Shhh!! People are studying here

Shhh!! People are studying here

A young enrepreneur's idea of reading rooms is a big success in Laxmi Nagar

Ashish Ruwatia gives a patient hearing to the two students who just had a brawl. The `guilty' one is then transferred out from this reading room to another – both begun by Ruwatia a few months back in east Delhi's Laxmi Nagar.

Ruwatia, 25,  explains that this decision was an exception. Usually, it's zero tolerance to such  behaviour at his two reading room, both called Sixteen Celestial.

“I cancel their admission and send them away with a full refund,” says the young entrepreneur.
With “high operational costs and very little profit margin”, regular expulsions could prove bad for the venture. But Ruwatia feels retaining such elements would damage the very purpose for which he set up the reading rooms.

He caters to the need of students  preparing for competitive exams for separate study space, which they lack at their homes and coaching centres.

“Mind you, Laxmi Nagar has hundreds of coaching centres, not colleges. So, there are no reading rooms where you can continue studying after classes are over,” he says.

Students who come to his reading rooms say the environment is not conducive for study at their homes. Sandeesh Jain, preparing for CA, booked a 24-hour slot at one of the two centres even though he stays with his family in Laxmi Nagar.

“You can’t really focus on studies at home with guests arriving and other duties keeping you busy,” says Jain, who spends over 12 hours every day at this reading room.

Those staying alone in rented rooms say even the absence of anyone around is a distraction in itself.

“At home you don’t know when to begin studying. All the time is lost in ‘planning’ for it. You are either engrossed in browsing the internet or you think you would begin after a bath or food,” says Muksit Nadeem, another CA aspirant enrolled here.

“Watching all others around you study all the while gives a guilty feeling when you waste even a minute here,” says Raj Yadav, another student.

Ruwatia, once a management trainee with a five-star hotel in Delhi, shares how the idea of reading rooms came about.

Being spiritually inclined, he actually wanted to hold meditation classes and workshops on developing “successful mindsets” for youths.

He relentlessly visited coaching institutes in the area for two weeks, trying to get those running them interested in workshops for students. While everyone appreciated the concept, things didn't work out, he says.

He then decided to open reading rooms for students. He also took feedback from hundreds of students near Metro stations.

“I realised that this initiative could help me go ahead with all my plans,” he says.

Accordingly, the reading rooms have space for meditation,   workshops as well as cabins for training students in communication skills and personality development.

He gave his own touches to  interior designing of the large halls, which are accompanied by a dining space and snacks are available for a price.

The two air-conditioned reading rooms, with a seating capacity of about 120 each, have small desks with chairs. “You have space on the desks to keep your laptop and books, but not big enough to sleep,” says Abhinav Negi,   preparing for general competitive exams.

There are motivational posters on the walls, lockers to keep your belongings, plug points to charge laptops and mobile phones, and free Wi-Fi. The doors are soundproof and loud conversation is prohibited inside.  All you are allowed is study by yourself and conversation in whispers with your immediate neighbours. “For group discussion, you are welcome to exit the room and sit in the common area outside,” says Ruwatia.

Not libraries

His reading rooms are different from libraries.

“Several libraries in Delhi, with books on a wide range of subjects are available, but they serve more as source of books than as reading rooms. Many students do visit them to sit and study, but they are mostly located away from these hubs (for coaching class students)  and are not open 24 hours a day,” says Ruwatia.

Unlike libraries, his centres offer no books and you are expected to come with your own study material. Newspapers and magazines on current affairs though are made available to students at these centres, possibly the only ones of their kind in Delhi.

With his two reading rooms running to their capacity and a  growing interest among students in the workshops, Ruwatia is now looking to open more such centres in other parts of the city.