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My first million, from coaching
September 06, 2003
Satish Suri did his masters in chemistry from Meerut University and then moved to Delhi where he taught at Navyug School for nearly 20 years before taking voluntary retirement in 2000.
However, in 1990, he started giving tuitions at home to some students who weren't very good at chemistry. That's where Sahil was born -- on Suri's veranda.
What started as a small tuition outfit where one teacher taught a few students is now a five-centre, 600-student strong coaching institute that has 14 full-time and 20 part-time teachers.
Sahil provides coaching for the engineering and medical entrance examinations. This year Sahil students were selected for 204 medical seats and 62 engineering seats. Sahil posted a turnover of a little over Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million).
In 1990, I set up Sahil Study Circle as a small tuition centre from home. After school, around 10-12 children used to come to my house and I taught them chemistry.
Soon, this number went up and a lot of students who were preparing for competitive examinations such as engineering and medical entrance tests started coming to me for tuition.
As this number grew, I recruited teachers for physics, biology and maths. For nearly 10 years I continued teaching at Navyug School, and taking classes at Sahil. In 2000, however, I took voluntary retirement from the school and am now teaching full time at Sahil.
Sahil was initially started as a coaching institute primarily for children from economically weaker sections of society. While teaching at Navyug School, I realised that these children were more hard working and had the desire to grow vertically.
Moreover, they needed to go in for a professional degree immediately after school, as they could not afford to study for a bachelor degree for three years and then go for a professional course.
However, in terms of coaching centres, there were few opportunities for such children.
In the beginning, nearly 60 per cent of the students were either on scholarship or the fee was subsidised for them. However, now only 15 per cent of the students fall in this category.
We changed our policy a few years ago, when we found that a few students were cheating us. They were studying free of cost with us but were paying the full fee at another tuition course.
This did not make any sense to me. These children were taking tuitions for the same thing at two different institutes.
Since we were not charging them anything they could afford to pay the full fee at another centre. I felt very disillusioned and so reduced the number of scholarships.
However, even today if we feel a student is hard working and has the ability to do well, we teach him even if he cannot pay.
What distinguishes Sahil from other centres is that we do not take any screening tests. As long as the child has the basic intelligence and is willing to work hard, we will teach him.
If within a week, we feel the student is not up to it, we refund the fee. But once a student is enrolled with us, he has to forget about everything else.
My students can call any of the teachers between 4 and 6 in the morning and discuss their problems. You'll be surprised at the number of calls we receive during this period.
I've opened my first franchise in Panipat. Depending upon its success, I'll open more franchises. Within Delhi I've already got five centres and am opening another one in the Trans-Yamuna area by April.
My life's desire is to open a school for children coming from the economically weaker sections of society. I hope I'll turn my dream into reality some day.
As told to Smita Tripathi