Arithmetic to Programming: Journey of an accountant who computerized Kota

Ambarish Tiwari would have been just any other common-man with dreams of earning money and settling down with his life. However, he dared to tread off the beaten path in his youth and today is the Head of IT department and Senior Vice President at Bansal Classes, Kota. The post could have passed off as a rather unimpressive profile, but for a commerce graduate who started off with absolutely no knowledge about computers, he is responsible for establishing the computer department in many companies in Kota. He not only learnt to operate computers purely on his determination, but he was also responsible for the advent of computers, so to speak of, in Kota. At one point in the year 1986, he was probably the first one to shoulder the responsibility of making youth of the city computer literate

Kota is well known today, but back in the 1970s it was a typical small town. “With J K Synthetics as one of the only few industries where one could gain employment, bringing computers to the city was no mean task. However, from being an accountant to IT department head, the journey was quite eventful,” Tiwari recalls. <His tryst with the computers began <a typewriter and a computer are not the same so we alter this text a bit>> Back when he was just 14 years old, he decided he wanted to learn typing during his summer vacation. During that summer vacation, Tiwari not only learned how to type fast with accuracy he also improved his English language skills. “The practice tests given in the Typing Institute were in English and eventually, my curiosity lead me to learn the meanings of the complicated words that I was I was furiously typing out,” he adds.

Tiwari landed his first job as an accountant with confectionery manufacturers in 1976 just after graduation. Since people maintained long books for accounts, his typing skills were hardly of any use to him. He nonetheless ploughed on with his work with utmost sincerity. With just Rs 120/- as his salary, he kept doing a lot of jobs related to accounts to help with the household expenses.

Whenever he used to meet his friends and relatives, they used to ask him ‘have you changed your job again? ‘And most of the time, his answer used to be ‘Yes’. One fine day while waiting for the written test in a textile mill, he saw, for the first time, a Computer and a few people working on it, and that fascinated him.“The lady sitting at the reception asked me, ‘Why don’t you try for working in the Computer Department (known at the time as Electronic data processing or EDP)?’, because on the basis of a written test, the topper was to be given the posting in the Computer Department as Computer Operator,” explains Tiwari. However, luck was not favorable at that time and he got a posting in the ‘Time Office’ department as an apprentice and the salary was only Rs.150/-. He worked for a day and left the job without signing the Apprenticeship agreement. “Shortly after this, I was discussing about the job opportunity and expressed my deep interest in working in EDP with one of my friends who was working in that Textile Mill, and he challenged me saying that ‘Ambarish, only engineers can become programmers and getting into EDP is not possible for you’. I was nervous but eager to work in EDP and in May 1978, I had a life changing moment. I met a person I knew who was working in the EDP of the same Textile Midland I asked him about any opportunity in Depth replied with a question, ‘Do you know typing?’” Tiwari replied in the affirmative and the following day, he was on his way to meet the EDP Manager and based on his credentials in the Written Test that he appeared for a few months ago, he was asked to join the next day. “This day was a very special day for me and I started working there with full of energy. I wanted to learn everything in quick succession; hence, I used to stay back in office for another 8 hours, considering my goal to become a Programmer,” adds Tiwari.

Tiwari began programming and punching in a bunch of code all by himself. Initially his seniors were not always helpful, and that helped Tiwari push himself to get better and better at his job. “Much later, my seniors explained why they did not help me, saying, If we start helping you, you will never put your effort. This is not your problem; this is a common problem with everyone’. I realized on that day that effort needs to be made by oneself to improve skills, so I sincerely thank my seniors, because of whom I have reached at this position, says Tiwari.

There were a number of opportunities for the young man and in a few months time, he found his calling in Kota in Rajasthan and later Mumbai, known back then as Bombay, with two job offers at the IT department in the city. He first joined a Fertilizer Company in Kota and worked only for 3 months and then moved to Bombay, “Bombay was a wonderful experience. I moved to the city. The pay was also handsome, with good accommodation. Life seemed to be moving in a good direction,” says Tiwari. Until one fine day, he left a casserole of boiling milk on the gas stove. “By the time I reached home in the evening, my house was filled with the acrid burning smell of extremely hot metal and burnt milk,” he remembers. That day he decided it was time to pack his bags. He also wanted to settle down in his personal life so he returned to Kota.

