With the passion to provide top-notch education and to meet the ever rising expectations of parents, Vidyalankar was set up way back in 1960. In an interview Vishwas Deshpande, Managing Director, Vidyalankar Group of Educational Institutes shares the growth of the brand and its franchise dreams.
Abha Garyali (AG): Brief us about the inception, growth and success of Vidyalankar?
Vishwas Deshpande (VD): Vidyalankar was started by my father, Prof CS Deshpande in 1960. Rising from a humble background, he carved a niche for himself in the nascent field of education.
I joined my father in 1992. Both of us worked as a team and strategised the growth plan of Vidyalankar. Year by year we saw substantial growth, and from a single class room set up in 1960, today, Vidyalankar runs multiple centres across Mumbai and is now expanding across the state of Maharashtra.
AG: In the last few years the education sector has really grown. What is the USP of Vidyalankar?
VD: Each teacher at Vidyalankar is passionate about offering the best to the students to meet the parent’s expectations. Therefore enabling students to achieve their true academic potential by providing quality education at the best price is Vidylankar’s USP.
AG: Vidyalankar is a Mumbai based education centre. When and what inspired you to take the franchise route for its expansion?
VD: We had been getting proposals to set up franchisees even in the past. Interested franchisees would tell us how in smaller towns and cities, there was a lack of qualified teachers who could train students for highly competitive exams like IIT JEE. It is extremely difficult to find, recruit and sustain well qualified teachers in smaller towns. Therefore we wanted to come up with a business model where we could ensure that the best of faculty from Mumbai to reach students from the remotest part of India. We have already launched this business model successfully in Aurangabad and Pune, and we are in the process of appointing franchisees in other parts of Maharashtra.
AG: Do you face any competition from other organised brands? What strategies have you developed to face this competition?
VD: Competition is an integral part of life. Healthy competition fosters innovation, productivity and growth. It creates a win-win situation for both the consumer and the service provider. As I said earlier, devising systems and processes to continuously upgrade quality is an ongoing process in our organisation. This of course benefits the students the most, but also gives us that extra edge, and our competitors a run for their money.
AG: How many franchise centres do you have till now?
VD: We are currently operating through 16 centres (13 company owned and three franchise owned) and servicing close to half a lakh students. This being the first phase of setting up franchisees, we do not want to rush into it. We want to be very selective in identifying our franchisees, ensuring that they share our values and passion for education.
AG: What are your future plans in terms of expansion through franchising? Where do you see the company after five years?
VD: We see ourselves becoming a major national player, by providing quality education, using cutting edge technology. We plan to set up a network of 100 franchise centres (pan-India) in the next five years.
AG: What according to you is the scope for aspiring franchisees in this business? Is the future bright in the years to come?
VD: Analysts estimate that the current test prep segment (coaching for competitive exams) is about Rs 8,300 crore in India, and is expected to grow by about 100 per cent in the next three years. There is an infinite scope to upscale education throughout India. We believe that branding and franchising are the two strategic tools for growth. Having been in the field of education since the last 51 years, we can surely say that education is a recession free sector which offers very good business opportunities and high returns on investment.
AG: What are the qualities and the criterion for the selection of your prospective franchisees? How much investment is required by them?
VD: We believe that attitude matters more than anything in a joint endeavour. We are looking at entrepreneurs who share our passion for education and who can be valuable partners in our story of success. Besides first time entrepreneurs, our franchise model is also suitable for existing tutorial centres who want to enter the IIT JEE training segment and schools / junior colleges who intend to start an integrated program to synchronise IIT JEE and Board Exam preparation within their premises. The investment required to start a Vidyalankar franchise would be around Rs 18 to 20 lakh.
AG: What are the challenges that can be faced by a franchisee in this business? How can they overcome these challenges?
VD: When we talk of education at Vidyalankar, we are very clear that we are dealing with students and parental aspirations all the time. We understand that parents have entrusted their child’s academic responsibility to us, and we leave no stone unturned to ensure that the student is given only the best. A franchisee wanting to enter the education space must not only understand this aspect but also be willing to sincerely and very genuinely work towards the betterment of the students.