To many people, it often seems like the villages of India are holding back. Sitting in their air-conditioned rooms, they look down on the poor and the illiterate masses and shake their heads, half in anger, half in sorrow. If the village is in Bihar, their feelings of despair increase. Bihar was glorious for much of its history, but recently, through a combination of mismanagement and misfortune, it has become a symbol of backwardness. A village in Bihar, therefore, is probably the last place where you would expect a global leader to come from. Yet this is precisely what Super 30 has achieved, not once, but nearly 500 times.
It began with two men, the son of a postal clerk and the other, an IPS officer who rose to become the DGP of Bihar. Anand Kumar was a bright student from a poor Patna family. He was invited to join Cambridge University, but had to give it up due to extreme poverty. He started a study centre in 1992, at a young age of 22. Over the next decade, it became the Ramanujan Institute of Mathematics, a highly successful tutorial school. During this time, he honed his skills as a tutor.
Often he would get candidates who were very bright, but could not afford to pay. They reminded him of how he had missed out on opportunities himself, because of poverty. Instead of becoming bitter, he saw it as a source of hope. There must so many other bright village boys in Bihar like me, he thought. If they get the support that I did not get, imagine what they could achieve.
Around the same time, Abhayanand, a full time police officer, was spending his evenings teaching under-privileged children. The two combined forces, and in 2003, in Patna, they set up Super 30. From all those who applied at the Ramanujam Institute,they chose 30 of the poorest and the brightest. Their goal? That each and every one of them should get into IIT.
In 2003, 18 of the 30 got into IIT. This rose to 22 in 2004, 26 in 2005, 28 in 2006, and finally, 30 out of 30 in 2007. Till date, thanks to the efforts of Super 30, nearly 500 youngsters from the poorest sections of society have been selected by the IITs.
Super 30 is now a global media sensation. It has been featured on Discovery Channel and the BBC. It was the subject of a half page article in the New York Times. It has been visited by Miss Japan, praised by Barack Obama, and discussed at Stanford University. A big budget Bollywood movie is under production, starting Hrithik Roshan as Anand Kumar.
The Super 30 concept continues to spread. Abhayanand, who parted ways with Anand Kumar in 2007, has since helped to set up Magadh Super 30, Triveni Super 30, and many others, following the same model. None of them charge money. Each sends several poor students to IIT every year. Meanwhile, Anand has tied up with iScholar, offering online Super 30 coaching, with 44 weekly assessments and 2 mock tests, using course material developed by Anand and his team. While this is a commercial venture, costs are nominal compared to others.
In recent years, there has been an inevitable backlash, with accusations of over hype. Like all great teachers, Anand Kumar is an inspiring speaker, and comfortable in front of cameras.There is no doubt that his PR is excellent. But what cannot be disputed is this. Today, almost every Fortune 500 company has at least one IIT-an in a senior position.IIT-ans are now leading some of the world’s biggest organisations. Thanks to the inspiration provided by Super 30, one day, a poor village child from Bihar is going to join them.