Over 27 years ago when Rajesh Maheshwari, a modest mathematics tutor, had set up the first coaching institute in Kota to bring all the Science subject classes under one roof, little did he know that the level of competitiveness in those classes would one day push students off the edge. As the suicide rate in the coaching hub sees a marked rise over 2013, coaching institutes finally wake up to the issue and join hands to combat the problem.
Looking back at the history of the nondescript city of Kota, few would imagine it in its present cosmopolitan form, with 1.5 lakh students from across the country and over 150 to 200 Indian Institute of Technology graduates and around 70 doctors, who are after back after college to help tens of thousands aspirants to crack the entrances.
What started out from small stuffy rooms with a handful of hopefuls burning the midnight oil with tutors, who taught as a hobby, today stands at a booming coaching industry. Maheshwari, who left a job at JK Synthetics, to devote all his time to help students make it to their dream engineering colleges, in 1988 decided to start a small coaching center, Allen Career Institute, so that students no longer had to shuttle between Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry classes at different places in the city. A couple of years later, another popular tutor, VK Bansal took a page from Maheshwari’s book and started his own center, Bansal Classes.
However both received a lukewarm response initially as the idea did not catch on with students. Over the years, as the centers started producing success stories, they attracted more students. Enterprising teachers from the two centers moved out to set up their own shop and with this the coaching institutes mushroomed, standing today at over 40 such centers with multiple branches. Though the profitability peaked as the idea got popular, industry insiders say over the past five years, it has dipped due to high competition among the institutes. “With more institutes, the salaries of teachers have gone up. Around 60 percent of the income goes in salaries, 33 percent is paid as income tax, 14 percent as service tax. This leaves us with very little nowadays but coaching institutes were started not with a profit-making motive but as a noble service,” insists Nitesh Sharma, marketing head, Allen Career Institute.
Industry experts say that Kota is perhaps the only city to have the highest number of IITians living in it. Even MBBS and MD graduates come back to the city to teach. The graduates who come to tutor here, draw salaries from 30 lakhs per annum and above, some even crossing a crore.
Though the institutes opened up branches in several parts of the country, the success stories have continued to attract students from outside. “It would not be inappropriate to say that the town has students from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, say coaching owners.
The economy of the city is now centered around the coaching institutes with locals setting up canteens, renting out portions of their house as paying guest accommodation, opening eateries. The district administration too has focused on beautification of the city, developed the Chambal lake for recreational activities and opened up a ticketed park with miniatures of the seven wonders of the world.
Meanwhile as the level of competition at the institutes help students guage their position in terms of a national register, this has also led to a feeling of inadequacy and in several instances depressing them. Psychiatrists say the cosmopolitan nature of the city leaves students with a sense of isolation as they fail to mingle with students from diverse backgrounds. Though institutes observe a recent trend of parents giving up lucrative careers to stay with their wards as they study here, lakhs of students, all by themselves, continue to battle worries whether they would be able to pay off the loans that their parents have taken to fund their education.