Krishna Ramkumar, the IITian who quit his job to mentor bright underprivileged students for competitive exams
Krishna Ramkumar is an IIT graduate who has more than 2 years of consulting work experience with the Boston Consulting Group. It was during his preparation for the IIT JEE examination, Krishna realized the economic barrier posed by the coaching industry for entry into premier institutes. He even noticed many seats reserved for backward communities in these institutes remained vacant as individuals were unable to meet the minimum standards set by the institutes. In order to bridge the gap between school and college for the economically backward students, Krishna Ramkumar started an NGO – Avanti Fellows after quitting his high profile job at Boston Consulting Group.
Avanti Fellows is a mentorship program that provides guidance and support to the bright underprivileged students to make it to the best colleges in India. Fellows are paired with mentors at India’s best undergraduate schools who help them best prepare for competitive exams and cope with the intense academic and social pressures of their undergraduate years. Till date Avanti Fellows has enrolled 350 students.
Most of the students in IITs come from elite backgrounds. Akshay Saxena, the co-founder, and I picked this cause because it was something that we felt deeply about. Avanti Fellows started in September 2010 and has since then scaled quite fast, says Krishna Ramkumar.
Initially, to identify bright students, Ramkumar set up a student volunteer body. After identifying the students they approached coaching classes to teach some students free of cost.
We tested about 4000 kids and picked the top two-three percent for Avanti Fellows to work with. We then approached coaching classes to teach some students free of cost. At the same time, we identified another group of students and gave them online learning material. There were books and videos that these students studied from and they were mentored on a one on one basis. After a year of trying out this model, the team at Avanti saw that the students in the one on one group were faring better than the others. The coaching class model focuses on toppers. The top 10 percent that performs brilliantly in any coaching class gets the class its batch for the next year. Also, the coaching class model was really not feasible in the long run. There are only so many classes that will offer us free seats for students so the scope is very limited, said Krishna Ramkumar.
Avanti Fellows has a unique self-study model, where only students who learn and help other students learn as well. Avanti has its own content team that works on the online learning material. There are now centers in Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur and Chennai. For-profit centers have been started recently to be able to fund the non-profit centers. Avanti Fellows is planning to mentor around twenty thousand students in the few years and aim to extend to the rural areas as well.
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