “Coder” as everyone in the batch knows him to be, was the only other person to impress the company Dunia and accompany Alok to Dubai. Everyone in the batch knows him as a fresher with computer science background from NSIT and a national level coder. He also got himself an interview offer from Google owing to his coding skills as well as won case competitions from PwC and Deloitte. He also developed an e-commerce website using intricate concepts of natural language processing, recommendation systems and information retrieval.

Ankitkumar Sonthalia Better known as “Sonthu”, this guy has 3 years of work experience from Cognizant and now he is going to work for Rocket Internet in Myanmar. He has worked on marketing strategy, predictions and recommendation systems. He is a travel enthusiast and has organized many unforgettable trips for our batch. He has also conducted cricket fantasy league and freshers’ party.

Rachit Tripathi A mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur by mind and a quant trader by heart, Rachit bagged an internship in France at QuantCube Technology, a niche fintech company. He’s also part of the team selected for data science game, an international inter-university competition held in Paris. In his pursuit of becoming a quant trader, he obtained CFA level 1 certification and solved various cases from those on Walmart to those on Yahoo data. He is also known as the “data scientist” of the batch and has recently been selected as one of the finalists in Goldman Sachs Quantify competition.

Avinash Kumar He is a mechanical engineer from NIT Jamshedpur and has worked in L&T for 3 years. He was offered an internship at Rocket Internet which he did not take as he aspired to work in India. He has written an international research paper and also has been part of the Data Science Game with Rachit during this course. He also won NASA systems engineering award while being a B.Tech. student. Besides, he is also a skilled TT player as well as a chess enthusiast.

Bharathi Ramaraj Bharathi got the internship offer from Rocket Internet but she decided to stay in India. The only girl to get a foreign internship offer, she is a fresher with B.Tech. in Electronics and Communications Engineering. She has worked on uplift modeling, high-frequency data and news analytics and has taken part in various Kaggle competitions. She is also an international chess player and has traveled to as many as 16 countries representing India. She envisions being a financial analyst and to use advanced analytics techniques in a financial credit company to build her career.

Despite such varying backgrounds and profiles, students of PGDBA were able to spread the word about the program and attained internships in various places like Dubai, France and Myanmar. A lot of us were not sure about what we will be able to achieve when we started this journey, but now seeing the accomplishments, as showcased by the examples above, we have grown a lot more confident in our abilities and can envisage a clearer picture of our future in the analytics world.

Best wishes to the entire batch for their internship semester! We are sure that all of you will imprint the brand PGDBA in the world of data analytics.

Articles Experiences ISI Chapter

Chances of Consequence

Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you’ve made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

-The Little Prince

Our first exams in this first semester at ISI have finally arrived. One of the subjects of the course, and of the more interesting ones I might add, is ‘Probability and Stochastic Processes’. This was also the subject of our first exam. I have been pouring over notes and hundreds of pages of text in preparation of this exam. The intricacies in some of the ideas reminded me of these lines taken from ‘The Little Prince’ and quoted by David Freedman in his book on Statistics. Are such matters as figures and charts always dry and boring? In our first class, the professor of the same subject also remarked, “Maybe our insistence on numbers is the limitation of man”.

‘The Little Prince’ is a famous classic written by Saint Antoine du Exupery. Although it was first written as a children’s book, it has been enjoyed over the years by adults alike as a heart-warming story on friendship, growing-up and the curious fascinations of man. One of the oft used coinages in the book is the phrase ‘matters of consequence’. The Little Prince finds, at one point, a man aimlessly counting stars to the extent that he reaches ‘five hundred and one million’. This man then ironically refers to his counting as a matter of consequence.

In these days leading up to our exams, I began to wonder whether factuality could be made interesting in the context of some intricacies I came across in problems of Probability Theory. Are there questions that I can ask that are not as dry as the character’s occupation of counting in The Little Prince?

Consider the following questions. How many random people would I need to collect in a room, such that there would be half a chance that at least two of them share their birthdays? The answer to this is a surprisingly low number. Let’s look at a different question. How many people would I need to catch hold of and ask birthdays of to have half a chance of finding someone who shares my birthday? It is also interesting to note that this number is different from the first one. Louis CK, the famous stand-up comedian, made an interesting remark in one of his live shows. He said that there were enough people attending his show for there to be a fair chance that a few of them would die in the coming year. Ouch! Let’s pose that as a question on chance. Assume a population with a certain death rate. What is the number of people I would have to randomly collect in a room, such that there would be half a chance that someone would die tomorrow?

