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The baron from the boondocks
Praveen Tyagi is not the first impoverished boy from Uttar Pradesh to land up on the streets of Mumbai with dreams of making it big. He is, however, the first one to turn coaching class baron, virtually pioneering the IIT coaching industry in Mumbai. Not only has the Maharashtra government recognised as fullfledged junior colleges all his six coaching centres in Mumbai, the city's municipal corporation tied up with Tyagi to run three BMC junior colleges a year ago.
Tyagi's journey from a crime-ridden village near Ghaziabad to the corridors of IITDelhi and then onwards to the coaching industry in Mumbai is the stuff Bollywood blockbusters are made of. "I grew up in a village called Marta where murder and kidnapping were well-developed industries and every child dreamt of a career in crime, " says the man who heads IITian's Pace. In a village where land grab was the rule, Tyagi watched his father get stabbed in the chest over a property dispute. "It took my father three years to recover from it. At the time, I thought of nothing but revenge, " he says.
But his father had other plans for Tyagi and his eight siblings. Though education was not in vogue in Marta village, Tyagi's father, a farmer whose schooling ended at Class IX, wanted his children to concentrate on their studies.
Tyagi heard of IIT when he was in Class X. A friend from Ghaziabad told him of how dramatically life would change for all those who entered the IITs. He spent the next two years studying for the joint entrance exam (JEE). Tyagi, who could not afford the sort of coaching that he now provides students, bought study material from a Ghaziabad bookstore and studied for the entrance test on his own.
It was at IIT-Delhi that Tyagi discovered he had a flair for teaching. "As a second year student, I would take private tuitions for first year students at other engineering colleges. I landed up teaching the children of foreign ambassadors in Delhi, " says Tyagi.
While IIT coaching classes were mushrooming across Delhi at the time, he found them missing from Mumbai when he landed in the city for an internship at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre during his final year at IIT. Tyagi was quick to sniff an opportunity for himself. After graduating from IIT-Delhi, he headed straight to Mumbai, where he began coaching students on school premises that he would rent after class hours.
"I met my first student at a roadside bookstore in Mumbai, a boy who was buying books to prepare for the JEE. I asked him if he wanted to make it to the IITs. That's when he told me that he had scored a mere 60 per cent in class XII - a score that wouldn't get him through a regular engineering college. So he had no option but to try for the JEE, " laughs Tyagi, whose coaching got the boy a seat in the IITs.
Tyagi now teaches the children of bureaucrats and politicians, not to mention IIT faculty members. With a tuition fee of Rs 3 lakh per student, he has made quite a fortune in the coaching industry. "But, " he qualifies, "in addition to making money, I also do my bit for society. After 26/11, I began teaching the children of policemen free of cost. I don't collect fees from the children of widows either. " He has also just tied up with the social justice department in Maharashtra to provide free coaching to schedule caste children from rural areas.
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