From ordinary neighbourhoods to coaching hotspots: The transformation of Hyderabad’s Ashok Nagar and Chikkadpally

Scores of government services aspirants land up and enroll themselves in coaching institutes in the two neighbourhoods and usually seek accommodation at residence cum hostels leased out by the area residents.

ByAjay Tomar | Deepika Pasham

Published Nov 01, 2023 | 2:00 PMUpdatedNov 01, 2023 | 6:38 PM

From ordinary neighbourhoods to educational hotspots How Ashok Nagar and Chikkadpally became a thriving hub for competitive exam preparation in Hyderabad (2)

On the Ashok Nagar X main road in Hyderabad, under the newly inaugurated VST steel flyover, hoardings drawing attention to hostel accommodation or coaching institutes can be seen atop almost every building.

Move along the road towards Chikkadapally police station, and similar hoardings follow you.

Residents say that the area was an ordinary Hyderabad neighbourhood till it began to house the coaching industry.

Ashok Nagar and Chikkadapally are the educational hotspots in Hyderabad for state and Union government services aspirants carrying the weight of hopes of their families on their shoulders.

But more than that, these students play an indispensable role in running the economy of these areas.

Students are the main inhabitants here. In their early 20s to 30s, they are visible everywhere, taking a stroll through the bylanes, checking on study material or munching at a tiffin centre.

They are preparing for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, or those of the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) Group services, police force, and other state services.

Recently, a 23-year-old female aspirant, Marri Pravalika from Warangal, allegedly committed suicide at a residential hotel in Ashok Nagar. It was suspected that a delay in the group services exam put her in financial distress she couldn’t handle.

South First, which has been continuously reporting on the incident, delves into what transpires in Ashok Nagar and Chikkadapally and how these areas, once upon a time no different from the rest of Hyderabad’s neighbourhoods, transformed into coaching hubs and speak with students preparing for the exams.

Also read: Pravalika suicide: Friend accused of abetment gets bail

Background and transition

Mohammad Biya, a resident of Ashok Nagar and an employee for the last 25 years, recollected that the number of hostels and coaching institutes has increased significantly in the last seven to eight years. He added that a similar situation exists in nearby Gandhi Nagar, Indira Park, Kavadiguda and other areas.

A coaching institute at Ashok Nagar main road. (South First)

A coaching institute at Ashok Nagar main road. (South First)

“The prices for the students range from ₹5,000 to ₹10,000 and may increase if it is an individual room shared by three to four students.  Most of the residents now stay in the inner lanes of the colonies. Only a few families live in apartments they own on the main RTX Road. The rest have given their homes on rent because it is a lucrative business, and they live elsewhere,” Biya explained to South First.

In 1976, the Hyderabad Study Circle, a not-for-profit organisation, was established with very low fees for students to prepare for government examinations, mostly UPSC and state civil service.

Over time, the number of student aspirants rose and sensing an opportunity, some teachers of the Hyderabad Study Circle moved out to open independent coaching institutes.

One such institute was RC Reddy IAS Study Circle, established by RC Reddy. He was a tutor at the Hyderabad Study Circle.

Brindhavan girls hostel where Pravalika allegedly committed suicide.

Brindhavan girls hostel where Pravalika allegedly committed suicide. (Ajay Tomar/South First)

In the last three decades, scores of institutions have populated Ashok Nagar. Among the earliest was the Study Circle. Then came RC Reddy, followed by Brain Tree IAS coaching institute in Himayath Nagar in 1991.

V Gopala Krishna, director of Brain Tree for civil services, said after the bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, student influx saw a rise in Ashok Nagar with a subsequent increase in the number of hostels and rooms on lease.

“In combined Andhra Pradesh, the notifications for government jobs were in large numbers. Large groups of students would descend on Hyderabad because of the Hyderabad Study Circle. And the flow of students kept increasing. It served as a springboard for entrepreneurship. There are very few vacancies for now in Telangana,” he told South First.

Related: Police arrest friend for allegedly abetting Pravalika suicide

Why an educational hotspot?

