In an exclusive interview with Bindu Rana, Founder and CEO at Millennium Education Management Ltd shares her entrepreneurial journey.
Please share your entrepreneurial journey.
Although, I did not started my career as an entrepreneur but today, I am the founder and CEO of Millennium Education Management. We franchise three brands, namely, The Millennium School Brand, Universal Academy and The Mussoorie International School. I began my career working from the classrooms and gradually moved onto becoming the architect of the largest Research & Development initiative ever undertaken in the private sector space of education in India. I also created path-breaking research based teaching and learning methodologies that brought about a transformational and defining shift in the way curriculum and pedagogic thoughts have evolved in the lives of more than 250,000 children in the country. I have traveled far and wide and personally clocked over 75,000 training man-days, guiding teachers with innovative teaching and pedagogic strategies and then moved on to head one of the largest chains of private schools in India, with the overall responsibility for their P&L growth and success outcomes while managing a team of over 2,000 people. My journey has evolved through various experiences, developing various skills and sheer hard work. I have also worked for more than a decade with the largest education company in India, Educomp solutions.
Tell us what barriers you have faced and how did you overcome them?
As we live in a male dominated society and there will always a number of women who succumb to the stereotypical impression of what a women can and cannot do, the flip side is that men too have their share of pressure and the fear of failure looms larger on their heads than on women as expectations to succeed are higher for men.
I have faced various challenges, like breaking stereotypes and some logistic in nature. The stereotype challenges were as I am armed with four post graduate degrees, PhD and the path-breaking teaching learning systems I had innovated; it was not difficult to convince people of my intellectual ability. But, being physically petite, it was difficult to convince skeptics that my ‘slender’ shoulders would be able to bear the load of running a business. When I assumed the mantle of the head of the business, it was evident from the body language of some cynics that they felt I would not be able to deliver. While I was privately amused by their reaction, I decided not to turn around and tell them that looks can be deceptive. The strategy I adopted was to continue to be myself and not try to be the person they expected me to be in order to be accepted by them. Since people had no expectations from me, I could build myself as per own expectations. Then I worked hard, set targets for myself, treated people with dignity, patiently heard them out, helped them solve their problems, worked hand in hand with them and, over a period of time, my biggest skeptics were converted into my staunchest allies.
The challenge of finding the right kind of resources, traveling for weeks to remote locations at the cost of my family being neglected of, managing with limited funds and yet ensuring that timelines are met, is still a large part of my life. However, I believe that this is not merely a job but a mission that I have to fulfill- a mission to transform the lives of children by providing them with the education that they deserve. This mission is what keeps me going and working towards overcoming the challenges that I face.
Entrepreneurship is often termed as a boat with no lifejacket. Despite being a mother, how do you comply with the challenges faced during the entrepreneurial journey along with the zest to be a good mother?
Every woman by default has inbuilt software whose coding is based on love and protection resulting in an automatic list of what one should do for their child. This list is exhaustive, ambitious and grueling because one wants to be the perfect mum. As women are good managers, woman can do multi task, prioritize what needs to be done and focus on being a mother and an entrepreneur at the same time.
There were many times when I would have to juggle between the PTM’s of my two children and an important client meeting. However, in the long run, I do believe that this made them more independent. There were also times when I missed a meeting with an important client because my family needed me. So, being a mother and an entrepreneur is a juggling act and it is tough to find the right balance, the balance can tilt one way or the other on any given day without warning. If one is lucky, it can remain balanced for the larger part of the year. Women need to get out of this guilt syndrome and make the family realize that she needs their support. I have been lucky in that both, my husband and my children, take pride in my work. They have always seen me working so the thought of another option never really crossed their minds. They have always adjusted to my hectic schedule.Today, I can proudly say that both my children have turned out to be fine individuals. Hence, we also need to break the myth that working women are not able to give enough time to their children.
How do you deploy franchising in your business?
Today, the best form of expansion is through the franchise mode and our business has been done entirely through the franchise model. A school is set up by people who have the funds, passion to do something different and also to build their name in the social milieu. As we are the experts that set up schools and have the experience of setting up over five dozen schools pan India. We provide the expertise and also train our partners to manage their schools. The partner must be locally based in order to better manage local expectations and to be able to connect with the parents. This model works best with the stakeholders and the beneficiary of this model is the child in the school.
We have built up a network of consultants based locally in different cities who help us find partners with a similar passion and outlook. From experience we have also learnt that one of the best ways of capturing a business is through word of mouth from our existing franchisees who believe in the services we provide and further refer us to their families and friends. We also work with Franchise India who has been able to provide us with leads in various cities.
Please elaborate on your franchising mode. What do you offer to a potential mother who wishes to follow in your footsteps and become your franchisee?
We want our franchisee should have enough funds to manage the operations of the school and total commitment towards work. Besides this, we provide the partner with complete know how on how to run the school. We provide everything from the layout of the school building, to helping them design the school, a unique curriculum and teacher training to an ERP system to manage the day to day operations of the school and to market the school. We provide a personalised support system 24x7 for each our partners.
We prefer women as franchisee because they are instinctively good at managing children and also at interpersonal skills and therefore have good relationships with the teaching staff. If an independent woman franchisee takes on our brand, I will personally mentor her in setting up the school to the standards that we aspire for in our schools. I will also ensure that she is personally trained in handling budgets and in other areas where she may find it a challenge initially. We will continue to hand hold her till she feels confident enough to manage the business on her own.