75,000 CA aspirants and counting: meet the Chennai teacher whose lessons are not just on accounting, but life as well
Near the famous Mylapore tank, in Chennai, a place where trade, faith, and education meld together, thousands of young chartered accountancy (CA) aspirants assemble at the break of dawn, armed with a notebook and pen. They gather everyday to listen in rapt attention to their teacher, MP Vijay Kumar. Be it the merciless summer heat, or rain pouring down in sheets, the weather never stopped these students, who rarely missed his class. And the same goes for Vijay Kumar’s dedication as well.
Says Nandith YK, a CA and a former student of Vijay’s,
“One day, it was raining cats and dogs in Chennai. We had to wade through water on the streets. Even then, he showed up on time and started the class. He is one person who would turn up no matter what. He taught me the lesson of showing up irrespective of the circumstances. Later, when I joined Sify, I witnessed the late nights he puts in at his workplace too.”
Vijay Kumar, 49, dons many hats with aplomb. He perfectly balances his role as Chief Financial Officer at Sify Technologies, and his responsibilities as a Council Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, and Member of SEBI Committee on Disclosures in Accounting with his tireless passion for teaching.
Vijay believes that CA has changed his life, and with an aim of giving back to the profession, and helping the youth pursue dreams similar to his, he decided to tutor them in Accounting and Finance Law.
Accounts, finance, and some life lessons
While the students sign up for CA tutoring, they get so much more at Vijay Kumar’s classes, which are peppered with advice that will make a student not just adept at finance, but at life too.
Walk into his class, and you may catch some interests nuggets of wisdom:
‘The pen should not stop!’
‘Don’t peep into your neighbour’s book. Have that little ego that I am better.’
‘Put your calculators down! Imagine this is an interview question, Rs 10 lakh starting salary. Now answer.’
It is indeed this passion to help batches of CA hopefuls that has fuelled Vijay Kumar’s 21-year teaching career, and helped him shape 75,000 young minds (and counting) along the way.
Vijay Kumar lives by the rule that one needs to set an example by the way one lives. A typical day for him starts as early as four in the morning. Post a morning walk and some exercise, he gets ready and reaches Prime Academy at 5.45 am, and then makes into his office by 9 am.
“I believe students come to not only learn and spend time on the subject. Their learning is more effective from our conduct rather than what we say,” Vijay tells YourStory.
Making the only option work, and how
Born in Pattukottai in Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu, Vijay Kumar was veering towards science. However, when he failed to secure an engineering seat at a government college, he took up BCom instead at Visakhapatnam. Thereafter, he studied and applied for CA “as there were not many options back then.”
In 1992, he cleared his exams and began his career with Sundaram Finance. Two years later, he started teaching CA to students, out of the drive to hone young minds, while he was working as Head Investment Banker at Sundaram Finance Service Limited.
“I enjoyed making things simpler, not just with teaching, but even in my professional life. Upon advice of my friends, I started teaching because I enjoyed explaining things to people,” Vijay Kumar says.
Playing to his strengths
Such was his love for teaching that Vijay Kumar quit his job at Sundaram in 1999 and became a practising CA. He had also joined Chennai’s Prime Academy where he taught a cohort of 800-1,000 students split into multiple batches every morning.
“The ability to make a difference and help students pursue their dreams motivated me to dedicate more time to teaching. Most of the students who were pursuing the course came from difficult financial backgrounds. And when you are able to help them in their goal of becoming a CA, it makes a difference to their life, their family, and the next generation,” he says.
While CA has been traditionally studied by a student on her own, it is a very challenging ordeal. “CA studies is actually meant to be a self-study programme and not meant to be taught in classrooms. However, the huge volume of topics involved and lack of guidance overall are the biggest hurdles to clearing a CA exam,” Vijay Kumar explains.
Each year, over one lakh students appear for CA final examinations and 1.5 lakh students appear for the intermediate rounds. Despite the high volume of students only 20 percent of the candidates clear them. The hard work and focus required to clear this examination is well known. And Vijay’s classes, over the years, has become a go-to place for students from not just Chennai, but from across the country, and even Nepal.
Many put in lot of efforts to turn up every morning without fail. A student from Arakkonam, a town 70 km from Chennai, would reach her station by cycle, take a train at 4 am, reach Chennai, and then hop onto a bus to make it just in time for her classes at Prime Academy.
“Their passion to study and pursue the dream keeps me motivated and inspired. I would help them in every way possible— be it helping students from difficult financial backgrounds or students who come from non-English-medium background at school,” Vijay Kumar adds.
No blackboard and textbooks in this classroom
A huge draw to his classes is the fact that Vijay Kumar crafts his lesson plans not based on textbooks, but on his work experience and real case studies.
Vijay explains that Chartered Accountancy studies is “all about practical application of knowledge.” In fact, Vijay has never used a blackboard to teach. He believes that one should complete the whole syllabus with a focus on learning for career and less on examination approach.
“I ensured I was not a full-time teacher and teaching was never my primary career. This is because I wished to focus on getting good hands-on work experience, which I could share with students while they prepared for CA,” he adds.
For his contribution to the institution and work in the field of CA, Vijay has been awarded with the Capital Foundation National Award by former President Pranab Mukherjee. In 2015, he was also recognised by the Certified Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) as one of the ‘100 Most Influential CFOs of India.’ Laurels that are well-earned, indeed.