Over the past years, several tier-1 and tier-2 coaching institutes have emerged in Ashok Nagar and Chikkadapally. Some of the leading ones apart from RC Reddy are — Krishna Pradeep IAS Academy, Vision IAS, and Analog IAS Institute.

K Nageshwar, a retired professor at Hyderabad’s Osmania University, said that Ashok Nagar gradually turned into a student hub for competitive exam preparation because only a few study centres existed in Andhra Pradesh, and which did not match the standards of the Hyderabad-based institutes.

Two boys hostel, which were said to be earlier a the residences of families, at Ashok nagar

Two boys hostel, which were said to be earlier a the residences of families, at Ashok Nagar. (South First)

Explaining the metamorphosis, Nageshwar, a former MLC, told South First, “The recent toppers in the civil services exam from Andhra Pradesh are from institutes in Ashok Nagar because there are regular job notifications in the state. The students of Osmania University concentrate on sub-Inspector and departmental posts in Telangana. The students in Andhra Pradesh also settle here for their study because Rayalaseema tried to establish the institutes but could not succeed in attracting the aspirants.”

Several dozen coaching institutes running in Ashok Nagar and Chikkadapally are divided into tier-1 and tier-2, depending on the quality of facilities and faculty.

Tier-1 institutes such as RC Reddy and Vision IAS charge around ₹1.7 lakh to ₹2.2 lakh for a course duration of over a year, along with three hours of daily classes. In tier-2 institutes, the fee ranges between ₹20,000 and ₹25,000. They also provide separate coaching for optional examinations with fees between ₹30,000 and ₹40,000.

Most tier-2 institutes do not provide curriculum material. Students are taught only in offline classes,” Kushi, an employee at the Nagarjuna Study Circle, told South First.

Coaching institues at Ashok Nagar

Coaching institutes at Ashok Nagar. (South First)

So tough is the race for admission that institutes have already started the process much in advance for 2025 and 2026.

Gopala Krishna of Brain Tree, also an eminent mathematician, added that as the offline presence of students is less in Ashok Nagar and Chikkadapally, there is a stable atmosphere for studies in the area without any disturbance. “Mostly children from rural backgrounds come and prepare for the exams.”

However, he pointed out that facilities need to improve in Ashok Nagar coaching institutes to be at par with their counterparts in Karnataka.

“Most of the coaching centres are by the former civil exams aspirants. They look rosy from the outside, but efforts are needed; persistence matters to organise a coaching centre, maintaining discipline and organising the institute’s infrastructure as well as proper counselling to take the exams,” Krishna explained.

Noting that the institutional market is booming in Hyderabad, Nageswara Rao asked, “How many are actually able to survive in these competitive surroundings?”

Related: Dreams cut short, kin of Pravalika want justice and dignity

Other educational hubs

Like Ashok Nagar, another coaching hub is Ameerpet in Hyderabad. It is a major software training hub with coaching institutes that help intermediates, graduates, and post-graduate students for higher studies and completive exams.

Some of these institutes, which can now be possibly declared as veterans in the market, are PAGE, TIME, and PTE Academy, among others.

Language courses such as C, C++, Java, Python, and HTML are taught at software institutes. Students from across the country enrol themselves here.

Shaji, a resident of Ameerpet for 25 years, said the area is famous for technical courses, spoken English classes, digital marketing, and computer languages such as C, C++, Java, and Oracle.

“The students travel here to buy books in the oldest books stores at relatively low prices, and the area is abuzz because of the affordable shopping markets,” he remarked.

During the day, the inner lanes and those across the Ameerpet Metro Station can be seen filled with students apart from market hoppers.

The Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC Hyderabad), an autonomous scientific body under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, is in Ameerpet.

Central library, an integral hub

A prime spot for students in Ashok Nagar, Chikkadapally, and other nearby areas is the Sri Vattikota Alwary Swamy Memorial City Central Library, where you would find scores of students studying.

They either study inside the rooms or under the shade of trees outside the public library on tablet chairs, which some carry with them.

