“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure
in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
He was a mechanical engineer working for JK Synthetics Ltd, a polyester plant in Kota. In 1974 he started having trouble climbing steps; he later discovered he had muscular dystrophy, a hereditary muscle disease for which there is no cure. He got a shock when he realized that he had been confined to a wheel chair. A local doctor warned him that death was imminent, while another more optimistic physician in London advised him to take up teaching. In 1981, he began teaching, starting with one 7th standard student. He was not sure whether he could teach, without any teaching background. Today, the coaching classes which he founded, has eight storeys which are connected by wheelchair ramps. He has become a pioneer in the field of coaching for IIT JEE having a thriving business with annual earnings close to 1 billion rupees.
It is my proud privilege to present before you VK Bansal, the founder of “Bansal Classes”. The success of Bansal Classes led to the creation of many more coaching classes, many of them started by Bansal’s former employees. Some even teach students how to clear the entrance exam to get into Bansal Classes. Kota which at one time was famous for Kota sarees and Kota stone has now become a hub of coaching classes.
Bansal was born in Jhansi on October 26, 1946. His family owned a sweet shop in the city. After passing high school at the top of his class, he went on to study engineering at the Benares Hindu University, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1971. Shortly after graduating, he married and moved to the city of Kota, Rajasthan to work as a mechanical engineer for JK Synthetics Ltd, a polyester plant that shut down in the late 1990s. It was shocking when in 1974 his efforts to get treatment of muscular dystrophy at AIIMS and many other hospitals in the country failed. “My plan was to become a chief engineer of the plant or a general manager but things went in a different direction,” he says.
In 1981, Bansal began teaching, starting with one 7th standard student. In five months, he had another student, and the next year he managed to get another. He was not sure whether he could teach engineering students. “My aim was to settle down with a salary that matched what I used to draw at J.K. Synthetics,” says Bansal.”At first, I used to teach six students around my dining table. Then I added a few stools to make it 12.” In 1983, he met G.D. Agrawal, who ran a Mumbai-based IIT coaching institute. Agrawal motivated Bansal he could do the same. During the period 1981 to 1991, he kept himself so busy fourteen hours a day – eight hours in the factory and six hours in studying and teaching in such a way that he left no time spare to think of his disability. During these ten years, he taught X, XI classes, PET & IIT Entrance students. A confidence began to develop in him in 1984 when he gave coaching to PET students at National Coaching Institute situated at Kota Junction. He took voluntary retirement from J.K.Synthetics, Kota in 1991 and fully devoted himself to “Bansal Classes”.
One of his students got through to IIT-Roorkie in 1985, and a similar feat was achieved in 1986. Soon, Bansal found himself with more students than he could handle. “I had to devise a test to select a few whom I could teach—and we follow that practice even today,” Bansal explains. Although he cannot stand without support, he zips from classroom to classroom in a motorized wheelchair. The coaching empire represents a quantum leap for a man who began teaching one student, that too free of charge in 1974. “We were engineers working for industries,” says Pramod Bansal, CEO, Bansal Classes. “Teaching was not exactly in line with our profession. But as we had the background and aptitude it needed, we started Bansal Classes.”
Bansal teaches about 17,000 students every year; about 25 percent of them get through to the IITs.Till now he has taught 1.5 lakh students out of which more than 20,000 have made it to the IIT’s. Interestingly, Bansal does not market its services, instead relying on word-of-mouth publicity. It only advertises on two occasions: when the admission dates for the IIT-JEE classes are announced, and when the results of the IIT-JEE entrance exams are declared. In 2007, Bansal Classes moved to a new, bigger campus of 10,768 square meters.
V.K. Bansal, 60, says he is now worth more than $20 million—and the industry he created, along with its ancillary businesses, is worth millions more. Now he has enough money to take care of his needs, even if he quits teaching today—but he enjoys teaching too much to do so. Requests to set up similar coaching class centers in Dubai have been pouring in, but Bansal has, so far, refused to expand his business anymore. By the late 1990s, Bansal’s students began to regularly figure in the top 100 of the IIT entrance test ranks.
To enter Bansal’s classroom, Class X students must have secured more than 75% marks in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. They must also pass an entrance exam devised by Bansal. He says he has never advertised his classes, but his reputation lures in students from all over India. Bansal’s classes cost Rs 40,000-50,000 per student, setting the benchmark rate across Kota, even across India. His highest paid teacher earns Rs30 lakh annually—and Bansal gifted him a car last Diwali. Bansal admits the business model has been highly profitable, but says that’s not what drew him to the classroom. “I have never chased money, money has chased me,” says Bansal.He credits his students with helping him outsmart the doctors’ prognosis. “In a classroom, energy also flows from the taught to the teacher,” he says. “Sometimes, when I am stuck over a problem, a bright student can end up teaching me. I have always kept an open mind on that.”
Bansal has begun handing the business’ responsibility to his children. Two daughters head offshoots of the academy in Jaipur and Ajmer, and his son helps in Kota. But Bansal says it’s too soon to retire; he’s just constructed a new campus. “If I don’t teach, I will die,” he says, setting his wheelchair in motion for the next class. Today, he starts studying at 7 a.m., works on practice problems until noon. After lunch, he goes to class, where he gets the answers to the problems, gets home around 8 p.m. and does homework until midnight. He developed an intensive study system that bombards students with test questions for nine hours a day for two years.
In 2007 Bansal Classes has opened a new, bigger campus that is in better condition than some IITs and is fully wheelchair accessible for Mr. Bansal, who still teaches up to five classes a day. His mobility has declined to the point where he can barely lift a pen. But he says being in a wheelchair 12 hours a day means he has more time to think of challenging questions for students. “Teaching is my breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he says.
He underwent bypass surgery and treatment of dural hematoma (bleeding in the brain) In Jan 2014 Bansal sent a CD narrating his life story in a seminar held in the Neurology Department of AIIMS New Delhi. He told that he had been writing for six hours daily, because of which the muscles of his hand are functional. Till 2012 he used to take lectures for 7-8 hours daily because of which his lungs and heart are functioning normally. Five hundred neurologists attending the seminar felt that it was simply miraculous. The life and work of VK Bansal is really a miracle which will continue to inspire millions of people in the years to come.