An IIT aspirant himself today has turned the tables around by training students to crack the IIT Entrance exam, through an innovative approach. The first student to become an IITian from his hometown, Dr. Sridhar G today runs one of the most successful education solutions companies, which has been around for over 15 years with over 40000 success stories. In an interaction, he shares the journey of his personal and professional life.
Dr. Sridhar, a mechanical engineer from IIT Kharagpur by degree, went on to get his Ph.D. from The John Hopkins University, post which he worked as a Research Engineer in the US. Dr. Sridhar decided to come back to India to start his own venture, what’s today called Ace Creative Learning Pvt Ltd.
One of the flagship initiatives of Ace is Deeksha Network which is a network of like-minded institutions that conduct classes in association with PU colleges where competitive exam preparation programs for Commerce and Science stream are simultaneously covered with the conventional PU curriculum during the college working hours eliminating the need for students to attend tuitions after college. Ace is a pioneer in integrated learning in schools and colleges in the region.
What was your childhood like?
I was born in Visakhapatnam, the port city on the South East coast of India in Andhra Pradesh. My father was a chemical engineer and my mother, a homemaker. Our family lived in a beautiful colony attached to the Coromandel Fertilizers Ltd. It was a protected, self-contained gated community with little or no interaction with the outside world.
I attended school at the St. Joseph’s English medium school till my 10th grade and later enrolled at the BVK Junior College and completed the pre-university courses. As a boy, I was shy and spent much time with books and on academics. Mathematics and Science interested me more than anything else.
Was joining IIT a dream come true?
From a young age, challenges were my best friends. One of the earliest challenges was the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), an admission test conducted by the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology for admission to their engineering courses. Back then, nobody from Visakhapatnam had either cleared the JEE or made it to the IITs. This kindled a fire in me and I set myself the goal to be the first student from the city to make it to the prestigious institute. I failed to clear the exams. Disappointed, I settled down at the JNTU in Kakinada as a student of Engineering. However, the fire to crack JEE was undying and I gave my second attempt in 1985. I cleared the exam and became the first student from Visakhapatnam to join the IIT, at the age of 15.
How was your experience working in the US?
The stint at Sienna Biotech came after I received my Ph.D. from The John Hopkins University. Back then, the company was a start-up in the field of BioMedicine. I worked with them as an Engineer in the Research & Development department and was involved in the development of an instrument to detect HIV and Hepatitis. The tenure at the biomedical startup was a phenomenal and enriching one, which paved the way for my entrepreneurial journey.
What made you choose the Education Industry?
I had moved to the US as part of my doctoral program and continued working there for over nine years. Constant probing from friends and colleagues about India led me to probe deeply into the role of education in our country, and its contribution to society. I, like other engineers from prestigious colleges, had fallen trap to the brain drain phenomenon. I chose to return to India and contribute to the field of education, and in turn the society. The means to this was to provide high-quality education to the underprivileged yet bright students, by providing them coaching to crack entrance exams such as the JEE.
Who are the other founders of Ace?
I am supported by my better half, Ms. Lalit, in all my activities at Ace & Deeksha. While I handle the academic-oriented tasks and functions, Lalit oversees administrative activities. She is a Chartered Accountant and complements all the skills that I lack.
What were the initial challenges that you face while starting?
The first class at Deeksha kicked off with about 35 students and was run as a one-man show by me. Since I was the only teacher at the center, parents raised concerns about classes should I fall sick. As a solution, I teamed up with two Professors who took over teaching Mathematics and Chemistry.
Why should someone choose Deeksha??
Deeksha isn’t just another chain of coaching centers that train students to crack entrance exams. The Deeksha curriculum is a holistic package that addresses school-based curriculum in addition to those for competitive exams. The pedagogy focuses on marrying conventional methods of teaching with a new-age, innovative technological solution while placing an equal emphasis on the student-teacher relationship and extracurricular activities.
Where do you see education in India heading?
The education sector in India, over the last few years, has witnessed a rapid transformation thanks to the intervention of technology. From innovative, gadget-driven methods in classrooms, to online exam preparation portals and open online courses, the neo models of learning have shaken up the way we approach education, which sets up an exciting journey ahead.