12 Shows Like Kota Factory You Must See

Kota Factory‘ follows the journey of Vaibhav, a teenager living through the pressures of preparing for JEE, one of the hardest engineering entrance exams in the world, in the competitive Indian city of Kota. The show, created by Saurabh Khanna and Arunabh Kumar, crafts an unusual — and realistic — academic atmosphere, resulting in a coming-of-age affair where academics take center stage.

The visually enchanting black-and-white Indian show first premiered on TVFPlay and YouTube before being picked up by Netflix. It received critical acclaim for its focus on the many personal challenges high-school students face due to personal ambitions, familial expectations, and the cutthroat nature of competitive exams. For viewers who enjoyed this on-screen depiction of an otherwise underrepresented section of student life, here are 10 shows similar to ‘Kota Factory.’

12. Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)

Gilmore Girls‘ is a television classic that centers on the relationship between single mother Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory as they go through the ups and downs of their lives in the small town of Stars Hollow. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show’s handling of slow-burning family dynamics is elevated by the personal growth of its leading women as they learn to live outside their comfort zones. The balance between Rory’s ambitions, her personal life, and the pressures of her elite prep school creates a solid parallel to the academic intensity in ‘Kota Factory.’ The intense focus on a student’s educational journey and the support system they rely on makes ‘Gilmore Girls’ a relatable watch for fans of ‘Kota Factory.’

11. Sassy, Go Go! (2015)

Also known as ‘Cheer Up!,’ this K-drama chronicles the lives of high school students who are part of a cheerleading club and often compete with their rivals. A creation of Hwang Eui-kyung, the series showcases the pressures of academic success, social dynamics, and the pursuit of personal goals. Like ‘Kota Factory,’ ‘Sassy, Go Go!’ highlights the importance of friendship and support systems amidst the stress of academic life.

The series emphasizes teamwork and the struggles students face in a highly competitive environment, mirroring the educational and personal battles in the Netflix series. The diverse range of characters with a common goal, as well as the emotional depth, provide a similar viewing experience for those who enjoyed the balance of intense and heartfelt moments in the Indian show.

10. GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka (2012-2014)

‘GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka’ is the live-action version of the cult anime series of the same name, that follows Eikichi Onizuka, a delinquent biker who becomes a high school teacher. Directed by Iizuka Ken, this television drama brings the original manga of writer-illustrator Tooru Fujisawa into the real world, exploring the challenges Japanese high-school students face in their educational journey.

Starring Takashi Sorimachi as the titular sensei, the Japanese comedy-drama sheds light on the impact a dedicated teacher can have on the lives of their students. The show shares thematic similarities with ‘Kota Factory’, focusing on the teacher-student relationship and the transformative power of education. Onizuka’s unique approach to teaching, questionable academic background, and ability to connect with students on a personal level echo the mentorship seen in ‘Kota Factory.’

9. Law School (2021)

‘Law School’ revolves around the lives of students and professors at a prestigious law school as they get entangled in an actual murder case. Directed by Kim Seok-yoon and written by Seo In, the courtroom K-drama reeks of advocacy in every frame. The students and teachers analyze the happenings in a detailed and accurate manner, thanks to the seriousness their institute induces in them. Like ‘Kota Factory,’ ‘Law School’ highlights the intense pressure students face under the mask of “preserving” the reputation of their renowned but demanding institutions, which often do not shy away from demeaning their failures. The legal drama’s focus on the rigorous academic journey and the moral dilemmas encountered by both students and faculty members resonates with the themes explored in the one about engineering.

8. Fresh Meat (2011-2016)

A British comedy-drama, ‘Fresh Meat’ is created by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, the heavyweights behind the legendary sitcom, ‘Peep Show.’ It follows six university students — Violet, Howard, Josephine, Melissa, Kingsley, and Jonathan — from different backgrounds who share a house in Manchester and attempt the fictional institute of Manchester Medlock University.

The plot explores their lives, relationships, and the various challenges that arrive and disrupt the little bit of comfort the group has in their university life. ‘Fresh Meat’ offers a humorous yet insightful look into the lives of university students, with a writing that puts personal growth above anything else. Like ‘Kota Factory,’ it portrays the ups and downs of student life, requiring them to adjust their way out of this long, difficult period, albeit in a more comedic tone.

7. SKY Castle (2018-2019)

‘SKY Castle’ is a satirical take on another toxic aspect of education that lies within the students’ demanding parents, who care more about the family reputation and lay unnecessary burdens on their kids. The K-drama follows the lives of four families residing in a luxurious residential area and their extreme measures to ensure their children’s distant success by interfering with their choices. Directed by Jo Hyun-tak and written by Yoo Hyun-mi, ‘SKY Castle’ became the highest-rated series in the history of Korean television.

The brave take ‘SKY Castle’ offers at the absurd amount of pressure in the South Korean education system parallels the situation in India, as seen in ‘Kota Factory.’ Both shows depict an unhealthy measure of competition, parental expectations, and the personal costs of the relentless pursuit of excellence. Moreover, both attempt to shatter the exaggerated significance given to big-name institutions — the SKY universities in South Korea and various institutes in Kota, India — which only really boost a student’s skills momentarily.

6. The Politician (2019-2020)

The Politician,’ created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, is a comedy-drama that aims to put a glass window in front of politicians and high school students, only for them to perceive it as a mirror. The plot follows Payton Hobart, an ambitious student who dreams of becoming the nation’s president and takes baby steps by participating in the student body election, filled with political maneuvers, personal drama, and ethical dilemmas.

