The Idealist Dreamer and his Super 30

I read a book called ‘I Have A Dream’ a few years ago . Tales of 20 idealists who while being committed to different causes believed that principles of management could and must be used to achieve a greater common good – I loved the stories. While each story was inspirational, a few of them still stand out very clearly in my mind.

One of my favourites is Bindeshwar Pathak, the man who lived with families of scavengers as a part of his Ph.D. research and later went on to start Sulabh International, a social service organization that is involved in many spheres, the most well known being environmental sanitation and waste management. Another is Vinayak Lohani, the man who opted out of the placement process post an MBA from IIM Calcutta and chose to set up ‘Parivaar’ which after a decade is possibly the largest and best quality residential program for children of the impoverished strata in West Bengal.

But my most favourite was the story of Anand Kumar and his ‘Super 30’. Possibly the most ambitious of all the stories, is the tale of this mathematician who decided to coach 30 economically backward students every year for seats in the coveted IIT’s. Anand Kumar was born in Patna and continues to live and teach there.



One of the poorest states in the country, Bihar allegedly has 40% of its population below the poverty line. Anand attended a Hindi medium government school because his family could not afford private schooling. Later, he got admission in the prestigious Cambridge University but had to give up that dream dues to his father’s death and financial conditions. He would work on Maths during the day and help his mother sell papads in the evenings, a small enterprise that had to be started to support the family.

Anand started teaching Maths in 1992, opening his own  The Ramanujan School of Mathematics (RSM), in one small classroom. He had 500 students in 3 years. In 2000, when a poor student approached wanted IIT-JEE coaching and admitted that his family could not afford the annual fee, Anand was inspired to start something different. This idea gave birth to the ‘Super 30’, in 2002.

Every May, The Ramanujan School of Mathematics conducts a competitive examination to select 30 students for this program. While many appear for the exam, the final selection is 30 best from economically backward sections. The program offers these students tution, study material and lodging for a year, absolutely free of cost. While Anand teaches these students, his mother cooks them meals and his brother takes care of administration.


From 2003 till 2014, 308 of the 360 students (30 a year for 12 years) have made it to various IITs. And this year, 25 have cleared the exams. One of them has been selected to pursue an international program on Environmental Sciences, as a part of a 4 year scholarship in the University of Tokyo. Abhishek Gupta, the son of a generator operator admits that his application was motivated by ‘Anand Sir’. The Super 30 actually had a 31st student this year. Sujit Kumar had failed to crack the exam last year but wanted to try again and has managed to succeed this year, reinforcing his mentor’s faith in him.

The Super 30 program has gained both popularity and recognition over the years. Discovery Channel has done a one hour documentary on this the New York Times has featured the program as has the BBC and Newsweek. Anand Kumar has been invited as a speaker by IITs, IIMs, Stanford University and more. Anand Kumar has been felicitated and awarded many times. After all the media attention, one would have expected Super 30 to be come Super 100 or maybe Super 300; with a swank campus and the works. But Anand Kumar has refused all financial aid for the Super 30, from both government and private sources and continues to fund the initiative with his earnings from RSM. I can almost see capitalists and bankers shaking their heads in amazement, wondering why someone would kick a gift horse in the mouth. But thankfully, some people still work for passion and not just for profits.

We keep looking for heroes in movies and fairy tales. But the real heroes lie amongst us.

(Sources: I Have A Dream, Wikipedia, Hindustan Times)