Entrepreneur & Alternative careerists

Deepu Krishna on starting up with DK Studs, cracking CLAT and authoring a book

deepu-krishnan-1Deepu Krishna graduated from NLIU, Bhopal in 2006. Currently, he is the Director of DK Studs, a law entrance preparation coaching. He set up this institution after working with a law firm. We asked him about:

  • Starting up with and building DK Studs
  • Advice to law students who could’t make it to top NLUs
  • Skills to crack CLAT
  • Authoring ‘Lexis-Nexis/DK STuDs CLAT’

 

The career of a lawyer in India is still just a backup option for most students. What motivated you to choose law as a career? Did your family and friends not suggest you to go for Engineering or Medical Studies?

As a child hailing from a middle-class family, I was often commended by my parents for my ability to come up with prompt and witty conversational replies and reactions. This was indicative, according to them, that it was the black and white that was the uniform most apt for me. When I was in the 10th standard, I made one of the most rebellious decisions of my life, by opting for Commerce even though I had obtained good marks in Maths & Science.

I remember being called by my cousins, who are from the IT sector and live abroad, threatening to disown me if I took up commerce. My decision was perhaps considered this rebellious since I belong to a traditional South Indian family which believes that “Engee’nears” are the most gifted creations of god on earth. However, being the stubborn lad that I am, I opted for Commerce because I knew I wanted to do Law and prove each of my disbelievers wrong. I researched extensively and a cousin of mine from Bangalore helped me prepare for the National Law School entrance exams. I remember now that the one thing that motivated me to study was the fact that one day I would to be my own boss and work in an office where I set the work culture and not be just a part of the crowd. I dreamt of owning an SUV before I turned 26.

I planned to relieve my Father from all burdens after his retirement, which included not taking any financial aid form him for my higher studies. I even vowed to marry the girl that I had liked right from my childhood. My Friends called me too mature for my age of 17, but I had to just that after I lost my brother in an accident and. I knew that being an average student, I could achieve my goals only by pursuing Law. Today, I am proud to say that I accomplished all of them. I appeared for NLSIU and NLIU, and I was successful in getting admission in both. However, I opted for NLIU as I had lost my Brother the previous year, and my Mum wanted me to stay back in Bhopal, rather than go to Bangalore – the city where my adventurous personality had resulted in me breaking my limbs. This was the one time that I finally listened to them, unlike in the past.

 

Tell us about your life at NLIU-Bhopal?

In the first class I attended at NLIU Bhopal, our then Director, the legendary Professor V.S. Rieki bellowed in the class, his words of advice : Law is for smart students and those who feel they can handle pressure, however remember that you have to live the life of a hermit and work like a Horse”. Within months after understanding the curriculum and the set conventions inside the law school, I did decide that Prof. Reiki was right, however I would also enjoy my life like a law student. I take pride in saying that I have been taught by one of the best faculties in the history of NLIU Bhopal. Prof. V.S. Reiki, Prof. Moolchand Sharma, Dr. Ghayur Alam, Prof. Surya Deva, Prof. Rajiv Khare. Prof. Uday Pratap Singh, Raj Shekhar Sir to name a few who have not only shaped me as a law student, but also been a law mentor. I am nothing but an amalgamation of all these legends.

I have no shame in saying that I do copy their style of teaching and I suppose that makes me whatever my students call me. If I have to sum it up in one word, I’ll call it “Renaissance”. It was a completely new “Me”. I came from an all-boys school and was totally shy, lacking both confidence and public speaking skills. My world started with Bhopal and had Bangalore in its dreams. My reasoning was confined to the then MTV and Zee classic shows. The Constitution and the Rights I had known till then was confined to what my Civics classes had taught me. In just 6 months, my Dad observed that there was this “Class” in me. From peer to parents, everyone recognised that I had transformed into someone everyone could now look upto.

A remarkable incident was when my friend, a commerce graduate, called me to train him for his IIM GD-PI interview mock drill and asked me to train him. He was a graduate back then, and I was still an undergraduate but he was of the belief that my interpersonal skills had graduated much above him, and that I could train him to be like “Me”. This was the one moment when I got a hint that training was an alternate career I could consider. As a student, I was average student who used to score average marks in subjects I disliked, like CPC and exceptional marks in subjects I loved, like Constitutional Law, IPR, etc. Another major positive I gathered from my law school life was the politics and backstabbing in Law School, since it made me ready for the life ahead. I used to lament on my decision to take up law, since I had good friends in school, and here everyone was mean and selfish. But once out of law school, I faced bigger betrayals, not once, but thrice in my career. Things got ugly to the point where a cartel published a malicious, defamatory and paid article in a yellow paper, to shake the monopoly I held. They did achieve their objective, but they couldn’t break my spirit. My students used to ask me, “Sir, how do you handle these things and still work with all your might?”I would reply, “In Law school they trained me for these things as well, and even if I do get affected, I know how to bounce back.”

