Hyderabad: On Friday, IT minister K.T. Rama Rao announced plans to set up the Telangana Academy of Skill & Knowledge (TASK) to enhance the “employability and soft skills” of college graduates. But there’s one man, Vijay Bhasker Pentareddy, who is already at it.
Since 2009, this Hyderabadi has been working with students, often from poor backgrounds, to better their communication skills and personality in his finishing school — Last Mile Solutions. Vijay also runs a Facebook group called Kaizen that has got more than 3,000 students, often on the verge of suicide, placed free of cost.
The success of his Facebook initiative earned him a place in Aamir Khan’s reality TV show Satyameva Jayate. Vijay tells us, “Whenever an episode of unemployability comes up, the team will feature Kaizen.”
So, what is Kaizen? It means ‘continuous improvement’ in Japanese. And why are 24,000-plus MBA students not only from Hyderabad, but also across India and the US, joining this group? Why are even job consultancies and placement officers on it? Kaizen even features in Genpact’s job application form: “How did you hear about us?” Vijay, who comes with 15 years of experience in IT consulting, breaks it down.
“Kaizen helps students in their job pursuit. We post information related to job openings and counsel heart-broken students to not give up, sometimes on their lives.”
But Kaizen is not like any online job portal or consultancy firm, points out Vijay.
He adds, “There is just too much and too random information on the Web. Students end up being more confused than sorted. And Kaizen is more focussed and is very essential for MBA students.”
Explaining the USP of the group, Vijay says, “Kaizen is interactive. Every day, I chat with students for an hour, take their queries and clear their apprehensions. The students also chat with each other, they share their experiences of writing exams, group discussions and personal interviews. Many students who got placed through Kaizen are now putting in a word to their employers about fellow Kaizen students.”
“Every year, Hyderabad has openings only for 6,000 to 8,000 MBA students but there are 1 lakh who graduate out of B-schools in the state,” says Vijay, adding, “If not jobs, we are always here to guide the students and giving them hope.”
While he runs this service free of cost, he earns his bread and butter from his finishing school. Vijay says, “I teach a batch of only 20 students a time and attend to their needs and growth curve personally. You have to understand, a Telugu medium student can’t grasp concepts in English fast. Other personality-development courses teach students in masses and that’s why they don’t work. In my two-hour class, I teach the concepts only for 25 minutes, rest of the time we are doing activity-based learning. I record the act or performance of every student for analysis. I have also put these classes and my other lessons on my YouTube channel.”
The gap between the demands of the education system and corporate firms had, in past, taken a toll on Vijay’s own career.
“I started Last Mile in 2009. And, soon, Telangana bandhs set in. Students were running away from colleges. It was tough. I started out by teaching B.Tech students, but I realised the demand for these students in the market is less. They need MBA graduates. So, I shifted my focus on MBA students. I thank my wife for standing by me in those times.”
One of Kaizen members, Anshul Sinha, has compiled the sorry state of the education system in a film, Road Of Spero, which is doing the rounds of film festivals currently.