The series satirizes the cutthroat nature of politics, even at a young age, and the desperate measures one will take to fulfill their dreams. Its intricate portrayal of the scholastic pressures one bestows upon their own head corresponds to the subtle satire found in ‘Kota Factory.’ The political ambitions of Payton parallel the academic aspirations of Vaibhav, highlighting their preparedness for uncharted territories.

5. Operation MBBS (2020-2021)

‘Operation MBBS’ is a fellow Indian web series that tackles the issues faced by medical students in the education system of the country. Written by Puneet Batra and directed by Amrit Raj Gupta, the drama revolves around three first-year students — Sakshi, Huma, and Nishant — at a government college, highlighting their journey through the exhausting and stressful world of medical education.

The series focuses on the trio’s various academic triumphs and personal issues as they work hard to succeed in a competitive environment. Similar to ‘Kota Factory,’ ‘Operation MBBS’ delves into the intense pressures faced by Indian students striving for success in a high-stakes educational setting. The realistic portrayal of student life, coupled with the struggles of coping with parental expectations and personal aspirations, creates a relatable narrative for viewers.

4. Kakegurui (2018-2019)

‘Kakegurui’ is the live-action adaptation of the hit eponymous manga by Homura Kawamoto and Tōru Naomura and the anime series it spawned. Set in Hyakkaou Private Academy, where the social hierarchy is determined by gambling prowess, the story follows Yumeko Jabami, a genius newcomer with a mysterious and compulsive desire for high-stakes gambling, shaking up the academy’s structure. ‘Kakegurui’ presents an exaggerated, absurd look at the competitive and ambitious nature of Japanese students from elite academies. The series goes so far in its gambling that the Hyakkaou Student Council President is often referred to as the most powerful person in the entire country.

Directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa, who adds an authentic touch to the otherwise unrealistic nature of the gambling manga, the series offers a unique perspective on academic competition, much like ‘Kota Factory.’ While the latter focuses on academic excellence, ‘Kakegurui’ explores the psychological and strategic battles within a high-stakes school environment. The literal notion of “do or die” and the protagonist’s unyielding hunger to challenge the system resonate with the themes of determination and resilience witnessed in ‘Kota Factory.’ Even though the former is not necessarily rooted in academics, its diverse characters keep proving their intelligence amidst the games.

3. Laakhon Mein Ek (2017-2019)

Translated as “One in a Million,” ‘Laakhon Mein Ek’ is another Indian web series about teenagers and their battle against engineering entrance exams. Created by Biswa Kalyan Rath, the story follows Aakash Gupta, who is sent to a strict coaching institute in a different state to prepare for the exams. In addition to the immense pressure and harsh realities of the competitive education system in India, the series also deals with the guilt a student feels and how societal expectations could take the form of a fear that shackles the very concentration required to eliminate it.

Like ‘Kota Factor,’ Rath’s coming-of-age drama also empathizes with the physical, emotional, and psychological turmoil students face. The realistic depiction of Aakash’s journey and the harsh environment of the coaching center mirrors the experiences of Vaibhav in ‘Kota Factory.’ Moreover, ‘Laakhon Mein Ek’ shares more than just thematic similarities with the hit black-and-white show, as the two are credited with shaping a new sub-genre on such serious issues, cementing its place in the growing OTT industry of India.

2. The Temperature of Language: Our Nineteen (2020)

This Korean series, directed by Ko Jae Hong, who also served as the screenwriter, is described as a ‘high-teen growth romance’ and focuses on a group of 19-year-old 11th graders getting by their high school years. The story begins with the sudden disappearance of the school’s top-ranked student just 100 days before the crucial entrance exams, creating a ripple effect among the students. The story is unfolded from the point of view of various relatable students. It builds up the mystery surrounding the missing Seo Eun Bin while simultaneously displaying her fear of failing to preserve the highest rank in the forthcoming test.

Every supporting character is given a designated strength and insecurity, ranging from excelling academically but struggling with trust issues stemming from past bullying to perfect students bound by their mother’s expectations. With its extended and diverse cast, many demonstrations of destructive forms of pressure, and the quest for identity, ‘The Temperature Of Language: Our Nineteen’ acts upon the shady side of studies analyzed in ‘Kota Factory.’ Both series craft a justification for the challenges students face and the way they feel ashamed addressing them.

1. Aspirants (2021-)

Created by Arunabh Kumar, known for ‘Kota Factory,’ and Shreyansh Pandey, ‘Aspirants’ follows the journey of three friends, Abhilash, Guri, and SK, who aspire to crack the Union Public Service Commission examination, another notoriously challenging test in India. The trio study at a hub for UPSC aspirants, where they attend coaching classes and engage in self-study sessions, battling all sorts of distractions. The plot intercuts between past and present timelines, showcasing their journey from hopeful aspirants to the eventual outcome of their efforts.

‘Aspirants’ also highlights the sacrifices such students make, the strain on their relationships, and the impact of socio-economic factors on their preparation. Like ‘Kota Factory,’ Kumar’s other creation offers a realistic depiction of the academic pressure and emotional turmoil accompanying students’ preparations for competitive exams. The show’s focus on friendship, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of dreams matches the core themes of ‘Kota Factory,’ reminding of the classic “hero’s journey” trope.

Read More: Where Is Kota Factory Filmed?