Aiming to nurture children and setting a healthy foundation for a learned society is Learning Edge India Pvt. Ltd that founded its pre-school, Little Elly. In an interview Vittal Bhandary, Managing Director, Learning Edge Pvt. Ltd shares his pre-school venture voyage.
Neha Gohil (NG): Shed some light on your entrepreneurial journey and brief us on ‘Little Elly’?
Vittal Bhandary (VB): I ventured into pre-school business as Salmiya Playschool in Kuwait. In the year 2005, when I visited India and started Little Elly on the same lines of Salmiya play school – Kuwait with some modification and new ideas to suit Indian conditions. Three company-owned centres were opened the following year to reach out to the kids of different economic and social backgrounds at the Bangalore City.
Today, Little Elly is recognised as the ‘most admired pre–school’ by parents that operate through innovative teaching methods that help in developing child confidence, creativity and encourage them to be eager learner.
I consider Little Elly as my meaningful contribution to society.
NG: What is the USP of ‘Little Elly’? How is Little Elly distinctive than other school chains?
VB: Our integrated combination of Montessori and Exploratory method, with multi age curriculum and concept methodology is Little Elly’s USP.
Little Elly centres are designed keeping children’s needs in mind, to facilitate the natural development process. Our concept rooms are like resource centres and the children are not confined to any one room.
Little Elly has put together a team of strong and diligent teachers and curriculum programmers. Teachers are specially trained through Initial Teachers Training (ITT) in order to facilitate child’s learning foundation. The Little Elly mentors undergo formal evaluations based on their performance. The aim is to identify individual training needs and to assist career development. The Performance Management program also helps motivate and enhance the confidence of our mentors and help them achieve their full potential.
NG: When and what motivated you to expand via franchising? What are your future expansion plans?
VB: The success of the first centre of Little Elly was the motivating factor and purpose of my expansion plan. Franchising is the ideal way to expand any business today, but it's not something to embark on lightly. Our expansion through franchising primarily means ‘exposing of Little Elly to many more children in every neighbourhood’.
Our future expansion plans are to develop successful franchisees across India.
NG: What kind of location are you looking for expansion in India?
VB: We are very happy, the way things are going in Bangalore. Considering the emerging economy of India, we are very vigilant when it comes to searching for a location. We are looking for strategic locations in the western, northern, and north-eastern regions of India and also in all tier I, II and III cities.
NG: Where all are you present in the country and how many franchisees you have?
VB: In 2005, Little Elly entered the Indian market in Bangalore (HO). After four years we have centres in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mangalore and Assam. At present, we are operating with 40 plus franchisees.
NG: What are your requisites in terms of skills, area and investment? What parameters do you follow for the selection of franchise partners?
VB: We are looking at passionate people with an attitude to work with children with the decent financial and educational background and more importantly that they should be teachable. We have a comprehensive training program which covers the basic skills to become a successful entrepreneur. We follow very simple tests to understand the skills and attitude level of the prospective franchisee. In general, they need to be focused and can work hard to achieve positive results.
NG: What kind of training and support you offer to a franchisee?
VB: We offer an excellent support service to set-up, launch and operate a successful pre-school with: Ongoing training logistic support to operate and conduct the school, enhance earnings through programs - summer club, winter club, day care and after school programs, polish the franchisee skills through specially designed motivational workshop, and training is also given for customer satisfaction and retention programs.
NG: What are the challenges that a franchisee faces in this business? How can they overcome these challenges?
VB: The challenges a franchisee may face are: hiring and retaining qualified and committed staff, intense competition, and growing cost of operation, high attrition level and administrative skills. To overcome the challenges the franchisees have to be positive, enthusiastic and polite at all times. Develop skills for day to day tasks, accounts, communication, problem solving and update regularly with knowledge of the pre-school industry
I believe: ‘if the attitude is right, then skill and knowledge can be developed’.