Every child is different and endowed with some special skill. Realising and sharpening these skills can make them winners for life. A Co-curricular program, such as SmartQ, addresses this requirement. In an interview with Rajnikant Rao, Founder, SmartQ shares the brands success as well as aspirations from franchising.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us your entrepreneurial journey? Brief us about the inception, growth and success of SmartQ?
Rajnikant Rao (RR): Being a parent of two children, I have often felt the anguish of whether we are providing the very best to our children in terms of preparing them with life skills. This, together with the instructional design skills built over the years, prompted my wife and me to design a program that would add some abilities to children that are beyond the curriculum. Setting up over 50 centres across 15 towns in the first two years of operations has given us the right spring board to confirm our belief in the program as well as its franchisees. This initial success has provided us the appetite to grow further.
AG: Co-curricular programs are becoming more and more popular. What according to you can be the boosting factors for this change?
RR: Every child is different. This is caused by their genes, their upbringing, the environment and their own experiences. The schooling system, rightly or wrongly exposes them to a set of pre-determined concepts and skills. This often creates two distinct groups: those who do well in studies and those who do not. As adults, most parents, realise that other skills, if honed, can prove to be winners in life; we call them life skills. Co-curricular programs, such as SmartQ, address that gap. Moreover, Parents can choose these programs based on the perceived interests of the child.
AG: What is the USP of SmartQ? What according to you makes it different from other co-curricular institutes? What all programs do you offer in your wide portfolio?
RR: We have designed the program in a manner that the child does not view it like another subject. Rather than the conventional coaching style this is very participative; a do-and-learn method. It delves on discussion, reasoning, challenges and debates. No child, however, reserved by nature is left out of the activities in the class-room. Children love it because there is no homework and they seem to have lots of fun in class. Moreover they do not realise that very subtly there is curiosity building; ability to think logically; development of their competitive spirit with this program.
AG: When and what inspired you to take the franchise route for the expansion of SmartQ?
RR: When we designed the program we were clear that it should be an inclusive program rather than exclusive. Our program fee and multi-tier pricing is a testimony to that. We truly believe there are numerous folks in every corner of our country who feel passionate about education and would love to be part of the SmartQ family. Because of their proximity to the ultimate customer – the child (or Parent) – they are better suited to create a whole new generation of children who are more ready for the world.
AG: What is your New Year resolution in terms of the expansion and development of SmartQ?
RR: We have just completed Phase 1 of our plans; we are now embarking on the next step when we hope to be present in over 50 cities by the end of this calendar year.
AG: Do you face any competition from other organised brands? What strategies have you developed to face this competition?
RR: Competition is part of any economics and is much needed. It helps keep us to innovate and make the program better and more beneficial. Our strength is our franchisees who as an extended arm of our organisation give in their very best to ensure that the objectives of the program are not diluted. We believe that with the right support and enhancements to our program we can stay ahead of others.
AG: What are your future plans in terms of expansion through franchising? Where do you see the company after five years?
RR: Since inception we have been running a pure partner model. There are no company run centres. We have developed a SmartQ @ Schools curriculum too which, again, is being offered via our franchisees. It would be a dream come true to have it in every school.
AG: What are the qualities and the criterion for the selection of your prospective franchisees? How much investment is required by them?
RR: The most important criteria to become a SmartQ partner is passion towards education. There should also be a general liking to work with children. The partners must have the ability to communicate the program (trained by us) to parents in the vicinity of their centres. We truly believe they are our partners and hence our model is one of revenue sharing. They share a slice of the revenue they earn. The initial investment of Rs 25,000 is used to help them initiate themselves into the activity.