Chadha Center for Global India, Keller Center launch entrepreneurial internship program in India

Oct. 24, 2023

Since 2016, the Princeton Startup Immersion Program (PSIP), part of the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education, has offered undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to gain real-world experience at emergent startups in New York City, Tel Aviv and Shanghai.

During the summer of 2023, Princeton’s M.S. Chadha Center for Global India (CGI) collaborated with the Keller Center to launch Princeton’s first startup immersion program in Bengaluru, India. The program, initiated by CGI director Anu Ramaswami, with input from CGI’s advisory board and Princeton alumni in India, built on PSIP’s prior successes. The program was made possible through the support of Sumir Chadha ’93, former Princeton trustee and co-founder and managing director of WestBridge Capital.

PSIP placed five undergraduates with three companies over a 10-week internship period: DealShare, a hyperlocal online buying platform; Rapido, a bike taxi app; and WestBridge Capital, an investment firm focusing primarily on investments in India.

According to the Government of India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India has the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, with over 50,000 startups nationwide. As of May 2022, India was home to as many as 100 unicorns, collectively valued at $332.7 billion. Bengaluru is often referred to as the “Silicon Valley of India” and is ranked fifth in the world for tech venture capitalist investment, according to research from Dealroom.Co.

Unlike many conventional internships, PSIP-Bengaluru students work in small, early-stage businesses and live together. Vivek Nemana, a doctoral student in sociology, served as the on-site program coordinator. He orientated students to daily life in the city, coordinated weekly guest speakers, and helped organize weekend excursions including visits to Nagarhole National Park, Mysore Palace, and meetings with Princeton alumni in Mumbai and New Delhi. “It isn’t an internship program in which students play minor roles,” said Nemana. “They substantively contribute to innovation.”

Advika Srivastava, a senior majoring in computer science, developed a new customer service module at DealShare that leveraged natural language processing technology. At Rapido, sophmore Ahmed Jamaloodeen learned about market metrics and applied this knowledge to make future market predictions. He also felt a sense of community in India — visiting the local mosque and playing cricket every evening. “Along with valuable hands-on experience, I’ve also been able to explore Bengaluru and the surrounding areas,” he told the Keller Center. “We’ve visited the Kabini River Lodge and seen India’s gorgeous landscape — along with elephants, wild dog, and even a sloth bear!”

At the conclusion of the 10-week program, students were joined in India by Anu Ramaswami, the Sanjay Swani '87 Professor of India Studies, and Chadha to celebrate the students and PSIP-Bengaluru’s partner companies. It was also an opportunity for Princetonians to learn about the broader start-up ecosystem, especially about companies advancing environmental sustainability, gender-equity and social justice, and Dalit entrepreneurship, many of whom might serve as hosts for future PSIP-Bengaluru cohorts.

Workshop attendees included, among others: Manu Chopra and Safiya Husain, founders of Karya, a non-profit, pioneering ethical data for AI; Sashank Rishyasringa '06, founder for Axio, a financial inclusion innovator; Anjali Bansal and Swapna Gupta, founder of Avaana, a women-led climate and sustainability fund; Aarti Gupta, professor of computer science at Princeton; and Alok Talekar, software engineer at Google Research engaging in AI for ethical research. The highlight of the evening was a keynote lecture by Chandra Bhan Prasad, a leading voice on caste in India, who discussed Dalit entrepreneurship as a pathway to social equity.

“The entrepreneur energy we saw in Bangalore — and real impacts aimed at environmental, educational, development and social justice — was incredibly inspiring,” said Chadha. Ramaswami added that “These themes align very closely with CGI’s research focus areas. We anticipate that this summer’s activities will help launch a larger cohort of students and companies for next year tackling grand challenges for India and the world.”