Sweta Agarwal Beat All Odds And Became An IAS Officer

How Sweta Agarwal Beat All Odds To Become An IAS Officer

(Last Updated On: November 8, 2018)

Do you know how a grocer’s daughter from Bhadreshwar, Sweta Agarwal beat all odds to become an IAS Officer?

It is difficult for poor parents and for parents with limited income to provide financial support for giving higher education to their children. Due to this problem, many brilliant children cannot fulfil their dream in life. They have to cut their education at a certain level and find a job to support their family. They have to sacrifice their visions and that keep a pain in their mind for many years even after they became parents of their children. Because their age must be over to study and fulfil their dream or they may have other family problems. This is the real life of many people.

UPSC Examination

Every year UPSC conducts examination for various civil services. UPSC examination is not at all an easy examination to crack, but it requires hard work and dedication. There are many candidates preparing for UPSC and there are many not able to clear the examination. As they prepare for the prelims most of the aspirants will have questions in their mind like how to become an IAS officer, what to study, how to study well, etc. Real stories about the strategies IAS toppers used to follow will help you stay motivated and study well choosing the best books and proper methods.

Here is the motivational story of a grocer’s daughter Sweta Agarwal, became an IAS Officer. Click To Tweet

How Sweta Agarwal Beat All Odds To Become An IAS Officer?

Here is the motivational story of  Sweta Agarwal, a grocer’s daughter from Bhadreshwar, West Bengal, who became the state topper by securing 19th rank in the civil services exam, 2016.

Sweta Agarwal shares her story of grit, determination and fulfilling a dream. She takes pride in saying her parents gave her the best of education despite battling abject poverty, realising her dream of becoming an IAS officer.

When newspapers hit the doorstep of her family home in the sleepy town of Bhadreshwar, she had made it to the front page. ‘Daughter of Grocer tops state, clears UPSC with AIR 19’ the headlines splashed.

Most people didn’t know this was the third time Sweta Agarwal had cracked the competitive exam.

Sweta belongs to a middle-class family. She is the only child of her parents. Although her parents had the limited income, they tried the best they can give to support and educate their child.

Her father studied till class XIIth only. Her mother Prema studied till class Xth and after that, she got married.

In this Josh Talks video, she explains how one can become an IAS officer or what it takes to become an IAS Officer.

The Value Of Dreaming Big

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho’s famous words in The Alchemist

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt’

These are just quotes for us, but to Sweta Agarwal, these words were an anthem, pinned at the desk of her study. An anthem she not only marched to but made true.

Quotes Paulo Coelho - Eleanor Roosevelt
Quotes Of Paulo Coelho And Eleanor Roosevelt


Video Transcript


6 years back I had a coat pinned on my study desk when I was preparing for UPSC examination. Back then I didn’t know what it was true. But today I stand before you I know for sure it works.

Hello everyone, I am Shweta Agarwal, I am an IAS officer by profession. I am here to tell you my story, my journey to attending basic education and my journey towards achieving my childhood dream to become an IAS officer and in the process cracking one of the most difficult and most competitive examinations in the country, not once, not twice but thrice in a row.

Start of  the success Journey

So My Journey begins from a sleepy town called Bhadreshwar it in the Hooghly district of West Bengal. I was born to a conservative Marwari family my birth brought happiness to no one except my parents because I was the first born and I was lucky enough not to be killed as a foetus. so my grandparents badly want a baby boy and given ultimatum to my parents yato Ladka paida karo ya Ladka adopt karo. because one ka naam ke ladke Hai Aage badhte somehow my parents to the ground and decided against this.

Basic Education

Now the next big question was basic education. I give you a little background it is to help you to put things and context. I come to my family of some 25/30 people of which 15 are kids of my generation and I am one of the youngest. And before me, almost all my cousins especially female cousins either got married at the age of 18 19 or they went to the local Hindi Bangla medium school.