 

Law school can be monotonous at times. What did you do to keep yourself busy? What activities did you participate in and how did they shape up your career decision?

Well, I don’t agree with the statement that it can be monotonous. It may be true for those who want to remain only with books and spend the majority of their time in the library. My law school life was completely different, as I said, thanks to my mentors who told me that studying law is beyond books, and is more practical. I did most of my projects using the empirical method, which was fun and educative. I remember going to a red light area for one of my projects and coming back crying on achieved through the legal system. I realised how women in our country, though worshipped and idolised, still struggle to achieve equality, be it inside a house or a Multi-million corporate office. As I was fascinated by Corporate law. I remember taking assignments on Transnational validity of laws on Bankruptcy, Insolvency, Formation etc. I made a few friends from Harvard Law School and Yale through a conference on the same.

Today, when I hear the Law ministry contemplating on these issues I do feel proud to have learnt and researched on those issues, which truly shaped my thinking. I never felt bored throughout the five years. Yes, I must not lie: when my friends from other courses were graduating when I was in the third year, there was surely this unnerving feeling that my graduation was so far away. Yet, I kept myself busy with many extra-curricular activities to subdue this agony. I am currently pursuing my L.L.M from JLU, and many ask me the reason behind this long break. Well, after getting placed and starting my own venture, I just felt that I needed to learn more and update myself. Thankfully, right now, I am working under very good patrons like Prof. Dr. C. Gurudutt, Prof. Dr. Yogendra Shrivastava and Dr. Shobha Bharadwaj Madam who have been rejuvenating my thinking. After graduation, I missed my law school and had decided to invest one year to upgrade myself and even now, I am involved with researching, and I plan to be a part of some seminars. This is almost an addiction for me now.

 

What kind of internships did you do while you were a student? Are there remarkable experiences during your internships that shaped your career choices later?

Well, they were largely Corporate in nature, barring a few that I did as a first year student with a few NGOs. I loved researching and advising, and in one of my Internships, I remember a senior advocate telling me that my interpretation skills are good. You can either be a good Judge or a Teacher. I used to observe a lot of things as a student and study their societal impacts. I had written an article on the Jessica Lal murder case, and one day, as an intern, I happened to meet Mr. D.P. Yadav, since the advocate whom I was interning with was counselling him. I still remember the interactions between both of them, since I witnessed how Law can make the powerful kneel before it.

If you ask me about the most remarkable internship I had, it has to be the Judicial clerkship I did with Justice B. N. Shrikrishna. Sir is a legend. He is a Sanskrit scholar and each evening after work I remember sitting with him and discussing Constitution of India , the principles of Law, comparing and analysing them in the light of Upanishads, Bhagwad Gita etc. He had written an article on Maxwell v Mimansa, and I still use it in my constitutional law classes to give students the insight on the spirit of law. I had a deep interest in Hindu religious philosophy and Sir, being the scholar that he is, enhanced my curiosity. He used to teach us how a point of law is deliberated, discussed and decided.

He told us why study of law is a power, a power to determine what is right and wrong in the society. He is such a good human being, He was so compassionate. He knew that we were living away from our parents, so he used to make us have lunch and dinner with him so that we didn’t spoil our health through junk food. I learnt a lot from him. I suppose that the mentor that students adore in me is because of the skill of being compassionate, considerate and warm hearted to a student’s curiosity, which is something that I learnt from Srikrishna Sir.

 

What are the skills you have learnt at internships and you could not have learnt otherwise? Do they still feel relevant to you?

Well, Internships do teach you a lot. Outside the office: Firstly, if you are in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, you learn how to be street smart. If you are in a Metro like Delhi, you learn how to handle pressure and power from people possessing it. Inside the office: well it depends what on the kind of associate you are assigned. One of the primary lessons that I learnt was that, in a firm, there is a reporting time, but the time out depends a lot not just on your boss’s mood but also upon the nature of work you have been assigned proportionate to the deadline given to you. Internships tell you specifically that law is more than what the book reads. Internships are your gateway to a job placement if you do them correctly and with diligence.

 

You worked with a law firm before starting DK Studs. What made you make the jump?