Tiwari decided to set up his own business. “I came from a family where no one ever had ventured into business, but when I pitched the idea of beginning my own computer business, my family supported me,” he says. In the beginning of 1986, Tiwari started his own company, ‘Classic Computers’ and bought a computer which cost almost a lakh apart from an air conditioner which also had to be installed.“My parents, in-laws, elder brother and friends also pitched in to help me financially, “he adds. It was a one-man show for Tiwari for a couple of years, which he expanded by adding four new computers.

With the machines installed, Tiwari began doing rounds of various companies in and around Kota. He tried to persuade them to purchase computers and use technology to make their lives easier. “Every company had piles and piles of accounts and all of these were done in account registers. When I told them that the computers could solve their calculations and documentation process easily, no one seemed to be interested. They said that books and calculators were easier, cheaper, and did the same work. Who was I to argue with them?” he ruefully recollects.

He then decided to teach computers to people instead of just selling them the computers. Somewhere in 1986, J.K Synthetics purchased and introduced computers in their unit. “They purchased their computers at a far lower price than the computers I had purchased just 6 months ago. That’s when I thought I might have made a serious mistake in venturing into this business. But as luck would have it, a friend, Yashvardhan Saxena, who was working with J.K. Synthetics at that time approached me and asked me to conduct training programmes for the employees,” adds Tiwari. The catch for Tiwari was that these employees were all of different educational backgrounds. “They were also at different managerial levels,” he adds. He had to impart the same knowledge in as interesting a manner as possible. “The MD of the company insisted that everyone should become a computer literate. What followed was 2-3 years of training programmes at J.K. synthetics,” Tiwari explains.

During one such programme in the beginning, two participants decided to wait back after the session. “I was at first apprehensive because participants or anyone for that matter never stayed back after the class. I anticipated them having some doubts, but they just wanted to let me know that they found my classes really interesting,” Little did Tiwari know back then that the two participants were none other VK Bansal and PK Bansal–who would go on to become the scions of Bansal Coaching Classes at Kota. Back then however, the Bansal coaching empire didn’t even exist, and the coaching was done across a dining table and the literature was made by hand.

Following this incident, Tiwari’s confidence soared and his computer training programme gained immense popularity. In 1997, J.K. Synthetics shut down its operations and there was a dearth of jobs, however, computer literates were in demand because having computer skills, meant they were better than a lot of others. Tiwari was the senior-most in the city at that point, which was able to impart computer knowledge to anyone who needed it. At some point in the early 2000s, Bansal Classes at Kota gained immense popularity. “Within 3 years time, Bansal Coaching classes’ students secured the All India Rank 1twice. This helped build the reputation for Bansal’s. As they started getting a lot of students for coaching of IITJEE from across the country, Tiwari was approached by PK Bansal to help sort out the mess of the admission process. Tiwari not only sorted out the problem of handling thousands of application forms and fee receipts, but also introduced online applications for admission. “After we introduced online applications, BITS Pilani – one of the best engineering institutes – introduced online admission the following year, an idea that has now gained immense popularity,” he adds with a hint of pride. He set up the entire IT department at Bansal’s, introduced computers in many big and small companies in Kota.Most businesses switched from paper to computers, and they had Tiwari to thank.

And there’s been no looking back. From a commerce grad who had no idea what a computer was to being Kota’s most sought after computer genius, Ambarish Tiwari (Sr Vice President, Bansal Classes Pvt Ltd, Kota) proves that a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck can take one a very long way. He adds, “The students these days expect a lot of help and spoon feeding. A lot can be achieved with sheer hard-work. Life isn’t easy, but if students are determined, they can take on any challenge. With the amount of technology available, it’s a lot easier but determination is what ultimately matters,” concluded Tiwari.