Enough with birthdays and death days. Consider coin tosses. Say, I keep tossing a coin and keep getting heads for a hundred tosses. I only know that it is equally likely that my coin is anything between a perfectly rigged coin to a perfectly fair coin. What is the chance that I win if I bet on the next toss to be heads? Let’s stretch this slightly further. Let us assume that when the universe was born, the probability that the sun would rise over planet earth each day was made to depend on a coin toss. We only know that this coin was likely to be anything between a perfectly fair to a perfectly unfair coin (God is playing a cruel game). What is the probability that the sun would rise tomorrow, given that it has been rising each day over all these years since the birth of the universe?

Let’s give some rest to our poor coin and move on to other questions. The Monty Hall Problem is a famous example on how sometimes the idea of chance can stump intuition. Here’s a different example in a similar vein. Suppose there are three suspects in jail who have been cleared of any wrongdoing and are all going to be released soon. It is announced that two of the three would be released the next day but these three don’t know exactly which two of them will be released. One of them decides to go ask the guard which one of the other two prisoners is going to be released. But then he thinks the following to himself, “After I have asked, I have only a one in two chance that I’m the second guy to be released. But before I ask, there is a two in three chance that I will be one of the guys to be released. So should I rather not ask?”

Like one of our professors quips so often, ‘Remember that there’s a chance model somewhere in the background.’ Somebody somewhere is flipping a coin. Maybe someday a story will be written on a travelling mathematician who visits magical planets to ask questions on chances of consequence. It’s a long shot that it would be anything as beautiful as the masterpiece that is the ‘The Little Prince’. But I wager it wouldn’t be as bad as dry pointless counting.

Articles Experiences Technical

Joka Library to Paris – A Data Science Crusade

A peek into Team Tabs, one of the three teams representing India at DSG.

It was a crisp Friday morning and I was seated comfortably in the plush IIMC library. The PGDBA semester was well underway, assignments were raining thick and fast…life was busy…life was good and I was brimming with excitement.

I had only just begun working on a competition, which had started 4 days ago on June 14th 2016. It was an inter-university data-science competition called the Data Science Game. With so many constraints such as limited number of submissions in a day and final selection of only one team from a college, it was, by all means the “big deal” and a glance at the list of competing universities showed us some tough nuts. There were the usual suspects i.e. Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford et al., supplemented by a host of premier universities from across the world.

Certainly our team of four from first-ever batch of PGDBA, though no novices, were far from being among the best in the world… or were they?

And so we – Team Tabs – prepared a starting output, clicked on the ‘Make Submission’ button and waited with a muted yet expectation-laced anxiety that any Kaggler worth his salt would be familiar with and then this image popped up on our screen:


Most authors describe moments like these with the cliche ‘There was a moment of silence followed by….’ I discovered that they were quite wrong…as my uncontrollable Hagrid-like laughter filled the breadth of the IIM Calcutta library, defiant of the several bemused yet stern glares that were pointed in my direction! Second in the whole world! Irrespective of its ephemerality, irrespective of the pains required to maintain it or the challenges that we were about to face in the coming three weeks – it was a moment of reckoning for us, a moment to cherish, a moment to savour. Yet, when I look back I can say with certainty that it was at this point I started believing that international glory wasn’t beyond our reach.

What followed were some of the most gruelling days of my life. Over the next three weeks, we went on to learn and implement Deep Learning (Convolutional Neural Networks) algorithms for image classification. We travelled to multiple universities in a quest for servers to run these algorithms. We learnt, we toiled, we toiled hard and we thrived. When the competition ended, we were the top team from India – Yes! Our hard work and perseverance led to us being the Rank 1 Indian team. We were among the 20 teams from around the world selected to travel to Paris for the final phase of the competition and folks, as you read this article, we’re on the flight journey towards the finals of the competition in Paris, to be held on 9th September.

What fills me with even more delight is that not just us, but three teams from India have made it to the final 20 – one each from IIM Calcutta-Team Tabs, IIT Kharagpur and ISI Kolkata- The Frequentists (in their ranking order). India has made its presence felt in this 2nd edition of Data Science Game and interestingly enough, all the three institutes are what together constitute PGDBA! It is encouraging to see that three Indian teams have proved themselves worthy of being the global top 20 when 146 teams from 28 countries participated and showed their mettle in this grueling competition.

