The winning eleven: Getting them while they’re young

TRG fed up with incompetent university grads; hires high school students and educates them its own way.

Omair Zeeshan August 10, 2011


Rabee Javed is a 17-year old who is making Rs80,000 a month for working at one of the largest tech firms in the country. His intermediate results are not even out yet and the Karachi Public School student is earning more than most people twice his age. This is not all, after he works three years for the company, he will have a fully funded education to any international or local university of his choice.

Rabee is one of the eleven students selected by The Resource Group for their TRG genius programme.

The Pakistani multinational, that sells call centre optimisation software and other back-hand services, has not been able to find human resources smart enough for software coding due to the brain drain and other educational infrastructural quirks.

The few that they do find from the good universities in Pakistan – barely two per class – are not enough. This combined with the high attrition rate at their company, as coders go abroad for higher education two to three years after they join and never come back, presents a shortage of human resource that the company has found a very unique solution for. The solution could revolutionise education and hiring in the country if it does as well as they plan.

The outsourcing giants have developed a business model in which instead of waiting ten years for students to develop, they are going to single out the smartest students in Pakistan right after secondary school and give them an entire education within four months and make those students productive within a year.

This is not just about TRG’s single minded determination to get quality human resources, if the business model works, they could probably export the prodigies to different parts of the world, and also capitalise on it.

“TRG’s genius hunt programme is designed to find the most gifted and talented high school students in the country and then give them concentrated and practical exposure to the sciences, arts and tools required for them to succeed in the most complex commercial challenges.  If we succeed, we will change the paradigm of education in Pakistan for those pupils who are the intellectually elite,” said The Resource Group Chairman and CEO Zia Chishti. TRG is taking no chances with these young adults and has prepared an elaborate gauntlet to ensure that they only hire the best of the best. The battery of testing begins with an IQ test, the Mensa. Around 2,000 different students from 11 different colleges in Karachi gave this test.

The Mensa IQ test whittled these 2,000 hopefuls to a mere 30. The thirty students tested their mettle against TRG’s own tests which included tests for pattern recognition, and analytical ability. After these gruelling tests, only 11 students were left standing.

“Around 180 million people live in Pakistan … within such a large, genetic mix there must be 100s, if not 1000s of potential Einstein’s or Abdus Salam’s waiting to be discovered,” said the firm’s Executive Director Rahim Lalani.

This could really set the trend for developing and honing talent in developing countries – with Pakistan leading the charge in making it happen – if the company could nurture this resource.

TRG officials are not going to make the lives of these eleven kids any easier. The company has informed their parents that they are going to be working with these kids to the bone amid exotic working hours. However, with the pay scales being offered, none of the parents had an issue.

Since then, these kids have undergone hefty training sessions by people including chief statistician of the Nielsen company, James Spottiswoode who was also director research at the World Bank.

To improve their language skills, TRG has hired Naz Ahsanuddin, an English instructor who has been teaching at Karachi Grammar School since 1971. These geniuses are also going to be taught by Ivy League grads that fill most of the company’s upper echelons. A fast track training programme will be given to the mighty eleven which will cover the entire A-level further mathematics course in four weeks and another one which will sum up the computer science degree, that is taught to these students in four years, will be covered in four months.

After that, these TRG geniuses will start working on data analysis, artificial intelligence, algorithms and statistics for the company. TRG expects that the first year will be mostly spent during training, the second year will yield some returns while the third year will be serious work and payoffs for the company. The company has committed a million dollars to this project and are expecting to make hefty returns.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.