So when my parents understand that you want a proper English Medium of education for me there was a lot of Hue and cry in the family. My parents to understand because they always had suffered from this inferiority Complex because they couldn’t speak in English. I tried telling them it’s not so then that how the thought so they made sure they wanted to make sure that I get a proper English Medium School Education. Somehow I managed to get my admissions done in St Joseph’s Convent Chandannagar which is the which is a very good school in that area.

School Fee Problem

But there was a catch. The school fee 355 rupees per month and my father is practical unemployed. He tried it hands at various odd jobs, sometimes a grocery shop, sometimes this, sometimes that, but nothing worked. So he decided to work as a daily wage for some time so that even if he is able to on 10 rupees a day when you say from 5 or 6 rupees a day and somehow manage my school fee. And in Marwadi families you know we have this small custom whenever we get visitors or relatives they give 5 rupees or 10 rupees and tell us go and buy sweets. Now the 40 rupees diary milk right now used to come for 5 rupees back then. I never used to buy those sweets. I used to go and gift my mother that money and my mother used to collect all these 5/10 Shagun ka Paisa kahin se bhi kisi ek mahine ki school ki fee nigal jaye.  That’s how my friends my journey towards basic education started.

School Fest

I was in the second standard and there was a school fest. We were told in school that we have to bring money from home so that we can play games and buy food from stalls. I went to my parents this and my parents told me one thing they don’t have the money to give it to me so that I can go to the school festival. And I asked why? They told me we can give you just one thing and that is our effort to try and give you an education in the school. Beyond that nothing. And they told me Shweta education is going to be a biggest asset.

I was hardly 7-8 years old at that point of time. But the 7-year-old me understood one thing that if I have if I can help my parents and help myself in any particular way it has to be by studying hard, it has to be by becoming a good student in school. Because that will ensure that my parents remain motivated against all the voices telling them otherwise to continue my education in that.

College Education

Over the years I graduated from school and fortunately my parents’ financial condition also improved. Now this time for college. Because of good results in class 12 I managed to get a seat in St Xaviers College in the economics class. Now before me, no one in my family has never completed graduation.

So when I was about to leave for college my father’s brother told me ‘ pad lik kar karna kya hai, aakhir chokha bartan to karna hai. But I didn’t let myself effective by this. I came home I told my parents is what happened. And I just promised my father, my parents, that I will never let you down I will become the first graduate of the family. In 2008 I graduated from St Xavier’s College with the first class Degree in Economics and I was among the top 10 or 15 students in the university.


After college, I want to do post graduation and I did my MBA and I went to get a job in Deloitte. While working in Deloitte there was a constant naj. I was constantly reminded about a dream that I had, you know, dreamt of right when I was 5 years old. Now there is a police station near my home and I was as a kid I was very fascinated by the khakhi. I used to love the site of officers moving around in the khakhi.

Fascination with khaki

Little did I know this this fascination with khaki is basically the first stepping stones or baby steps towards my dream of becoming a Civil Servant. Over the years I just cherished and nourished my dream. As a class 12 student, I had gone to a government office for some work. I have moved around from one table to the other than to the other than the other after around half an hour 40 minutes the 17-year-old had got it so frustrated in with the lots of anger in my eyes I told them.

Little did I know what it takes to become a DM. Then that’s how I know that my dream. So finally in Deloitte, I decided this is now Or never and I put in my people. When I decided to quit, my manager tried to persuade me otherwise any quote figures “Shweta do you know around 500000 people interact more than 5 lakh people write the exam every year and only 90 90 become IAS officers. Are you trying to tell me that you putting your job for this?” I said, sir, “if 90 people make it I will be one of those 90.” And I know it is difficult but since when has easy worth it I put in my people.

The study of Civil Services

I came back to Bhadreshwar I enrol myself in a coaching institute attended a few lectures I quit. I got some yesteryears successful candidates number, call them up took some basic guidance and I started my studies. It was somewhere around June/July 2011. Till October my studies were going on fine. But somehow at the end of 2011, my preparation has lost the scheme and I was totally out of touch. I was in a very bad mental state.

