There is nothing more heartwarming than a story of how someone beats all the odds to make a success. Bangalore has such a story in 23-year-old N Shiva Kumar, part-time newspaper vendor and full time student, born of illiterate parents, who burnt the midnight oil and gained admission into the country’s most prestigious B-school. Yes, you guessed it. IIM. You’ve read about him in all the papers. He’s told you how he belled the CAT. And he’s back again, in our pages, telling you all that. And more.
What, or who, inspired you to sit for the CAT exam?
After I was placed in Wipro through campus placement, I was under a lot of pressure to take up the job. But my uncle Krishna Veda Vyasa – who was once my newspaper customer – encouraged me to pursue higher studies. He suggested that I aim for IAS or IIM. He is the sole reason behind me getting into IIM. He is my mentor, guide, idol and everything in my life. I owe my life to him.
How did you meet your ‘uncle’ – Krishna Veda Vyasa?
When I was in my 9th standard, I had no money to pay my tuition fees. So, I thought of approaching someone for help. One morning, during my usual rounds of newspaper delivery, I saw a man standing near the gate of a house where I also happened to deliver. I didn’t even stop to think; I just approached him for help.
He was willing to help me, but being a stranger, he asked to meet my parents. I told him that I’d rather he come to my school and speak to my principal, teachers, and staff, and check up on my academic performance. That was how I met my uncle.
Why were you involved in newspaper delivery? Are you still studying?
My family has been in a very poor financial condition since my childhood. So, to pay my fees etc, I started off as a delivery boy when I was in my 4th standard. I was already doing a couple of part-time jobs in the evening, and I wanted to make use of the free time I had in the morning. So, I began working as a newspaper delivery boy, so that it wouldn’t stop me from going to school.
My father was a truck driver earlier. He had more liabilities than income. He met with an accident a few years ago. Since then, he’s been taking rest at home. My mother is a housewife. Both my parents are illiterate. Now that I’m going to IIM-C, I have been training my father to take care of my newspaper agency.
I am currently pursuing BE in Computer Science and Engineering from Bangalore Institute of Technology. I’ve just given my final semester examinations.
What other jobs have you done, aside from newspaper delivery? Did you work through your schooling days as well?
I have washed cars, sold flowers, been a sales rep, gone into computer hardware repairs, to name a few. I have even worked as a truck loader. I did all this through my school and college days, and even do so now.
How did you balance your job with studying for CAT, then?
I have always enjoyed my work and I have never looked at it as a burden. It has given me money, freedom to fulfill my dreams, and dignity. I guess that’s why my work hasn’t affected my studies. I used to study whenever I found the time. I always knew that education was the only thing that would save me from this poverty.
Describe your typical day, while you were preparing for the CAT exam?
I did not follow any specific timetable as such. It was difficult for me to dedicate any time for CAT preparation. I just studied whenever I found the time. Besides, the main requirement to do well in this exam is to have confidence in yourself.
What was the toughest part of the preparation?
Because of how tough the CAT is, and the kind of competition involved, there is a chance that a person sitting for this exam may start doubting his own abilities. One needs to have faith that one can, in fact, crack the CAT – and keeping that faith is itself a tough job.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
I always see the positive side to everything. I believe that us youngsters should step up to the plate and take up the responsibility of saving our country from the bad developments that are happening around us. It is this desire to serve society that drives me to work harder.
How do you think your experience working as a newspaper delivery boy, and now, running a newspaper agency, will help you in your course of study at IIM?
I have the practical experience of managing an organisation. People management, money management, time management, risk management, and marketing tricks are some of the lessons I have learnt through my job. But, I need to learn management concepts at IIM to take my skills to the next level.
What are your plans after doing MBA? What is ultimate goal?
To start ‘Educate India’ - a foundation through which we can educate the country’s youth.
And what next, after IIM? What’s your dream job?
I would like to set up my own firm. Before that, I would like gain some corporate experience. For that, I would like join any small company that is running under a loss or severe crisis.
And your dream car? Or dream gadget?
My dream car is BMW. I have never owned a smartphone, so I would like to buy an iPhone in the future.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Aside from your dream project - Educate India- what else would you like to achieve?
I would like to actively participate and make a revolutionary change in my country. I would like to see myself as the prime minister of India, where I will inspire the younger generation to take part in the elections. I would like to be the change I want to see.