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Anupam Kumar is a first year student at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIMC), learning to become an adroit manager. But there is a lesson or two that he can easily teach his classmates and may be a willing professor too.
One, on how to convert every weakness into his strength; and two, to start a start-up from nothing at all.
Born into a poor family in Patna (his father is an auto rickshaw driver), Anupam had to drop out of school in the eighth standard due to monetary issues.
But instead of whiling away time, he enrolled in a government school and 'self-learnt' till the tenth standard. Post school, when he wanted to pursue Maths and realised that books were very costly, he tutored other tenth standard students to make some money.
Still later, when he wanted to take IIT-JEE and could not afford coaching, he made sure to get into Patna's famous Super 30 group. And much later when he wanted to, but could not specialise in Aerospace Engineering because his family's financial condition had really taken a downturn, he just opted for a dual degree from the Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad, with a mission to do an MBA later from a renowned b-school.
And at ISM, he did something he never thought he was capable of. He started a small outfit called Escape, which taught deserving students English and personality development. All this from a boy who was educated in Hindi and never knew the 'p' of personality development.
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To be part of Super 30 has been the biggest high in Anupam's life so far. "Thanks to Super30 I got an All India rank of 2299 at IIT-JEE. That made me dream higher and to think that impossible things can be attained," said Anupam.
Being with 29 other students in Super30 was also a soul-searching process for Anupam.
"All students were from modest backgrounds, with sad life stories to tell but none told them. They all had just one goal in life: to make it big and work hard for it. Classes often went on till late at night since both students and teachers worked elsewhere during the day.
The classrooms were not grand and there were no modern methods of teaching, but the dedication of both the teachers and students to do something against all odds made it certain that all students did well at the IIT entrance exams."
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Escape, according to Anupam was actually the brainchild of one of his juniors at Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad.
"Asif Zafar first thought of it but he was not able to give the idea a structure. I implemented the idea as it appealed to me. I myself had gone through English-phobia days and knew what it felt like. Of course, I did everything in my capacity to pick up the language and get a grip on it but not all can do it," says Anupam.
The IIMC student declares that good English and a smart personality play a huge role in getting a person up the corporate ladder, besides helping gain confidence.
The students who study at ESCAPE are mainly from Hindi-medium schools with low self-esteem and poor knowledge of the English language.
"For the first and second batch, we conducted an entrance test and enrolled students. But for the third batch, we conducted a survey around the areas near Indian School of Mines and chose the most promising 40 students," informed Anupam.
Currently, Escape is running to full house at Dhanbad and being run by Anupam's juniors. The outfit is run under Fast Forward India.
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Considering that Anupam had done so much in life, when he had nothing to start with, he is often asked "Why MBA?' And his answer always is: "It is a challenge for me, to get into IIMC and to study here."
Anupam adds that exposing himself to some of the best minds in the country and learning from all the diverse thinking in the classroom is what he always wanted to be part of. "Besides, the networking here will see me though my long-term plan of establishing my social venture," he says.
So do his peers look at him with admiration for what he has achieved or skepticism because of his background?
"My classmates see me as a reliable person and a good friend. I do not like to be seen as different from my classmates as it would hamper the possibility of intense bonding with them. Certainly, they are impressed but here everyone is unique in his own way," answers Anupam.
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Anupam has decided to keep Escape going on in any condition.
Post his MBA, he will get actively involved in it once again.
Besides that, he wants to also start a chain of vocational training centres across the country. "The education system in India does not cater to the employment needs of the people. People should learn skills so that they can always be self-employed, if things don't go right in the careers of their choice."
The IIMC undergraduate also hopes to earn some money so that his two younger siblings can dabble with career choices, unlike him.
"I also want to earn well and help in the family income. The days of opting out of school for lack of funds should be a distant memory," he hopes.