Central Library at Ashok Nagar

Central Library at Ashok Nagar

Most students hail from various districts across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. While heading home in the evening, students studying outside secure their chairs to trees to reserve their comfortable spots.

The Central Library is undergoing renovation as it faces wall leakage and other infrastructural issues.

Opened in 1960, it is the headquarters of all the libraries in the city and functions under the Telangana government. A library official told South First that it has over two lakh books, which can be availed through membership of just ₹150 per head.

A cost-cutting technique for students is eating the readily available afternoon meals for just ₹5 a plate at the GHMC’s Annapurna Canteen inside the library premises.

Apart from the library, there are multiple independent private study halls in Ashok Nagar and Chikkadapally, which even provide separate cubicles for students. Students not going to the Central Library can be found there. There prices vary from ₹1,000 to ₹2,000 depending on the seating space provided, air-conditioning, and internet facilities.

Meanwhile, aspirants also resort to part-time private jobs to manage their finances.

“One should do nothing but sit and prepare without disturbance for 24 hours, but students are left with no other option to avoid monetary crunches. It is hard to keep asking parents and others again and again for money,” Praveen, an aspirant also searching for a part-time job to manage expenses, told South First.

Also read: 23-year-old woman dies by suicide over ‘TSPSC exam delay’

Aspirants facing challenging times

The last time the TSPSC Group-1 exam was held, former President Pranab Mukherjee was still in office.

However, it has been nearly eight years since the exam was conducted in 2015, and many students are facing distress over the continuous postponement of these exams.

A study circle t Chikkadpally

A study circle at Chikkadapally. (Ajay Tomar/South First)

“Many students have gone home. This is because of the unaffordable hostel and living expenses. Any student’s minimum expense only is around ₹10,000 (living and other daily expenses), and many of them belong to lower middle-income groups,” Ravi Reddy, a Group-1 aspirant outside a study circle near the Central Library, told South First.

He expressed displeasure at the state government’s management. “The exam has been cancelled twice. In the united Andhra Pradesh, the exam was conducted every two years, but not now; it has been around a decade since the Group-1 services were last conducted. This is a question mark on the recruitment process of the government.”

Over 2.32 lakh government job aspirants appeared for the Group-1 exam conducted on 16 October last year for 503 Group-1 posts. The exam was cancelled in March 2023 after a Special Investigation Team (SIT) found links to a paper leak in which several TSPSC employees have been arrested.

Another aspirant, Shiva Kumar, who was on a break from his study session at the Central Library, lamented that the student numbers are increasing every year as the vacancies shrink.

“The numbers rise by around two lakh students every year. Four years ago (in 2018), most aspirants voted for BRS because they thought exams would be conducted and vacancies would be filled,” he quipped while speaking to South First.

He also expressed concerns regarding the “unfair practices” of private residences-cum-hostels to make more profits. “When the exam notifications are released, the hostels hike their prices to ₹1,000 or so, due to which students like us suffer. They are taking advantage of students as there are no rules for them.”

Venkatesh, 28, also an aspirant from Sangareddy, said students compromise on accommodation, food and ambience of the coaching centre as they are paying for a private service. “If we question anything in my hostel, the only word we hear is ‘vacate’ (the room). We understand that comfort can be asked only at home, so mostly all of us adjust,” he told South First. 

Brain Tree Director Gopala Krishna said that there will definitely be a change in the student hubs in the near future.

He told South First, “I can notice that with the online trend, the coaching institutes have already begun digital classes, some record sessions and upload and others teach students online, so with advanced technology, the students may adopt Artificial Intelligence to prepare at their non-disturbance places.”

There is also thinking about reviewing the current teaching patterns. He said coaching institutions follow the curriculum of UPSC, but recently, there was a report from the Baswan Committee comprising leading academicians, technocrats, and senior bureaucrats, suggesting revisiting the entire pattern, syllabus and eligibility criteria for IAS/Civil Services examinations.

Referring to the changes expected, he said that the primary objective would be to provide a level-playing field to aspirants from diverse streams of mathematics, engineering, medicine, or humanities.