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Kota, Rajasthan: When a user logs into the official website of Etoos Academy, a newcomer to Kota’s coaching school scene, a young teacher’s image pops up. “The unbelievable just happened: MC sir predicted two exact questions for the IIT JEE 2012 Mathematics paper," boasts the website.

MC is short for Manoj Chauhan, who’s on the faculty of Etoos Academy, a Korean educational company that’s opened a coaching school in Kota to tutor students appearing for the joint entrance examination (JEE) for admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

A pop-up is, of course, a normal feature on the Internet, but in this case it tells a story about Kota, the coaching-school capital of India. When a visitor enters the town, he or she is greeted with billboards, banners and neon-lit signs featuring teachers, flaunting their credentials and boasting of their power to deliver result.

In this Rajasthan town, the teachers hog all the limelight. They are the rock stars.

Sample this: Gautam sir looks down from a large hoarding on Road No.1 and HP (Hanuman Prasad) sir from a vertical banner on City Mall, the new shopping and hangout zone of Kota.

“Top-notch ex-faculty of Bansal Classes" is the description for HP sir who, along with his wife “Suman madam", is featured on several banners and promises to turn students into chemistry enthusiasts.

For an outsider they may be teachers; for the test-prep centres of Kota, they are also a business tool to attract students.

Take the salary structure of a coaching-school teacher in a Kota: while the average annual salary is in the range of 18- 30 lakh, the stars earn more than 50 lakh.

“Teachers are the key for any coaching centre and they getting star status is logical. Unlike the normal academics, we hail teachers and compensate them duly," said Pramod Maheshwari, chief executive of Career Point coaching school.

Some Career Point teachers get more than 60 lakh a year—at least six times the salary earned by the director of an Indian Institute of Technology or Indian Institute of Management.

“You are asking Shah Rukh Khan whether he is a superstar," said Chauhan, a 2007 graduate of IIT-Delhi, when asked about the status of a Kota coaching-school teacher.

Once a star on the faculty of Bansal Classes, he quit to join Etoos and now draws in excess of 80 lakh a year.

Of course, the teachers have to earn their salaries and build their reputations by delivering results to students who aspire for seats in elite engineering schools. The work is hard.

“Imagine teaching for eight to nine hours a day to hundreds of students besides administrative responsibilities," said C.S. Sharma, who teaches physics at Resonance coaching school.

“Students come with a dream and we have to fulfil that. This industry, unlike normal academics whether in school or college, is result-driven," said Jeewan Jyoti Agarwal of Allen Career Institute. “You have to engage students, explain the basics, clear their doubts. You make them stand out among peers. It’s a responsibility and a direct connect too."

And, says Krishna Mohan, another member of the Etoos faculty, a teacher has to be able to hold the attention of students. “You have to tell them a story to explain a problem, cut jokes to break the monotony and listen to their question carefully," Mohan said. In Kota, a teacher may even have to dance with students at a party to be a part of the group.

Perhaps, these are the qualities that attract students towards a teacher and make him a star here. Mohan, who originally hails from Andhra Pradesh said that before coming to Kota few years back he was a professor in a private university in Orissa and before that as a faculty in a coaching institute in Hyderabad. “You never get recognition like Kota anywhere else. When I go to a restaurant, even people recognize and respect me. This encourages you to perform better," he added.

Both professors and managing director of the leading test-prep companies believe that Indian education system cannot improve without giving teachers their due. And if teachers are getting it in Kota, where coaching centres are corporate in their look, behaviour and approach—breaking the conventional wisdom of a tuition centre in the country—it’s because they are largely owned by the teachers.

Bansals Classes founder, V.K. Bansal is a teacher and still teaches today, Career Point CEO Maheswari is a teacher. Verma, the founder and managing director of Resonance is a IIT-Madras graduate and takes at least two to three classes every day. Allen Career Institute is run by four brothers, three of who are teachers, and Vibrant academy was set up by a breakaway group of teachers from Bansals.

However, all is not rosy on teachers front as institutes feel that poaching of teachers is a key concern for them. In 2011, Etoos, a South Korean coaching giant entered the Kota market after poaching 21 faculties, including eight star faculties from Bansal Classes alone. Some four years back, seven leading faculties of Bansals left the organization to start a new institute called Vibrant Academy. Now, it’s said to have dented the business of Bansals. Last year, over a dozen star faculties joined Allen and this year, a number of faculties left Vibrant to join Motion IIT another player in Kota.

“It’s all for money," said P.K. Bansal, chief executive of Bansal Classes, sitting in his neatly decorated office in Road No. 1 of this Rajasthan town. “We were the pioneers of coaching here and people poach faculty from us. But we have our own system to train and create fresh stars. We are the nursery of teachers."

How does it happen? The churning starts in the third week of February after the last review exam of students in 11th standard of school. These are the kids who come to Kota for two years and develop bond with quality faculties and when a teacher moves out of one institute, the students follow. “A teacher can take away hundreds of students with him. It’s like a corporate leader—he leaves the organization along with his team," said a faculty requesting anonymity.

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