“Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am glad to believe that the majority of persons do find their right vocation.”
- T. Barnum
Primary school teacher Imran Khan from Alwar in Rajasthan, who never travelled outside his country, could not have imagined that one day his name would be heard from across the seven seas. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his India resides in people like Imran Khan, in his address to a thunderous crowd at Britain’s Wembley Stadium, on 13 November 2015, Imran became an instant hit. Meet Imran Khan, a 34-year-old Mathematics teacher at a government Sanskrit senior secondary school in Alwar who has emerged as a super-creator of educational apps. With no formal education in computers, leave alone app development, Khan has learnt everything he knows from books and that all-encompassing source of knowledge ‘Google’.
“It feels good,” he said when asked how it felt to be named by none other than the Prime Minister of the country as an example of a true Indian. “I did not expect this ever,” he said with a nervous laugh. “Right now there are so many journalists, media, and television vans parked outside my house,” he said, adding, “My parents are wondering what the fuss is all about.”
Imran, who did a two-year basic teacher training course after his senior secondary degree, became a third grade government teacher in 1999. “My father is a farmer, and though I was very good in Mathematics and Science subjects, he could not understand its value. Everyone advised me to take up a government job as soon as possible, “he says, recalling his past. Imran later went on to do an MA in English and then in Economics as a private candidate.
As a child growing up in Khareda, a village bordering the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, Imran found himself a misfit. The 10 km distance to school from his home was never a deterrent. Rather, it was the lack of support to pursue higher education in Science that he found difficult. “I wanted to be a scientist. I was passionate about Maths and Science. But there was no encouragement or support to help me pursue these subjects. In our country everyone places more value on getting a job, and if you get a government job your life is set,” he says. “He is our family’s Abdul Kalam,” says Idrees, the 25-year-old younger sibling of Imran. Idrees is a software engineer who feels that it is only because of his older brother that he could manage to be what he is today. “He is my role model “Imran is the third among four brothers and three sisters. “My younger brother, Idrees, left his books at home after he completed his B Tech in Computer Science. As I was free after school, I began reading those books. I learnt html and designed a website,” says Imran. He has created more than 100 websites until now, he manages only two –www.gktalks.com and http://www.gyanmajari.com.
Imran has 53 apps listed on the Google Play Store under the name ‘gktalk_Imran’.His most popular app is ‘General Science’ in Hindi which has over 500,000 downloads currently. The app, which doesn’t need Internet connectivity to function, currently consists of about 300 questions and answers related to life sciences in Hindi. Regarding the use case of the app, the description on the Play Store states, “This application helps you to understand basic science questions easily. It should be useful for students as well as in IBPS, IAS, State PSC, SSC and other government exams. It will be also useful for job seekers who are looking to get recruited by government firms or any government jobs and entrance exams.” Imran’s other top-rated apps are on History GK, Hindi grammar, Geography GK in Hindi, Indian Political GK and his first ever app ‘NCERT Science in Hindi’, which he launched in 2012. All his apps have mostly favourable reviews with users complimenting the quality of content, simple design and User Interface. While these apps have been downloaded by 2.5 million users until now, the screen views alone have come up to 18 million. In addition to the above apps, Imran also has a number of other apps catering to diverse categories such as Physics, Chemistry, Solar System, Essay writing, antonyms and synonyms, Computer Fundamentals, human body system, Mughal Empire, and so on.
By Imran’s own admission, his app journey began at a time when he didn’t even know what the word stood for. “The then district collector of Alwar, Ashutosh AT Pednekar, saw my website and sent for me. He asked me to design the website for the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET). Pednekar was the one who suggested that I start developing apps. I had no clue what an app was – he had to show me some on his tablet,” Imran recalls.
He was invited by Smriti Irani, Minister of Human Resources Development, to showcase the apps to the ministry. “I have donated all my apps for free to the country,” he says with pride. This was under the Digital India initiative to give access to online learning material for students and parents. He also undertook sessions on IT in education at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, with trainee IAS officers as his audience.
Mr Khan said, “Everything in life is not for money, because the people for whom who I have made these apps for, can’t buy them. “Imran Khan has turned into an overnight celebrity but says that he plans to continue developing educational apps, especially in regional languages which can help more people. To support in his endeavor, the state-run BSNL will now provide free internet to Imran Khan for developing his apps.Imran Khan was offered the project officer’s post by Technical and Higher Education Minister Kalicharan Saraf. The minister also felicitated him with a cheque of Rs 11, 000, When asked to give a message for the youth, he says, “Whatever your passion, pursue it with total honesty, even if it does not yield any immediate results. In the long run, it would all have been worth it.”