How five visually impaired students cleared CAT in their first attempt

Three of them secured seats in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, while the other two have received calls from 18 IIMs.
(From right) Sharath Kumar, Rahul Munnur, Daya Praveen, Akash Reddy and Vignesh Srinivasan
(From right) Sharath Kumar, Rahul Munnur, Daya Praveen, Akash Reddy and Vignesh Srinivasan
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Cracking the Common Admission Test (CAT) is a matter of hard work and sheer determination, and five students from Telangana – all visually impaired, got the knack of it. Rahul Munnur, B Sharath Kumar, Baddam Akash Reddy, Shivani Kottakapu and Daya Praveen cleared the exam in their first attempt. Three of them, Rahul, Sharath and Akash secured seats in one of the top business schools in India – Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad.

The five friends who studied at Devnar School for the Blind, Hyderabad, moved to Chennai to pursue their degree in Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology.

Akash Reddy recalls the day Vignesh Srinivasan, the founder of Mockat MBA coaching centre in Chennai, came to his college. “He told us about CAT preparations and IIM life and we decided to give it a try. We had separate classes at the centre and we were trained to visualise concepts and graphs in a faster way. We also did a lot of mock tests with scribe writers,” he told TNM. 

Technology is another factor that improved their learning experience. “We use applications like NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA), Job Access With Speech (JAWS) while learning. Those are screen readers which will read out everything that is on the screen. Thus we are able to summarise and interpret paragraphs,” said Sharath Kumar. These applications helped them to read news articles and books. 

Vignesh said that these applications, along other Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, have worked out best for these students. “During our times, it was braille and other things, but now there are diverse technological tools that are extremely helpful,” he said. 

The students also credit a major part of their success to Sanjana Pani, the director of the centre, who made this journey further easy for them. “Even though it was a bit difficult for me to learn sometimes, they were not hesitant to repeat the concepts, even at midnight,” Sharath told TNM.

CAT has 5% reservation under Persons with Disability (PwD) category, and they are given an extra 40 minutes to finish the exam. “Even though they get extra time, they need to be trained how to use it effectively. This includes their coordination with the scribes, ability to do quick maths and identifying important parts of the verbal section. We made sure they practise with their scribes regularly, so that they can set a pace, and all these classes were online” said Sanjana. 

Along with these two teachers, about 100 students from IIM Lucknow, IIM Vizag and IIM Mumbai volunteered for scribe writing. This made the process a lot easier, and each student got enough attention and practice. “This is the result of a team effort,” she said.

Pay it forward

Sanjana and Vignesh are alumni of IIM Lucknow, who worked in the corporate sector for a while. The couple started Mockat in 2016 and conducted offline classes initially. Post-pandemic, they completely switched to online classes, and now they coach about 500 CAT aspirants.

Sanjana said the idea of their coaching centre came from the work she did while studying at IIM. “I was a part of Bhavishya, the social initiative cell of IIM. Later, when we started this centre, we contacted the cell, and that is how we got the scribe volunteers. It was like a bunch of people from the same background coming together for a selfless act,” she said. The five students were trained for free of cost since they hailed from lower economic backgrounds.

Akash, Rahul and Sharath got into IIM Ahmedabad, while Shivani and Praveen have received calls from 18 IIMs. “They are waiting for the interview results, hoping to get into IIM Lucknow or IIM Calcutta,” Sanjana said. 

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