Well, in short- The creator of Law entrance prep in India- Sachin Malhan. I remember him convincing me over a coffee why it was his belief that I was not just a good teacher but also had good managerial skills. He told me how what we do is not just teaching but changing lives and giving children an option to explore the growing field of study.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy corporate litigation. Justice Ruma Pal had once praised me openly in the court room for my eloquence and clarity. I remember giving a tea party at the Supreme Court canteen to celebrate the feat. But if you speak about job satisfaction, I did that feel teaching pulled me towards it more. The decision to jump came after a case I won for my firm. Quite contradictory, but yes, because by winning the case, I rendered a female aged 60 homeless. The same day CLAT results came and the All India rank 2 holder was my student. The joy these students shared won me over and I decided that I always wanted to be on the winning side and never wanted people losing.

 

Why did you decide upon opening a law test prep coaching? What motivated you to start DK Studs? What is the story of your start-up?

I always resist the notion of people calling me an entrepreneur- I would rather call myself an Acadprenuer {I have coined it myself}. You can’t be a business man if you are a teacher, a mentor. Business is not what you do with students. I would rather treat each of my student as a family. This trend of start-up has started in this pious field because more and more businessmen are venturing into it. They do treat it as business. I somehow can’t agree with that. Flipkart could be a start-up; Alma Mater could be a start-up.

When Sachin Malhan started law entrance prep, business was secondary for him. He quit Amarchand Mangaldas and was not a jobless person or from a family which owned a fortune. He quit it and started this entire industry because he felt for it. I remember him telling me that he likes teaching and each class gives him a different high. He knew his skills and the call from inside. I belong to that school of thought. I don’t have sales target, even a sales team to assist me. I don’t maintain relationships with the media or press and you won’t even see any of my ads screaming things which I can’t prove. Coming back to why I started “teaching and mentoring students at DK-Studs”, when I left LST, I remember it was because I had to attend to my dad’s health and a competitor was placing me as a National head with more jump in all forms in my home town. It was again Mr. Malhan who said “I would love to see you as a competitor rather than join one, you are like a brother, and joining the competitors goes against ethics and what I have taught you.”

When I came down to Bhopal, a school friend of mine proposed that we both start a partnership. With the confidence I had, we opened up a venture and in a single year managed to give Madhya Pradesh its first NLSIU selection and a ratio of 89% selection. We even made Hindi medium students successful in CLAT. The high it gave me cannot be explained. Today, I am associated with CLAT possible for our CLAT training, and DK STuDs is basically now a major educational services unit which caters to different needs of law graduates.

I am starting a programme “Lex Academia” specifically for those students who don’t get through CLAT; I feel they are similarly talented and just could not do justice to those 2 hours. This is my way of contributing to those who couldn’t clear CLAT directly or indirectly. I do hold myself responsible if they don’t, and this way, I can help them in becoming what they once dreamt of becoming-a good legal professional, even if not from a National Law School. If they decide to follow law as a career option, we have planned a course which shall train them in all the skills which make them a perfect law student, i.e. we shall train them on those skills which are required to survive in the profession. We shall also help them in placements and internships.

I have a dedicated team who are graduates from Harvard, London School of Economics, Cambridge, University Of Edinburgh etc., helping me out in this programme. I have started a small mediation cell called “Proxy-Path”, which is basically a venture by me, along with my students who have passed out of Law schools-some of them who are in fact still pursuing their graduation, but keep doing the clerical work. And, believe me, I am not doing this as a start-up. These are all dreams and we are just making them real. A dream I once saw sitting at the last bench of my classroom in NLIU – of leading similar minded people.

 

With so much of competition existing in the coaching and teaching field, what makes DK Studs different from its peers?

From my viewpoint I don’t have competition because I belong to the genre which created this market. As one of my student put it – you are the market, they devise separate plans of marketing against you and that itself is evidence of your stature. Today we are in a position at DK-STuDs that we select our students -you can’t get into this academy just because you want to. We don’t fill in large chunks of no-hopes who are doing Law just because their friend is doing it, or they love the parties in law school. We have an interview system, a Psycho metric test and a two week trial class and the student has to undergo our trials and only then we allow admission to them. This command we have is because we have already undergone the stage they are in, and currently we are in a position where we can afford to be this choosy. I told you that we don’t have a marketing personnel or department. There are no calls made by us or schemes that we come out with, like they do in a business enterprise. We don’t give discounts, (the term surprises me because one cannot give a discount on education!) we have scholarships which we give to academically proficient students and students who are from weaker financial backgrounds.

