Recognising the need for quality-conscious training organisations for soft skills, behavioral skills and Workplace Learning & Development (WL&D) solutions, Athiya was launched. Chitralekha Narayan, Head, Operations Team and Director, Athiya Organisational Competencies (P) Ltd share the success and aspirations of the company from franchising.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the conception and growth of Athiya. What can you say about its success?
Chitralekha Narayan (CN): Athiya was conceptualised in 2004. It’s been eight years now that we have been around. We started with the aim to offer end-to-end Workplace Learning & Development (WL&D) solutions to companies. Athiya is conceived as a one-stop shop for the highest quality of non-technical training skills. I think we have been very successful so far. I found that there were not any quality-conscious training organisations when it came to soft skills / behavioral skills. So the team went about starting Athiya to fill this gap. The fact that all well-known IT & ITeS companies work with us; doors get opened for us in other verticals also; we are approached by international brands to partner with them in India, are all signs of how successful we are.
AG: What motivated you to start ‘Athiya’? When and why did you adopt the franchise route for its expansion?
CN: Athiya happened because we wanted to drive quality which we did not see while sitting on the other side of the table. We adopted the franchise route in 2011 because we wanted to expand geographically; more importantly, we wanted to offer our expertise at the grass root levels – in the colleges. Franchising also helps nurture entrepreneurs who are interested in our field of work. WL&D offers many opportunities to grow one’s business. Having said that, we did not want our quality to dip, ever!! So, we have offered a set of programs that are so water tight that quality can never fall.
AG: What is the USP of Athiya? How is it different from the other brands of its kind?
CN: The USP of Athiya is the fact that we have stood the test of time. We have seen huge changes in the WL&D needs of our clients and have responded to these faster than lightning. Another USP is the fact that one of our directors comes with twenty years of experience in WL&D. We are specialists, we are not an extension of an HR firm – we are not into recruitment and placement. We are simply a soft skills training organisation. We also do a whole lot of consulting for our clients– all in the space of WL&D. These are some of the things that are unique about us. We treat our franchisees as an extension of organisation i.e. partners.
AG: Where do you see Athiya in the next five years? What are your future expansion plans?
CN: Athiya will be well represented in every nook and corner of India, predominantly all major A and B cities. It would surely be a leading brand well known for changing the lives of thousands of students. It will be a front runner in creating a truly employable youth population, thus having a positive impact on the country’s economy. And all of this will happen because by then, Athiya would have established a robust, quality driven franchise network.
AG: What according to you is the scope for aspiring franchisees in this business?
CN: There are ample opportunities. If you take any town or city in India, you are sure to find degree colleges, from the general stream to the professional courses. Let us take a worst-case scenario: a small village / town with one or two colleges – even in such a place, our franchisee will be busy doing business – essentially training the youth in these institutions to be skilled professionals. The franchisee business model that we have created gives a huge chunk of the incoming monies to the franchisee itself. Our returns are pretty low as compared to what a franchisee will eventually earn. On top of this, the franchisee has a very reasonable investment to make – there is no infrastructure required at all. They can manage with just a home office. We have two offerings for colleges through our franchisees. One is Business English Certification from the University of Cambridge and second is the Campus to Corporate programs for students.
AG: How many franchisees do you have presently? What are your future expansion plans?
CN: We have just started exploring this division – and we’ve already appointed three franchisees. Our aim in this FY (2012-2013) is to appoint at least 20 franchisees; we foresee an exponential growth of this target in the coming years.
AG: What are the qualities and qualifications that you seek for in your franchisees? How much investment is required by aspiring franchisees?
CN: An investment of Rs four lakh is required. The basic qualifications that we seek are someone who can speak good English and who is absolutely passionate about changing the lives of students. The rest is something that we will take care – training the franchisee’s educators, orienting the team to our quality standards, our style of delivery, etc.