Mona Singh Vice President Sesame Schoolhouse shares how the brand is making its mark in early childhood care and education pan-India.
How has the pre-school segment grown via franchising?
I don’t think now we even need to debate why pre-school. With so much awareness about how brain development takes place before the age five, parents are already well aware that faster the child gets social exposure; the better it is for a child. Also, factors like working parents, the joint family system not being there, has fuelled the growth of this segment. Now, when we say why franchising pre-school and not other preschools, the factor that comes in here is all about quality. Franchising facilitates the brand to take their successful model across the cities. There are a lot of researches who say that the preschool market is moving from being an unorganised market to being organised. The branded players offer certain quality parameters across all their centres. The preschool segment has been complimented by franchising so well because the investment level is not too high. All you need to do is follow the guidelines. Also, it is easy to run a preschool as compared to other tech driven business format.
What is your USP?
We are a content developer across all media that includes videos, print, books, online educational games and that’s the strength we bring to the table. It’s the curriculum, the content and the way we treat children in our school which are the biggest differentiators. Our approach is not as a franchisor; rather it is like an educator. We implement methods that are tried and tested globally. We have 40 years of research experience. Everything that is a part of Sesame Schoolhouse, starting from the school supplies to the training modules – brings along a global perspective to it. How we treat the children is our first USP, our second USP is that we are global in our approach and our third USP is that we have all forms of content. We try to bring high quality, resources to the market to change the paradigm of preschool education.
What are the other products in your portfolio?
Apart from preschool programmes we have other school programmes. One is on Arts called Reflection. One is on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) concepts which we call Discoverer’s Club. We also have vocabulary and reading programme called Aanchoo’s Bookroom.
We are also launching an app which contains educational materials for our school students at present, which we will eventually expand to parents and other people as well. They can run all these videos and educational materials on their mobile devices.
What is your opinion about the contribution of the franchise partner in growth of the business?
Franchisees have a huge contribution. Because we are the ones who provide the SOPs, the curriculum and the guidelines and they are the ones who run it. That is why franchisee selection is very important. A good franchisee understands the value of what we bring and is also a very good executor. While we provide them ideas, they have to do the hard work on the ground. So having good franchisees that are aligned is the most important criteria.
What were the factors that led to a win-win for you as well as your partner?
Both the franchisor and the franchisee have to agree on all the factors like curriculum, safety, hygiene and high quality early education. The second is hard work. Some of our best franchisees are completely aligned with us on two parameters – how to run the centre and how to popularise the centre. Two or three of our franchisees have taken multiple franchise. In three years of journey in the preschool segment, we have 30 operational preschools and 20 more to join soon.
Please name some of your best working franchisees.
To name a few we have Bhagwat Nagar in Patna, Manikonda in Hyderabad, all our Bangalore centres and a new one to come up in Alwar.
For an absolute fresher in this business, what would be your advice to run the school efficiently?
Running a preschool is like doing any other business; the efforts have to be there. You need to study what others are doing and be prepared to work harder on the ground to make it a success model. It’s not like hiring some teachers and saying, I’ll be open half a day. You have to ensure quality. You have to popularise the centre. You have to be present all seven days of the week for parents to walk in.