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Business News/ News / India/  Tuition hub Kota bounces back after covid
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Tuition hub Kota bounces back after covid

The record 200,000-odd students that have returned to India’s coaching capital have come as a shot in the arm for the city’s economy, providing jobs and livelihood to thousands in restaurant, hotel, hostel, travel and retail businesses

The record 200,000-odd students that have returned to India’s coaching capital have come as a shot in the arm for the city’s economy.Premium
The record 200,000-odd students that have returned to India’s coaching capital have come as a shot in the arm for the city’s economy.

MUMBAI : Bhadu B. Nagarade is ready with hot idlis and dosas in his food cart at 5am, across the road from Kota’s largest coaching centre, Allen Career Institute’s headquarters.

Nagarade, a mechanical engineer, used to run a restaurant in Rawatbhata, Rajasthan, home to several nuclear power plants. With lockdowns and remote work crushing the restaurant industry during the pandemic, the 32-year-old shut his outlet and pondered his next move. As the pandemic eased, Nagarade headed to the coaching town of Kota, having heard that business there had recovered as students flocked back to physical classes.

The record 200,000-odd students that have returned to India’s coaching capital have come as a shot in the arm for the city’s economy, providing jobs and livelihood to thousands like Nagarade in restaurant, hotel, hostel, travel and retail businesses.

“I start selling idli for 10 a piece at 5am because that is when the students in the hostels are hungry after studying all night and have to rush for early morning classes. By noon, my food is over," Nagarade said, standing by the food cart named Aiyoo Anna Dosa Wala.

Since he places his cart in the same spot every day, the students keep coming back with books in hand for a ‘breakfast break’ before heading to the classes.

“The morning counter is yet to give me profits, but in the evening, the students come back, and that is when I make money," he said.

Like Allen, dozens of coaching centres in Kota focus on preparing students from across the country to crack the Indian Institutes of Technology entrance examination, which is significantly more selective than Harvard University.

With only 0.5% of IIT aspirants making it to these institutes and a handful getting subjects of their choice , the coaching centres promise to help them secure a seat in the prestigious schools.

In turn, the students that flock to the town every year have helped develop an ecosystem catering to them, including eateries, malls, hostels and bike shops.

“I sell 8kg of poha in the morning and then go to a small library and read up on personality management and marketing. I make a profit of 2,000 a day, and this is because the students are back," said another food stall owner who, till a few months back, barely had any customers.

In the coaching hub, legacy coaching centres such as Allen are at war with new-age firms like Unacademy and PhysicsWallah.

Teachers are being lured away with salary hikes of three-fourfold in the hope that their students will follow them.

“I used to deliver food via Zomato or Swiggy, but not many in the coaching district would order in during the past two years of the pandemic. Now, business is good with physical classes," said a restaurant owner. “Many local families let out rooms in their homes for guests, and parents often come and stay with their children for a few years."

Kota sees student influx in two batches.

The initial one is from April to June when the first lot come after their Board exams to prepare for the entrance tests two years later.

The second surge happens during September when those who did not get the college of their choice want to give the entrance exam another shot.

The retail stores selling stationery, clothes, and household goods are also flourishing this year because of the reopening of physical centres. Some even want to head back and restart their own teaching business, which they had shut down during the pandemic.

“I taught 2,000 students physics but could not sustain the online business model during covid. Now, I plan to head back, do a recce and restart coaching from my home in Kota," said an IIT-Delhi graduate who did not want to be named.

In comparison, Allen Career Institute in Kota expects 130,000 students to study in its physical classrooms in Kota.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Devina Sengupta
Devina tracks and writes on workplaces, human resources and education for Mint. She also occaisionally writes an opinion column. She hosts a podcast on interesting HR trends in corporate India called The Working Life.
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Published: 21 Jul 2022, 12:51 AM IST
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