Home / Politics / News /  Upskilling hub Ameerpet spells both promise and peril

HYDERABAD : In every nook and corner of Ameerpet, a two km stretch in Hyderabad dotted with hundreds of coaching institutes, it is not uncommon to spot astrologers and tarot card readers with parrots. Hope is in the air.

Prawalika, a 23-year-old civil engineer from Kakatiya University in Telangana, learns that she would bag a job in a tech company; that she would go to the US by March 2023; that she would marry—very soon.

Bikes parked in front of a coaching centre indicate a swarm of students. Photo: Devina Sengupta
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Bikes parked in front of a coaching centre indicate a swarm of students. Photo: Devina Sengupta

Janakiram, her fortune teller, is in his mid-50s. He wears a white dhoti over an orange kurta. He sits under a tree with a Paytm/Google Pay scanner. Prawalika pays him 200 for a 10-minute face and palm reading session. The forecast leaves her disappointed.

“I don’t believe him. I already have a job offer from Infosys but I do not know my joining date yet," she says.

Prawalika came to Ameerpet to learn Java, a programming language in great demand. It may help her keep the job once she joins, her friends working in other tech companies advised her.

Anxiety is in the air, too.

Technology professionals have had a great run ever since the pandemic struck in 2020. As global corporations pivoted to the digital, the demand for IT services multiplied many times. Jobs were aplenty and people resigned at will. As per news reports, in 2021-22, TCS, India’s largest IT services exporter, hired 100,000 campus graduates. Infosys hired 85,000; HCL Tech 23,000 and Wipro 17,000 freshers.

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The tide has ebbed. A recession in Indian IT’s primary markets—the US and Europe—is looming. Discretionary projects are, therefore, expected to slow down. In fact, many IT companies have already turned cautious and are delaying onboarding for freshers like Prawalika. Campus hiring estimates have been pared. As per some reports, TCS, this year, will hire less than half the number of freshers it did in 2021-22. Infosys may hire upto 50,000.

For thousands of engineers like her, Ameerpet has become doubly important now. Many of those who arrive here are unemployable, and certainly won’t be able to bag jobs in a tight market. Ameerpet is their up-skilling destination. Besides Java, they skill themselves in Python, Snowflake, Azure, or any other software technology required in IT companies. Unlike in Kota, where students are groomed for engineering and medical entrance exams over two years, Ameerpet is a quick fix—courses run between 15 days and three months.

Ekta Kumari has a master’s degree in computer science but is yet to land a permanent job two years after her graduation. “In two years, the needs of the tech sector have changed drastically and my skillsets are outdated," the 26-year-old, who is in a green salwar kurta, says. “I can pick up from where I left but lack the confidence. So, I came to Ameerpet for a few months training," she says.

Kumari is yet to join any coaching institute; she is checking out the fee structures, moving from one building to the next. Like other students, she has a problem of plenty. But, some institutes stand out with their loud messaging: “100% placement".

That’s the promise of many institutes operating out of dingy one-room spaces. It works in uncertain times but has its perils.

The moonlighters

Deepak Kumar, in his early 30s, works with Sathya Technologies, one of the bigger coaching institutes. He speaks Telugu but is less fluent in English or Hindi. Yet, he is an important spoke in the giant wheel of the institute. He keeps track of “hot courses", or the emerging ones. Recently, Sathya Technologies introduced a course in cyber security, for instance.

Billboards of popular coaching classes in the neighbourhood. Photo: Devina Sengupta
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Billboards of popular coaching classes in the neighbourhood. Photo: Devina Sengupta

Kumar, and other staffers, also play a role in counselling students who arrive. He admits 100 students every 15 days for a three-month course. “They want to learn DevOps, Python, Tableau, and now cyber security is gaining traction," Kumar says.

The admission process is fairly simple. One needs to fill out a form, and pay between 10,000 and 30,000 depending on the course, and whether they opt for training with placement or without.

Like Sathya Technologies, nearly every coaching centre in Ameerpet has a ‘technology’ or ‘software’ as the suffix to their names. It is just cool branding. So are posters of students who are successfully placed—they adorn the corridors from where the institutes operate.

The teachers are mostly those who have given up corporate jobs, Kumar insists. But coaching institutes know their best bet is working professionals. They are more up-to-date on the latest in technology. No doubt, Ameerpet is rife with stories of techies who moonlight. On their off days, many of them reportedly take an overnight bus from Bengaluru to Hyderabad. Techies who work in Hyderabad make their way to the coaching centres after 6PM. How much do they make? Teacher salaries range between 30,000 a month to a few lakhs. Not a bad deal for those who prefer side gigs.

In fact, at Ameerpet, tech executives are known to help other young professionals with ‘live projects’— for a fee. Many bring their office laptops to the neighbourhood, seeking help. All of this underlines data integrity issues, besides ethical ones.