The competition contained an image classification problem. A set of images were given, which had to be classified into four categories. The problem at hand could have been done in various ways. We decided to use deep learning as a lot of interesting work is being done around it and it’s one of the most advanced techniques currently available. We had a basic knowledge about it and developed more understanding as we moved along. The process of compiling and executing codes went on and we worked hard every single day. The machine learning algorithms take time to execute and with limited computing power at our disposal and time constraint of the competition, we ensured that every iota of it was used. As we were fighting neck to neck with all top notch universities across the world, the task was not at all easy and there were a lot of hurdles on the way. The limited computing power slowed us down. Every iteration of the code required a whole day and thus constrained our capacity to experiment with the algorithm. Soon other teams caught up with us on the leaderboard. To wrinkle out the problems we went to IIT-KGP and ISI to gain server access. However, the terminals at both places were preoccupied. As a last resort, we decided to use Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS was difficult to set-up because of the complex technicalities and as none of us was acquainted with the process, it made our job all the more difficult. We quickly took charge and read about it from the scratch, spending a precious time of 3 days to figure everything out and get it running. In hindsight, it was worth the effort. Our first run in AWS increased the accuracy by 5 % and it all paid off with the jump on the leaderboard.

Now that we look at it, a lot of edge was given to us by our PGDBA curriculum. The basics of machine learning and computing were well laid out throughout the course. It enabled us to deep dive into deep learning and comprehend the technical aspects around it. We also consulted with professors for guidance. With Team Tabs standing at 12 in global rankings, we realize that we have learnt a lot on the way, when we were actually working on the problem statement.

We will now be competing with some of the top Kagglers in the finals. The finale would certainly provide us with global exposure as we will get a macroscopic view of what’s happening around the world in the field of data science by interacting with top-notch data analysts spread across the world. Since it’s a 2-day competition, the dynamics of the game is bound to change. We haven’t been able to put in continuous concentrated efforts towards the final round owing to the rigorous academic curriculum this semester and us coping up on classes. We do have a lot to cover but we will keep learning new stuff as we have been doing in the past year. Thus a great opportunity for knowledge transfer and networking lies ahead. With everyone’s hopes in us, we make our journey to Paris, where the final leg of the competition awaits… along with our fateful turnout in the 2nd Data Science Game competition.

About the team – “Team Tabs” from IIM Calcutta

Pranita Khandelwal – She completed her graduation (B.Tech.) in Electrical & Electronics Engineering and Masters in Economics from BITS Pilani. Initial interest in statistics and then further exploration of online courses made her pursue a career in the data science field.

Ritwik Moghe – He is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Madras. With no coding background in the beginning, he learnt everything after joining the PGDBA program.

Avinash Kumar – He is a Mechanical Engineer from NIT Jamshedpur and has worked in manufacturing industry prior to joining the PGDBA program. While in college, he participated in some analytics competitions and enhanced his data science skills after studying in the three institutes of PGDBA.

Rachit Tripathi – He is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kanpur. He has worked on multiple projects in Robotics, programing and data handling areas while he was in college. His keen interest in mathematics and computing drove him to join PGDBA.

Team Tabs


Do check out the team from ISI at the link: The Frequentists

The Frequentists
Articles Experiences General

The Journey of Identities

To all those who just joined in. And to all those who couldn’t.

I’ve jumped ships. I’ve made the leap.
I am now a part of what they call Tata Hall- the luxurious guesthouse at IIM C, when I used to be a part of what they called Himadri (my IIT Delhi hostel). I am convinced that recording my first impressions of this maddening, surreal odyssey that I have set out on will not only prove to be fruitful in retrospect, but in fact help me in retaining my sanity in the present. For those of you who have been wondering what I’m going to blabber about, I would like to give you some context before you abandon me.

I am now a student at the PGDBA program. I am comfortably living in my posh suite of the guesthouse of IIM C, with my amazing roommate, situated in Joka, which is nearly thirty kilometers away from the city of Kolkata. There are one hundred and three other students in this program who live with me, so I am sometimes tempted to forget that we are literally in the middle of nowhere. We are being fed an illusion – but an irresistible one that I don’t have the heart to snap out of. In some ways, the fact that the city is beyond my reach is liberating. The five years I spent living in the heart of Delhi, and then another two years in the legendary city of Mumbai, I craved for an escape, for a way out. I think this program has finally answered my call for help.