There was n number of boys were telling my parents this is the age for her to get married. becaue all her cousins are already got married at say 19 she is already 24/25 what are you doing? My parents used to come to me and ask me what do you want? It’s been two months you didn’t study at all.  Even in that mental state my only answer them would be I know I am not in right shape right now but trust me I want to be an IAS officer. Have faith in me. I will become an IAS officer it’s just a matter of time.

Shifting to Kolkata

It was June 2012 May June 2012 time for prelims I decided not to go to that not study. My parents told me jake bait ke aawo. If nothing you get some experience. I think that was one of the best things sometimes the fear of failure should not stop you from going out there in time. I went there at exam. I need you I wouldn’t crack but I also knew that the exam would be correct. The right amount of hard work determination and preparation it could be correct. That kind of revived my self-confidence. I took the bold step of shifting to Kolkata. I took one small one BHK flat rented it out from staying alone there, doing all the household for studying. And in those two years, I realised how difficult it is for a girl to stay alone in the city where you faced questions towards the way to not in working, what are you doing all day long in the room.

2013 notification came and the entire syllabus is changed. There was panic all around. I decided come what may, I am taking this exam. I clear the problems means and in May 2014 inter results came out I secured all India rank 497 and I got Indian revenue service customs and Central Excise. I was happy because I made it to the list but I was at the same time because I didn’t get the rank of want to.

I decided to pick myself up to write the exam.

How To Achieve Success

Get to tell you something about success in a particular year does not guarantee success even in the prelims of the next year attempt.

Success in a particular year does not guarantee success even in the prelims of the next year attempt. Sweta Agarwal IAS Click To Tweet

So every time you decide to write a letter starting from scratch and it is a meaning of process you have to put in a minimum of 8 to 9 hours of study every day, not for a week or two, but for like years together. So the very decision to you know continues writing this exam in spite of having a service in your kitty. It is a very difficult decision to take mentally, emotionally, physically, everything.

Discourage by others

There was some voice is telling me it’s time for you to get married yar you already have cracked this exam Ab Kya Chahiye Tumko. To them, I used to say I can get married after 32 but I can’t write the exam after 32. I will not survive enough to celebrate 50th marriage anniversary but then I am definitely going to take this exam because after 32 I will not be eligible for the exam.

First time with Khaki

I took this exam again.  2015 results came out and I secured an all India rank of 141 and I got the Indian Police Service I missed IAS by 10 marks. But I was able to done with the Khaki. It was like coming back full circle because the dream has started with the khaki. Now there was it in a dilemma in my own self. For a moment I was like this, is it? Then there was something inside me that kept notching, no Sweta, it has to be IAS. You haven’t tried enough. So just to satisfy my inner voice I decided I will take one last attempt it would be the Now or Never. Because till your own self just telling you that you haven’t tried enough that means you haven’t tried enough. I took the exam. It was 10th may 2016 results came out and I got secured all India rank of 19. I was the West Bengal State Topper in it was after almost a decade that someone from West Bengal had gotten A sub 20 rank.

The conclusion of the journey

This is my friends my IAS journey, how I keep my childhood dream. In the process, I have learnt a lot. But the most important takeaways would be focus hard work, determination and preparation. So my journey began from the small town of Bhadreshwar. I was a girl with a lot of dreams and I didn’t want to settle for anything especially marriage.


I know a lot of people like me in the small towns and villages of India my message to all of you would be dream, dream big, back it up with your preparation and hard work and determination. There is nothing that can stop you from achieving your dreams because “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams“. And “you really really want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” And this was the quote that is spent on my study desk 6 years back. Thank you.

This transcript is created from the above video in Google Documents through Google Voice Typing. Errors in the transcripts are expected.


Sweta Agarwal cleared the exam only by doing her own preparation and made everyone proud of her achievement. Her success journey and the strategies she used to follow during her preparation will give motivation and guidance to many aspirants. She is a brilliant example of consistency and patience.

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Words of advice for civil service rankers

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