The scholarship is named after my late brother and so it is close to my heart. We are costly not because we want to be, but because I pay my faculties well and keep them content. There are institutes who are taking in large chunks of students and charging not even 50% of what we charge, and students do understand the difference when it comes to national ranking of CLAT possible in every mock test. Faculties with more than 9 years of experience with pan India fame teach them. Now the reason why DK-STuDs is different from its peers could be an unlimited number of things that I can boast about. However, I would just want you to deduce it from the fact that, when we started this firm, it was not as a business but as a craze, and a dream, something you will feeling every student and alumni of DK STuDs. Even the students that I have taught through my Youtube video are close to me.

Our Alumni is the strongest in any National law School and the camaraderie they share can even be seen there. Today, my students call all Bhopal is irrespective of any coaching, a Dk-Stud by default, which is in itself the evidence of how we are placed. As I was giving you this interview, I just received this information that an Alumni of DK-STuDs has been chosen as Miss India-New Zealand. We are everywhere and all we do is appreciate what good others do, get shocked on their mistakes and boasts and just smile on the way they compete with each other. I feel it’s not about being different. It’s just about delivering what you promise and we do that each year. On a personal level too, I am the happiest amongst my competitors. I have a family, and I give time to them.

I have a loving wife who helps me with my academy. When I return home, I have a 2 ½ year old son who welcomes me with selfless love. I am pursuing my Post Graduation with my own earned money. I do not belong to a business family and did not have a financial backing, but still made an academy out of my own hardwork, without anyone’s help. I never followed a trend, rather created trends in the market, which others follow, like we launched CLAT & Commerce under the same roof and people are trying to ape it already. I do everything I once dreamt of as a child, like owning portable gaming device, etc. Well, happiness and peace of the heart have been my biggest earning.

 

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What are your plans regarding DK Studs for the upcoming years? What are the top three things you would require to keep the growth sustained?

As I have already told you, the name of DK-STuDs itself means “My Students and I”. There are plans which I have with my students when they graduate, and the ones who have graduated are already working on that area. We have collaboration with CLAT possible and that is now really working well with the pan India connect we have. I contribute to their growth with my goodwill and they do appreciate it. Together we have become very strong. The other two projects I have on my mind right now are on task list. Again – I am starting a new field, so I am so pepped up about it. It is me helping the students who saw failure in CLAT realise that irrespective of any law school you are in, you can work magic with acquiring these skills that we shall teach. In Proxy Path we handled 3 cases and managed to get 2 of them reconciled. By the age of 40, I plan to enter freelance teaching, giving these projects to the able students I have. I already have offers from University of Wellington; they made the offer after watching my YouTube videos. I would want to teach Jurisprudence and subject of law at University levels on a freelance basis. I am designing few lectures for the same and my research, too, is on the same field. I have a deep interest in philosophy and would want to come out with my own theories in Political science and Global Justice. As I said, when I chose teaching, it was not that I did not have anything to do. I knew what I was doing. I had already planned my dream ahead.

 

Do you think CLAT scores are truly indicative of a student’s potential? What kind of aptitude do you think is necessary to crack CLAT?

No. Some of my real good students have not managed to crack it and some of my very average students have got through the best. I feel it isthose2 hours and the temperament you keep that counts at the end of the day. I read a lot of metaphysics and think that if you train yourself in the manner required to give you your best in those two hours, it is one of the easiest exams. But then, it is very difficult to be that sharp, and sometimes you just realise that in one go. Inside the campus, I have met students who don’t understand how they got in and don’t know how to survive. They just performed better in those two hours and got through, that’s the reality. My Endeavour with my new course “Lex Academia” is banking upon this feature, as I already told you. To me, any student who wants to create a strong career is more important than the horde which opts for it just as an option or backup

 

For GK and Legal Reasoning sections, how important is it to read the newspaper regularly? What sections should one focus on?

General knowledge requires interest, you cannot just cram and go. They ask you questions which are basic in nature yet they have some questions which require you to have a good deep knowledge. Cramming up current affairs won’t help, or even merely reading the newspaper or appearing in some quiz. If you are reading the news, you should have the ability to research and critically analyse it. You can do this only when you know the history, the backdrop from the viewpoint of science in some respects. Your geography has to be good to understand world polity. All in all, as I said, it’s about interest. If you don’t have interest, generate it through discussions and writing essays on the same. Debate on the issues concerning world polity and do not just read from the newspaper, read it in a very diverse manner. I recommend my studs to read “India after Gandhi”, and then read history. We discuss the Spartacus struggle against Rome and then how Rome is still alive and we link it to the Israel –Palestine issue. There is a lot we learn, and not just cram.