Praveen S, a 27-year-old engineer from Aurangabad, arrives at a tea stall in a worn-out jeans. He learnt Java in an Ameerpet coaching institute but has still not mastered it. The engineer appeared for 40 interviews before he bagged one, at a retail company. He is now afraid of losing the job—if his seniors come to know of his shortcomings.

“Although I have the option to work from home, I have not returned to Aurangabad. I have stayed back in Ameerpet and every time I get stuck, I ask my former teacher at the institute to help me out," he says, sipping tea. “There are others who can solve Java problems better than me and I take my work to them."

Mastering English

A lot has changed at Ameerpet in the last few years. The main road was clumsy, strewn with pamphlets. Now, visiting cards from staffers and agents that advertise the subjects taught in the coaching classes have largely replaced the pamphlets. Some of the coaching institutes have adopted a more tech-savvy look. A single screen theatre, Satyam, is being renovated into a multiscreen theatre and a mall. There are many more food trucks and biriyani joints. One of them is B-tech Biriyani—a plate of mutton biryani costs 99.

Ameerpet, meanwhile, appears to be changing from merely being a destination for hot software courses. Between the neon-lit signboards that advertise the software subjects taught, there are promises of English proficiency in a month’s time. On the third floor of a building at the end of the main street, sits 36-year-old Shaikh Ali. He runs ‘Master Spoken English’ classes.

“It is important to know business English (English used in an office environment) and that will differentiate you from the rest," Ali says. In his previous avatar, he was an engineer who worked in IT firm Cognizant for four years.

Between taking calls, Ali stresses that even the best of the coders and software developers get rejected in interviews because of the lack of communication skills. He spotted this gap and started the coaching company earlier this year. In his six classes that he offers every week, engineers are guided on writing emails to clients and bosses, conversing with colleagues in English and making presentations. There are debate classes as part of this training as well.

Ali’s charges seem moderate— 3,000 per student for three months. Often, he shoots a video of the student talking in English at the time of enrolment. More videos are recorded over the following weeks to chart out the progress.

Ali says his rivals come a tad cheaper; other English teachers charge between 1,000 and 2,000. The larger up-skilling institutes also bundle in spoken English classes but that’s not their priority or strength.

Fraud industry

One of Ameerpet’s largest centres is Naresh Technologies. It offers more than 10 courses. They are noticing a dip in hiring demand as the number of human resources teams from IT companies that visit has dipped—a sign of hard times.

“Things are getting difficult. We have a five-eight-member team whose job is to get five companies a day to recruit our candidates," says an executive at Naresh Technologies. She didn’t want to be identified. The executive adds that companies approached are picked from job portals. A due diligence is run to verify if a company being invited is genuine or fake. “We don’t want students to get a job in a fake firm, which is very common," she says.

An IT training class. Photo: Devina Sengupta
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An IT training class. Photo: Devina Sengupta

Fake tech companies often ask job aspirants or the placement/coaching institutes for a joining fee. They disappear soon after collecting the booty. This has been a decades-old problem, particularly in the rural regions of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The fraud industry here doesn’t stop with fake companies—certificates can be cooked up for a fee.

Meet Allrounder (who did not want to be identified by his real name) who says he is adept at multi-tasking, which is how this nickname came about.

A former office boy, he is now a crucial link in the coaching institute he works for. He moves around the city every day, identifying new students. He next coaxes them to join the institute; also, connects them to hostel owners (hostels in Ameerpet cost 3,000- 4,000 a month, including meals). He might make a commission out of these activities, but that’s not the whole story.

Allrounder, who sits out of a fifth-floor building in the neighbourhood, says his company can guarantee a job if a student coughs up 2-3 lakh. How’s that?

Many IT companies prefer candidates with some experience. After a couple of months of training, Allrounder can organize a fake experience certificate. “Companies want experienced professionals and the freshers who graduate are without a job. Where will the experience come from? So, we create fake certificates with fake company names and mention fake projects that they have worked on," he says.

Allrounder makes 3,000 for every candidate that enrolls at the institute. His earnings go up if he can convince a candidate to pay the 2-3 lakh—he makes about 10,000 once the candidate secures a job using a fake certificate. “I get about two-three candidates a month who want the back-door entry. But mostly, I bring in about five students a day—they come to learn IBM mainframes, etc., as part of the regular course," Allrounder says.

He has enough candidates to choose from right now. Ever since the pandemic ebbed, job aspirants have been pouring in from not just Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, but also from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Orissa. With nervousness in the air, he doesn’t foresee the demand for his interventions declining.

Neither does Janakiram, the fortune teller.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Devina Sengupta

Devina Sengupta reports on the shifts in India Inc’s workplaces, HR policies and writes about the developments at India’s biggest conglomerates. Her stories over the last decade have been picked up and followed by Indian and international news outlets. She joined Mint in 2022 and previously worked with The Economic Times and DNA-Money.
Catch all the Politics News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
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