Bangalore: Ever heard of an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduate teaching at a school? Unlikely, because IITians do not usually become teachers.
It was this thought that inspired 25-year-old Vamsi Krishna and his three IITian friends to launch Lakshya, whose USP is to impact training led by IITians.
An institute in Patiala in Punjab was set up in 2006 as a first step towards this aim. The institute offers coaching on how to crack IIT-JEE (joint entrance examination)—among the toughest entrance tests in the world going by the small number of students who get through. It also prepares students for the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) and similar medical college tests.
Quality education: Vamsi Krishna, executive director of Lakshya.
“We thought would it not be better for a student to be trained by a person who has cracked the much-aspired exam himself and knows what it takes to be (an) IITian,” says Krishna, a B. Tech from IIT Bombay and co-founder and executive director of Lakshya.
Krishna and his three friends “were bored of routine of our lives... We knew exactly what life would be after four years. For us, IIT training was the best due to our background,” he says.
According to the firm, currently a proprietorship, about 400,000 students appear for the IIT-JEE, while 800,000 to 900,000 students go for AIEEE and 500,000 to 600,000 opt for medical entrance exams.
Though the decision to start a coaching institute came easily to Krishna and his friends, things were not really simple for them. They wanted to be in an area where not many such institutes were present; but awareness for such exams was high. “Paying propensity of parents is high in Patiala,” he said, on why he started in Patiala and not in a metro.
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Of the firm’s 55 employees, 10 are IITians, while the rest are toppers in science at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. “We are glamorizing the teaching system. Students need a good, smart teacher to groom them. Not the brightest is getting into this profession,” he said. To overcome the loss of teaching aspirants to other high paying jobs, the firm pays Rs6.5-Rs9 lakh a year to its teachers.
Its courses include a two-year integrated classroom programme, under which the syllabi of XI and XII classes are covered with an emphasis on core concepts.
This course is in sync with school and board exams, and grooms the students for the competitive exams. There are batches for class XII students and those who were not able to get through entrance tests on their first attempt, or ones who want to improve on previous results. So far, 2,800 students have been trained at the institute. Its fees vary from Rs30,000 to Rs35,000 for six months to Rs64,000 for a two-year course. Lakshya has 880 students in its current two-year course. As many as three out of 10 students are from nearby areas such as Ambala, Ludhiana and Sangrur, all in Punjab.
Lakshya says its biggest strength lies in its instruction methodology, based on digital content-based modules. According to it, classroom instruction is structured and aided by these modules, which helps maintain quality. Also, all teachers are trained on these modules, ensuring uniformity in classroom teaching.
Lakshya claims its success rate in IIT-JEE is about 25%, while in AIEEE it is over 50%. This is similar to some of the top such institutes in the country. In 2007, 126 of its students appeared for IIT-JEE and 12 got selected, while 11 were in waiting list, says Krishna. Fifty five got selected among 160 in AIEEE that year. In 2008, 178 students enrolled for IIT-JEE training, 33 got selected; 240 opted for AIEEE and 115 got selected, says Krishna.
Each class has 55-65 students, who are selected through a test.
Lakshya had a revenue of Rs1.5 crore in the last fiscal, while its profit was Rs75 lakh. In the next year, the firm plans to open two centres, in Chandigarh and Ludhiana. It will look at raising funds for its expansion but not in the near future. The firm plans to have institutes at 20 locations, cater to 30,000 students and aims for a revenue of Rs100 crore by 2013. Also on the cards is coaching for students below class X.
An investor, who looked at the company’s business, said Lakshya, despite its results and faculty, would face scaling up challenges. “From a large fund’s perspective, it’s hard to see this business scaling up. From a Rs1 crore business, it can become a Rs10 crore business, but can it become a hundreds of thousands bucks business?” asks Mohanjit Jolly, executive director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, India. As the firm’s USP is its faculty, its ability to hire as many IITians as it expands remains to be seen, says Jolly.
Lakshya is among the nominated companies at the Tata NEN Hottest Startups competition, of which Mint is the official print media partner. Details of the competition can also be accessed at www.livemint.com/hottest startups