Academy of Applied Languages (AAL) is in an endeavour to improve the availability and accessibility of vocational courses in the Indian market. Looking for expansion AAL opted for the franchise route. Pankaj Agrawal, Co-founder and Director, AAL (GenNxt), in an interview speaks about the future aspirations.
Abha Garyali (AG): Tell us something about the inception and success of Academy of Applied Languages (GenNxt).
Pankaj Agrawal (PA): GenNxt is a truly global company with representation from UK, Switzerland, France, Brazil, Korea and India. GenNxt India came about as a brainchild of several academicians and industry professionals who got together in an endeavour to improve the availability and accessibility of vocational courses in the Indian market as well as in emerging economies like Latin America, China and Russia.
We started with AAL as our first venture because the need for languages and communication skills is universal across all industries and plays a pivotal role in people getting jobs or for their career growth. We conduct courses for beginners, BPO aspirants, customer service executives and also Directors and CEOs of organisations.
AG: What inspired AAL to take the franchise route for expansion?
PA: We believe that in today’s world, business success is all about speed and flexibility. We started with a clear vision of developing successful products and focusing ourselves on research and development as well as brand building. However, the reach to market was left to channel partners and web based technologies.
This clearly demarcates the responsibilities of the parent organisation and our commitment to our channel partners.
AG: Did you face any competition in the industry? What strategies you had employed for handling the competition?
PA: Any business, which lacks competition, is extremely risky and usually untenable. The beauty of being in the education business especially in India requires relatively low capital and the multiple opportunities to organise things and drive value for students (customers).
We have not developed any strategy to deal with competition because the market is so huge that all of us can easily co-exist. In fact, more players will only drive the market towards better organisation and professionalisation.
AG: What is the USP of AAL (GenNxt)?
PA: Our USP as GenNxt is the focus that we put on research and development as well as the quality of products that we render, which is truly international. At the same time we believe that education should be more about the inherent value of the courses and the tangible benefit that courses deliver to students rather than the frills of large infrastructure and high manpower. Therefore our centres are extremely lean and all people in our organisation are multi-skilled and multi-talented. We keep abreast with latest trends, technologies and methodology used in education, worldwide.
AG: What are the qualities and criteria for selecting the prospective franchisees? How much investment is required by these franchisees?
PA: Our prospective channel partners are self confident, enthusiastic people who have a flair and passion for education. We encourage women to franchise and have special offers for partnerships, which are owned and managed by women.
The investment is as little as Rs 3.5 lakh to set up the business. On the higher side investment is up to Rs 10 lakh depending on location etc. However, the returns in this business are fantastic.
AG: What are the future plans of the company in terms of expansion through franchising?
PA: We see many people proclaiming their plan in terms of number of centres to open. We strongly believe that each market is not the same and may not have the same needs. Therefore we do not paint all markets with a common brush. We research specific markets and very often turn down a franchise application for a city / center where we feel the partner may not be able to succeed.
Nonetheless we expect that in the next three years we will have a network of over 300 centers in India and 50 overseas. However the next venture, which is on the drawing board, is the National Sales Academy (NSA), which provides vocational courses in Sales and also conducts Sales Workshops for professionals in any industry.
AG: How many franchisees do you have in India and in which cities?
PA: AAL is headquartered in Gurgaon and we have centres in Delhi, Pune and Gwalior. We have also recently signed an MOU with institutes in South Korea and Brazil to work under the AAL brand in international markets and drive our growth in these regions simultaneously.
AG: How does the company support and train their franchisees?
PA: The fundamental elements in any franchising business are:
AG: What are the challenges that can be faced by a franchisee in this business? How can they overcome these challenges?
PA: The biggest success factor for any franchisee is the belief in business and the brand. Trust and belief in the product is visible to everybody. The same goes for doubt and uncertainty.
The second factor that people must understand is that no business is easy and we must be very wary of people making fantastic promises. In the heat and rush of franchising today people are selling unviable dreams and making big promises like guaranteed returns or some crazy ROI figures.