Here, I am constantly told that I am special, that I am the chosen one. The twenty-four years of my life that have led to this moment have made me so cynical that I doubt their belief in me. But at the same time, I greatly value it. After a very long time, I am around people who are willing to invest in my future simply because the three accomplished panel members saw a spark in me, during the twenty-five minutes I spent interviewing for the program. I feel humbled and terrified. The two years ahead are going to demand every inch of me, it is going to consume me, and it is going to change me. But for so long I have felt nothing, that this rush, this constant buzz in my head, this restlessness feels good. I am sleep-deprived, surviving on n number of cups of terribly made tea and coffee and hopping from one assignment to the other with some extended breaks thankfully, and yet, I am alive. How often is it that you are so committed to the moment that every other structure inside and outside your mind breaks form, and this particular moment is all that you can see, all that you can register? This program is one such moment in my life.

The program, which aims at producing a team of unparalleled business analysts and data scientists, supposedly the sexiest job in the market these days, has been ideated by the three premiere institutes of India – Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Indian Statistical Institute Kolkata and Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. This very credibility generates the “Pygmalion effect” and drives me to excel in the area of analytics.

The coming two years make me realize, that I’m far away from the comfort zone and stability that life had offered just before I decided to enroll into PGDBA. But I am also glad that it happened, for I can now appreciate the morning for what it truly represents – a fresh start. I like the concept of this new beginning, for it brings with it the exciting journey of exploring new dimensions and reconstruct your identity. I am tempted to fantasize about the future, but I am trying to contain my excitement to the moment. So many paths seem to call out to me that my brain will explode if I start to think too much. What do I want, you ask? Organized chaos. If you think that is romantically abstract, then you have understood me just a little more than you did before you began to read this note.

I will end with a few lines that so perfectly describe my state of mind right now, that I might just marry Robert Frost.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


The ISI Chapter

The first semester started on July 20, 2015. The classes were held initially at the Kolmogorov bhavan. Within a month we were given our own classroom in the Satyendra Nath Bose Bhavan.


Kolmogorov bhavan, ISI

Our curriculum consisted of 5 subjects. The subjects and the professors involved were:

Statistical inference – Amitava Banerjee

Stochastic processes – Dr. Bimal Roy & Dr. Kishan Chand Gupta

Computing for data sciences – Dr. Sourav Sengupta

Statistical structures in data – Debashish Sengupta

Database Management Systems – Dr. Pinakpani Pal & Amiya Das

By far the stars of the course were the faculty members. It was an honour to interact with a Padma Shree awardee in Dr. Bimal Roy. To be taught on a regular basis by such an esteemed personality was slightly overwhelming and hugely enriching. The sheer brilliance of the man and his way of looking at probability and its applications was an experience difficult to pen down. Dr. Kishan Chand Gupta shared the course and taught Markov Chains.

SN Bhawan

 Satyendra Nath bhavan , ISI Campus

Diligent and sincere, Prof. Debashish Sengupta was the ideal teacher. He covered every topic rigorously starting right with the basics of statistics to the highly complex multivariate analysis. What seemed an easy course initially, became heavily loaded and among the toughest by the time the course came to its completion. Tutorials were held every week to discuss exercise problems.

The jovial Prof. Amitava Banerjee taught us the habit of drawing meaningful inferences out of large volumes of data. Drawing from his vast pool of consultancy experience, he inculcated in us the ability to convert real life business problems into statistical problems. His assignments involved working on datasets and testing hypothesis in the correct way.

Dr. Pinakpani Pal was interactive, and worked hard to ensure that our stay was a comfortable one. His course had 2 parts: the theoretical knowledge of databases, and a hands-on SQL application. He shared the course with Amiya Das, a seasoned professional at Oracle.

The friendly and ever enthusiastic Dr Sourav Sengupta was always approachable and motivated the entire batch in getting accustomed with highly complex ideas. His passion for teaching shone through as he went through the concepts of linear algebra and machine learning algorithms. He organised the course superbly and the web page for his course was among the best resource repositories we could have hoped for.

The invited lectures were top drawer, with experienced professionals coming in to share their insights and recommendations about the field of analytics. Overall the first semester was a learning experience beyond compare and laid a solid foundation on which we can build in our journey towards becoming well-rounded data scientists.


   Our hostel, Deshmukh Bhavan