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The Scholar Son of a Beedi Roller

Amidst the scent of beedi tobacco and the weight of family loss, Saikiran Nandala's journey from a small village to UPSC AIR-27 is nothing short of inspiring.
Indian Masterminds Stories

In the small village of Velichala in Ramadugu Mandal, located about 15 km from the district headquarters, a young boy named Saikiran Nandala embarked on a journey that would inspire many. Born into a family grappling with financial challenges, Saikiran’s early education began at Teja Residential School, where he studied in Telugu until the 4th grade. His transition to English medium in the 5th grade marked the beginning of a remarkable academic trajectory.

OVERCOMING EARLY STRUGGLES

Saikiran’s life was far from easy. After the untimely death of his father, Kanthaiah, during Saikiran’s engineering studies at the prestigious National Institute of Technology (NIT), Warangal, the family faced severe financial strain.

His mother, Laxmi, worked tirelessly, rolling beedies, to support the family. Despite these hardships, Saikiran excelled academically, completing his schooling and pursuing his Intermediate education at Trinity Junior College in Karimnagar.

“My father was a migrant laborer, and my mother used to roll beedis in a beedi-making factory. Both were daily wage laborers while I was studying at NIT Warangal during that time. Even though the family income was meager, they never compromised with my sister or my education. I studied in small but good schools. They compromised with their things and happiness, but never ours,” he shared with Indian Masterminds.

A SCHOLAR IN MAKING

His academic brilliance was evident as he secured a CGPA of 9.8 in class 10th, earning him a scholarship for his 11th grade, including accommodation. His stellar performance in the 11th grade, where he scored 461 out of 470, secured another scholarship for the 12th grade.

“These incentives motivated me to work harder so I could get opportunities for more free education and not bother my parents. After 10th grade, I never took money from home for my studies. When I got selected for NIT Warangal, I took a student loan and also got a scholarship from the state government. That’s how I completed my B.Tech,” stated Saikiran.

A SCHOLAR’S DETERMINATION

After graduating with a B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering in 2018, Saikiran secured a job as a hardware engineer with Qualcomm in Hyderabad. However, the sudden demise of his father when he was barely 17-18 years old left a huge void in his life and placed the responsibility of his family on his shoulders.

“My biggest source of motivation was my father. Even with no educational background in the family, he inculcated this thought in me that only if we study hard can we become someone respectable in society in the future; all our miseries would go away and we could flourish in life, only through the means of education. He also inculcated a sense of service to mankind in me,” he shared with Indian Masterminds.

JOB VS UPSC PREPARATION

Despite landing a well-paying job, Saikiran felt a deeper calling towards public service. The idea of joining the civil service, where he could make a tangible impact on society, captivated his heart and mind.

“I started preparing alongside my job as it was after a very long time that our family’s financial condition was improving, and I could not let all of that go in vain while I prepared for the UPSC CSE. It was extremely challenging for me as my job was also demanding in nature, and I had to sacrifice a lot in my personal and social life, but somehow I sailed through the waves,” stated Saikiran.

BALANCING WORK AND AMBITION

In May 2021, Saikiran began his preparation for the UPSC exam, leveraging online study materials, notes, and insights from interviews with previous toppers. Despite failing in his first attempt in 2022, where he reached the interview stage, he remained undeterred.

Determined to succeed, he made a pivotal decision to quit his job and focus entirely on his UPSC preparation. This dedication paid off in his second attempt in 2023 when he secured an impressive All India Rank (AIR) of 27.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT PATH

Saikiran opted for sociology as his optional subject in the UPSC exam, despite his background in electronics and communication engineering. His interest in sociology stemmed from its broad perspective on society, offering him a refreshing break from his usual technical subjects.

This choice reflected his keen desire to understand and contribute to societal dynamics, aligning perfectly with his aspiration to become a civil servant.

THE INTERVIEW EXPERIENCE

Saikiran’s interview experience was particularly memorable, not just for its content but for the unique way it unfolded. Knowing about his love for football, the interview board engaged him in a conversation about the sport.

He was asked about the famous football song “Waka Waka” and its singer, Shakira, as well as her relationship with Gerard Piqué. Saikiran’s prompt and knowledgeable responses turned the interview into a lively and enjoyable discussion, adding a personal touch to his journey.

TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY

Growing up in poverty, especially after his father’s death, Saikiran used education as a powerful tool to rise above his circumstances. His journey from a humble village to securing AIR-27 in the UPSC exam is a beacon of hope for many.

Looking ahead to the future, Saikiran shares, “IAS is a very diverse job and I wish to identify and solve the public’s problem in every domain. I want to be very receptive to the issues and come up with ways to solve them in the regions I will be working. I also want to work towards inclusive growth so that I can provide opportunities for everybody to excel, especially by intervening in social sectors like education and health.”


Indian Masterminds Stories

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