Legal Aptitude requires just a strong sense of power of application of logic, given to you in the form of principle. An ability to stick to the question at hand, and not getting deviated and answering it in the spirit of the question asked.

 

Students who top CLAT often claim that they never studied a lot; however many students who have, miss out on a good rank. Do you believe CLAT is all about innate skills, then? Or that a particular approach should be applied to clearing it? If yes, what should it be?

I already answered that it’s about those two hours and how you handle pressure. Students who read more than 8 hours tend to disturb their own inner peace- they have conflicts going on inside them and that takes a toll on them. Aspirited student is smart and he/she knows how to manage time, and not drain his/her energy in a futile manner. As I said- “Meta-physics”, you see. I don’t allow my students to sleep between 3-5pm (the timing of the CLAT exam) because I feel that they should be at their intellectual best during this time. It does work for the majority of time.

 

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Have you had students who were brilliant but still couldn’t make it to a National Law University? If yes, what is your message to those students?

I did have. My only suggestion: Law is a profession. If you acquire good skills, you shall always succeed, no matter which law school you belong to. Coming from a National Law School, you do get an easy start but if you are good with your legal knowledge and your skills are apt, you won’t ever be let down by this profession.

 

CLAT 2015 is probably going to be online; how do you think students should get themselves prepared for an online exam?

It maybe a farce. I don’t think it’s possible for it to go online. They weren’t even able to enforce a proper online registration, now if the exam is done online, it’s going to be a much bigger issue. Undergraduate examinations, especially exams like CLAT, are better managed offline. However, even if it is online, we are well equipped, at CLAT possible, to handle it. So that won’t be an issue, with students accustomed to online testing.

 

Do you provide any work opportunities for law students? Do you recruit undergraduate law students as part time faculty?

Undergraduates in my academy only teach students how to crack CLAT and how to attempt questions like they did. They don’t take full length classes. These sessions help students interact with those who have been there, done that. Work opportunities for law students and graduates – yes, as I said, I have already recruited some of my graduated students and with time, we shall have an army of them. And that’s an additional advantage of being a DK stud -I trust them blindly.

 

You came out with a standout compilation of study materials for students, which was one of the most sold books last year. How did you conceive the idea of the book?

Yes, the book is called Lexis-Nexis/DKSTUDs CLAT study kit. The idea was conceived back in 2006. I was unable to find anyone who could understand what I had visualised. Lexis Nexis, with its young management team they, realised what I was hinting at. We wanted to tap into the unexplored area and give students something to learn from even while at home, without having to join any coaching institution. The book is different in many different ways, one of them being the “FAQ section”, where the student can actually obtain answers to questions he/she usually has problems with, related to some subjects. In the Maths module, we have answered questions like “When should I attempt Maths?” amongst others. This year we are releasing the 2nd edition and once again, there will be surprise for the students once they buy the pack. For confidential reasons, I can’t comment on the same, however the new addition is very productive for students of CLAT.

 

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? What are the three great skills of an entrepreneur according to you?

I already told you I am not an entrepreneur. I am an academician who knows how to create core value systems, mentor students and work out an academy with these values. I am alien to terms like Baniya, Gujju, Sindhi style, etc., which people usually use to define business in India. For me it has to a lot do with the mantra that if you love something – work for it, and achieve it. I read a lot of Richard Branson and Robin Sharma, and have learnt a lot from them. I cannot enumerate any three – I just feel that anyone in my profession should follow some simple things like, maintain ethics, and be a slave to them. Set principles and standards, and always stand by them. In this profession students tend to become like you. They follow you. You are effecting change, so it means a lot. Become a visionary to them, rather than making them business-minded. Give back something to the society in any form that you can, in a pro bono manner.

 

Lastly, what would be your message to law students and young lawyers who want to pursue alternative legal careers or entrepreneurship?

Law is an endless field. Once you take up law, you shall always remain a student. So if you seriously have this urge to learn things and always remain updated, you have chosen the right profession. If you think that it’s just a way to earn money and live your life easily, that is not true. Your real life will start post law school. Law school shall make you ready for it, but only if you are willing to learn. For alternate careers, Law shall surely increase your capacity to think, comprehend and create. It shall stimulate your communication skills and shall surely make a better manager out of you {managing grades, moots, project submission, series completion, etc. is tough, so you need to manage them}. Venture into anything only if you feel like doing it. You shall always succeed. Don’t do it because someone else is doing and he has found success in it. We all have our core specialities – it could be teaching, it could be music, it could be just about anything. Pursue it, and you shall always succeed.

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