This father-son duo built a Rs 1,200 Cr coaching institute, produced two lakh doctors and engineers
Educational institutes have seen a major shift in its methods of teaching amid the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers and students now meet over the screens of their electronic gadgets.
Transformation in the education sector was anyway taking place. COVID-19 further disrupted the sector in a way that all schools, colleges, and training institutes have pivoted to the digital modes of teaching. But not many see this transition as a permanent one.
JC Chaudhary and Aakash Chaudhary
In an interaction with SMBStory, Aakash Chaudhary, CEO and Director of Aakash Educational Services Limited (AESL), says,
“Preparation for high-stake exams cannot happen over the internet. We build careers and for that, physical interactions are a must. Even parents are waiting for classes to reopen”.
Started as a small coaching centre in Janakpuri, New Delhi, in 1988 with just 12 students, AESL has built careers of lakhs of students in a span of 31 years. The institute now clocks an annual turnover of Rs 1,200 crore.
JC Chaudhary, the founder and currently the Chairman and Managing Director of AESL, began the journey by imparting lessons to a batch of 12 students to clear their medical exams. Out of the 12, seven cleared the test. This achievement earned JC praises.
Having worked in government schools and colleges in his early days, JC was familiar with the quality of education students were getting. He realised that they were not prepared to crack high-stake examinations.
“When my father was into the teaching profession, he saw a huge gap in the segment. There were not many organised coaching centres and he was not convinced of the quality of education being imparted to the students. He never had an aim to dwell into entrepreneurship. However, a batch of 12 became 50, grew to 100, and today we are present across the country.”
AESL has a pan-India network with over 200 centres (including franchisees), and a student count of more than 2,50,000. The Aakash group also owns the famous K-12 EdTech brand, Meritnation.com.
Aakash was nine years old when JC set up AESL. Hailing from a background of teachers, Aakash says his school days were comfortable and he was keen on grasping from the outside world rather than books.
“My father never pressured me to study or to take forward the legacy. I completed my studies from Harvard Business School and by profession, I am an engineer. I have worked with Infosys Technologies and Cognizant Technology Solutions. I found my calling and joined AESL and want to take forward the legacy to build brighter careers,” Aakash tells SMBStory.
In 2006, Aakash started working with AESL and was responsible to start the operations in Mumbai. Recalling his past days, he says in the new set-up, many teachers had quit and he was left alone to read out chapters from books to the students.
Aakash currently manages all the business operations of AESL with JC actively participating in the core business decisions.
Online tutorial in times of COVID-19
In 2002, JC was bestowed with Dr Radhakrishnan President’s Award for the services rendered to schools and community by Freedom Fighter Welfare Society. Besides, he has also been conferred with the prestigious Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Award by Deshabhimani Charitable Society in October 2019 for his outstanding contribution in the field of education, healthcare, motivational speech, and writing.
In 2018, Aakash was recognised as one of the disruptive leaders by Business World and was named in the coveted ‘40 Under 40’ young leaders list.
Diversifying under one roof
AESL has followed the traditional form of teaching even though they opened up digital channels like Aakash iTutor and Aakash Live in 2012.
The institute provides comprehensive test preparatory services to students from Class 11 and 12 to prepare for medical and engineering entrance examinations and foundation courses to students from Class 8 to Class 10. It also provides several foundation-level scholarship exams/olympiads coaching services through classroom-based coaching, and digital and distance learning, which supplement the classroom courses and allow students to engage in self-paced learning.
Online tutorial in times of COVID-19
The institute also offers short-term classroom courses to prepare students for various examinations and support its education channels through digital features, including recorded video lectures and integrated test and assessment via Aakash iTutor which includes an online assessment and test series via the Aakash Test Management System, and live interactive classes via Aakash Live.
COVID-19 and digital shift
AESL partnered with Blackstone in October 2019 to build India’s largest digitally enabled, omnichannel education company. But the core business happens in the offline medium.
However, COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi drove AESL to make a complete shift to digital medium.
“The initial phase was extremely challenging. Students can operate devices but for teachers who have spent their lives teaching with chalk, board, and duster, it was difficult to familiarise them with online modes of teaching. Even the parents were not convinced, fearing that the digital mode would not be apt to share knowledge and learning,” Aakash says.
The first few weeks were critical, he adds, saying that besides giving training to teachers to enable them to teach online, they even had to counsel parents to adjust to the new mode of teaching.
The way forward
AESL aims to strengthen its position as an organised and diversified pan-India test preparatory service provider and increase brand recognition by expanding its network of centres and reach to more students.
The institute also plans to enhance its digital offerings and digital brand with a blended offering to students who want a mix of offline and online education.
Aakash says that AESL is also improving its information technology infrastructure to support the growing demand in digital education.