All my years since 1985 – I have been a teacher. After my post-graduation in Mathematics, I had a few choices: to pursue with research, or take to teaching B.Sc. students or … another option kept calling me from deep within: take the path less treaded, viz., provide training support to students preparing for IIT JEE. It was beyond the comfort zone for most of my peers. The challenge beckoned and I quickly starting looking out for a good job opportunity in this direction.
Those days, there were only two well-known organizations, Agrawal Classes – Bombay and Brilliant Tutorials – Madras, that offered JEE prep classes. The initial inclination was to move to Hyderabad than to either of these metros. That is how I landed my first job…
Special Coaching Centre:
This was a premier and perhaps one of the only three reputed institutions in Hyderabad those days that nurtured students for the JEE. I joined as faculty and quickly, student folk got around me because they sensed that I could relate well with their strengths and weaknesses and put in all the hard work to clarify their doubts and chat up with them on things academic more as a friend than as a tough-look teacher. I spent 16 years here. I recall my long days which start at 4 AM. The class would start at 5 AM. I leave home at 4.40 AM and 3 minutes before the class begins, I would be there waiting for the class to arrive and settle down. My life was strongly process driven. I was doing the same schedule day in day out. I could experience what management gurus call “relentless excellence.” As I walked the talk over the years, I could see the students being inspired by the work ethic, where nothing else counted. More importantly, walking in my shadow, their perseverance paid off for them. I had the fortune of working with gifted students and students who felt gifted, basking in my work methods. I will never forget a boy, who did not believe he was cut out for IIT. But taking my words seriously, he could overcome his doubts and qualify for IIT Madras. For a teacher, nothing is more rewarding than enabling an average performer to reach higher levels of excellence.
By around this time, Narayana was a strong brand that brought in students in search of tech careers as a training institution. One day Narayana sir (Founder of Narayana group of institutions) himself came to my house to invite me into their organisation. I thought it was an interesting move because I was able to reach out to a newer section of students, who were aggressive in their outlook and chose academic excellence as a medium to move higher in their lives. Narayana got parents to see the bigger possibilities in their wards’ future. For me, I was eager to witness how something as difficult as JEE could be rolled out in terms of scale. I was amazed at the aggressive methods to produce series of toppers in JEE and the board exams. The bigger picture is part of my learning in this phase, apart of course, creating hundreds of winners.
By around 2009, there was a need to relocate to Bangalore. It is here that I ran into BASE and grow as a leader under the tutelage of Dr. H S Nagaraja, or simply HSN sir to his admirers. I was to experience the Bangalore culture of learning, which was quite distinct from the rush of Hyderabad. Ethics and values became my keywords. I could see the elements of organization building and was given opportunities to drive several new initiatives. At the time when BASE was acquired by RESONANCE – a Kota based organisation, I was handed the role of “Vice President - Head of JEE training”. Faculty recruitment and development was an area I was entrusted with. Visiting several institutions for campus recruitment drive like IIT Kanpur, NIT Suratkal, NIT Rourkela, NIT Nagpur, NIT Surat, NIT Warangal etc. was exciting for me to get a glimpse of the talent base from across the best campuses in India.
At BASE we successfully ran a program BASE@Home where we could coach students online using web conferencing tools and other assisting technologies. I became interested in building a robust “Learning Management System” (LMS) for the aspirants of IIT JEE & Olympiads. I realised, with an LMS, curated with high quality content, delivering classes using emerging technologies is the way to go. I saw the convenience and possibility of reaching out to the most deserving students located anywhere in the country. That is the reason I founded JEEMath for serious and committed learners (in my words, they are “young scholars”). To augment my online teaching, I could build a great LMS from scratch, thanks to an old student of mine who is an IITan and now, founder of a tech company who hand-held me for the requisite technology. Thanks to yet another one, who is also an IITan and a Math prodigy (Yes! – winner of a medal at IMO by the age of 15) added some more thoughtful features to it. No one loves change, at least not a change from teaching students in a classroom to teaching them across cities, over the Internet. But here I was doing just that: For the first time, I was addressing students almost exclusively on Internet! For someone who walked the chalk in front of crowded classrooms for over 35 years, to gaze into cameras and manoeuvre digital boards, was a giant leap! I am delighted that we managed to overcome this disruption successfully.