Big Idea

Lessons from a tribe

Bengaluru’s Masai School promises you a ₹50,000 a month package. If it fails, you don’t pay a thing

RA Chandroo

Prateek Shukla likes to travel to off-beat destinations. During one such trip across Tanzania, the IIT Kanpur-grad and co-founder of Quikr Homes (erstwhile Grabhouse), stayed with the Masai Mara tribe. There, Shukla learnt from the tribe’s chieftain that members of the tribe pick up one thing in their childhood and master that skill, and that’s the reason theirs is among the strongest tribes in Africa. This inspired Shukla, Nrupul Dev (Shukla’s senior from IIT Kanpur), and IIM Bengaluru’s Yogesh Bhat, to start Masai School. It conducts coding boot-camps to turn underprivileged students into skilled programmers.

Anyone can apply to Masai School’s programme. The institute’s selection process includes an aptitude test covering logical reasoning, mathematics, and basic reading comprehension. The aptitude test is followed by a video interview comprising a set of questions that the applicant needs to record a video and upload on YouTubeUpon selection, the students are in for a tough six months of intensive coding. Shukla and team follow the gruelling 9-9-6 model – 9 AM to 9 PM, six-days-a-week training schedule. “It’s challenging both physically and mentally. That’s why we take only driven people who have a strong motivation to learn and earn,” says Shukla.

The sessions put students through a crash-course of coding, mathematics, and soft-skills. The coding programme covers fundamentals, starting from how to use the command line; developing front ends for websites using HTML and CSS; basics and advanced-level JavaScript, along with the usage of website-development frameworks such as Bootstrap and JQuery. It all culminates with a project week where students build a solution of their own choiceFor instance, a group of students developed an app that allows you to click photos of potholes and mark them on Google Maps!

Masai School has a result-oriented revenue model. Upon course completion, if the student bags a package worth Rs.600,000 per annum or more, they pay 15% of their income to the school for a period of three years. This payment is capped at Rs.300,000. If the student secures a job that pays lesser, or doesn’t secure a job, they don’t pay a penny. Alternatively, an applicant can pay Rs.200,000 at the start of the programme and skip the income-sharing agreement. Masai School counts Flipkart, Ola, UrbanClap, NoBroker, Swiggy, and ShareChat as some of its recruiters. Shukla says, “We’re building a placement team that will reach out to companies such as Adobe and Microsoft so that we can send our students for their recruitment rounds.”

The Bengaluru-based school started its first batch in June 2019 with 12 students. The batch recently completed its course and has already seen success with placements. Hasan from Salem, the batch’s top grosser, worked as a mechanic earning Rs.18,000 per month. He stayed at Masai School’s campus in 91Springboard, Koramangala, since he couldn’t afford accommodation in Bengaluru. He was hired by what Shukla claims to be one of the fastest growing Indian start-ups, with a package of approximately Rs.140,000 per month. Three others have been placed with offers north of Rs.600,000 per annum. The team aims to train 2,500 students every year by end of 2020.

Shukla and team conduct classes out of three co-working spaces: 91springboard and BHive in Bengaluru and Work Studio in Patna. The team has raised $200,000 from India Quotient and Instamojo founder Sampad Swain. “From a sustainability perspective, we want to make this a profitable business and not a VC-funded business,” Shukla says. The school commenced its third batch in October, and has trained 120 students so far. By March 2020, the plan is to expand to two more cities, and Tier-II cities such as Jaipur and Indore are likely candidates. Shukla also claims to have started three new batches, a total of 150 new students. Till now, the start-up has fuelled the ambitions of 120 students.