Little over a year ago, Rohit Kushwaha, the son of an auto driver from a remote village in Hazaribagh district, Jharkhand, was struggling to find quality employment after completing his B.Tech from Parul University, a third-tier private varsity in Gujarat.
(Photo above: L to R – Nishant Chandra and Siddharth Maheshwari, Co-Founders, Newton School)
Campus placements at his varsity had only few companies hire engineering graduates, and who were offering dismally low pay packages.
“It was a tough period, but I knew what improvements were needed. I went online and began searching for platforms on which I could improve my coding skills. In October 2019, I found Newton School. Going through their website, I knew this could give me the right platform to learn coding. After going through a very rigorous admissions process, my classes began the following month on November 25,” recalls Rohit, speaking to The Better India.
Starting out his six-month online course on this edtech platform, he realised that the experience differed from that in college where “there was a lot of theoretical learning, but no practical experience”.
Interestingly enough, Rohit didn’t have to pay a single rupee as down payment before starting his course. The Newton School follows a unique pay after placement criteria. In short, this payment model means that students will pay a fee to the school only after they have obtained a job with an annual pay package of no less than Rs 6 lakh.
After the placement is secured, Newton School provides an income sharing agreement (ISA) with the students. “With Newton School’s ISA a student can enroll and complete the course by paying absolutely nothing and get placed in a top notch company, but agrees to pay back 15% of the monthly income for three years or pay Rs 3 lakh in total (whichever comes first). This way students can learn effectively without the pressure of down payment at the start,” notes the company website.
Today, Rohit is a software engineer working for Toppr, a Mumbai-based ed-tech startup, with an annual pay package of Rs 6 lakh and a potential 10 percent increment after six months.
“Some of my batch mates got offer letters before course completion on April 25, but I took a little time because I was working. Managing time was a little difficult and I missed a couple of job interviews in the process. However, two months after I completed the course I secured a job as a software engineer with Toppr,” says Rohit.
Objectives & Course design
Founded by serial entrepreneurs Siddharth Maheshwari and Nishant Chandra in 2019, the Bengaluru-based Newton School allows people to cross financial and locational barriers to achieve their dream of becoming a great software developer.
“The way China has become the factory of the world, India has the potential to be the office of the world. But most college graduates in India are unemployable, particularly in the software engineering space. We started Newton School to solve this employability problem and make India the developer powerhouse of the world,” says Siddharth Maheshwari.
According to Aspiring Minds, a global job skills credentialing leader, “Over 80 percent of engineering graduates in India are unemployable for any job in the knowledge economy and only 3.84 percent of engineers in the country have the technical, cognitive and linguistic skills required for software-related jobs in start-ups.”
The Newton School offers a platform that helps students from small towns and cities studying in Tier 2 or 3 colleges to bridge the gap in terms of skills and industry exposure with those coming from Tier 1 universities. Teaching them coding and computer programming, the Newton School offers a full stack development course which runs for a period of six months.
The six-month training programme includes 1000+ hours of coding, 50+ hours of soft skills training, live projects, and mentorship oversight. “We ensure students acquire the right sort of industry oriented exposure and then help them obtain a standard of employment commensurate with their upgraded skill set. These students have extremely high potential, but they don’t get the right sort of exposure. On this platform, we help everyone upskill themselves and ensure that they get the right sort of mentorship and motivation,” adds Siddharth.
Classes are designed to keep it highly interactive and student centric. Live online classes with about 50-odd students in one batch are held by Newton School instructors from Monday to Friday from 9 pm to 11 pm, where students code in parallel and can ask questions. Late evenings are convenient for college students and working professionals equally.
These classes are followed by an hour-long mentor session where a software developer working in major tech companies like Microsoft, HotStar, Amazon, Ola, Oracle, Adobe, Flipkart, IBM, MakeMytrip, PayTM and Zomato, among others, takes a live session with no more than 10 students at a time. These mentors act as guides to the students, helping them not only navigate some of their technical doubts, but also offer insights into latest industry practices.
Students are given daily assignments for regular and consistent practice while the weekends are for contests and quizzes.
“My mentors, who were working as software developers in Ola and Swiggy, helped me navigate these courses. They imparted important industry-related insights. Our classes had about 20 students and were held online. Therefore, getting personal attention to clear our doubts wasn’t very easy during class hours. Our mentors, however, would clear our doubts on a one-on-one basis. Courses like Data Structures and Algorithms (DSA) were very hard, but our mentors would encourage and help us stay on course,” recalls Rohit.
“The instructors and mentors on our platform are software developers by profession working in some of India’s top companies. The instructors are passionate about teaching and helping students from Tier 2 or 3 colleges secure a great career in technology. These instructors are hired from the companies they are working with on a part time basis and are given basic stipends as a token of appreciation,” says Nishant.
Student Selection & Unique Payment Model
Newton School identifies students with the most potential from all over India and puts them through an extensive admission process spanning over two weeks in which “student’s motivations and learnability is tested”. As a consequence of their unique fee payment model, lakhs of candidates use the Newton School platform to enrol in a rigorous series of codability and attitude tests, designed to ensure only the best remain.
A final round of interviews conducted by Newton School Experts and focused on communication skills, performance, and passion guarantees that only one percent of applicants make the final cut.
Their website under ISA states that a student will never pay more than Rs 3 lakh “no matter how high” the salary. The payment will be paused if the student leaves or gets fired within three months of joining and will continue after you get a new job. If in case they complete three months in their first job with minimum guaranteed CTC, they have to pay the entire amount irrespective of employment status after that. The ISA expires in a year even if the student doesn’t land a job of Rs 6 lakhs per annum or more after the course completion date. The school then foregoes the payment fees.
The school continues to support their students even after completing the course. There are students who are still interviewing with companies after completion.
“To ensure there is no financial burden on the student and to make education outcome-oriented, the students do not have to pay us anything till they get into a good tech job and start earning,” says Nishant.
Three batches have completed the course since they enrolled their first batch in late 2019. The first batch had a placement rate of above 90 percent with alumni working in companies like Unacademy, Rapido, Toppr, Maersk, 7-eleven, Jumbotail, etc.
“In my friend circle, there were three people who joined the batch after me. Even in the current batch, I have a few friends studying there. More than the prospect of getting a well paying job, what attracted my friends were the skills I had picked up,” says Rohit.
Funding & the Future
Newton School has raised $650,000 in a seed round of funding led by early-stage venture capital firm Nexus Venture Partners. The funding round also saw the participation of Unacademy founders Gaurav Munjal, Roman Saini, and Hemesh Singh; US-based startup platform AngelList; Srinivas Anumolu, Founder of Upwork; veteran educationists Ajay Gupta and Sahil Aggarwal; and K Ganesh, Founder of GrowthStory.
The school now looks to increase its user capacity to handle thousands of simultaneous learners. They will also prioritise the development of products utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI) to streamline and personalise the learning journey of each student. The company plans an intake of 10,000 students in 2021.
“Seeing students from Tier 2 or 3 colleges getting packages equal to IITians and watching their lives transform is what gives us great satisfaction. We plan to build a learning platform that can enable lakhs of Indian youths graduating every year to acquire real skills,” says Nishant.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)