How KidZee is utilising the tech and franchise route to grow successfully

The pre-school industry is at a nascent stage in India, though the overall education sector has improved drastically over the years, there is a lot of potential and gaps which need attention.

How KidZee is utilising the tech and franchise route to grow successfully

A preschool is the stepping stone for a child into the world of education. It is in a preschool that a child learns to share, play and respect teachers and peers. The preschool sector has emerged as one of the most lucrative segments of the Indian Education market. It is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 13.5 per cent in the year 2016.

In conversation with Franchise India Education Bureau, Debshankar Mukhopadhyay, CEO, Zee Learn Ltd. opens up about his views on franchising in preschool industry and tells us why taking a franchise is better than opening a new brand of playschool. Here are excerpts from the interview:

How is Kidzee unique? What has the brand’s contribution to the Indian education industry been so far?

Kidzee is the leader and trend-setter in Early Child Care and Education (ECCE) segment in India since inception. We, at Zee Learn have been successful in creating a space for a pre-school chain in the Indian market over the years, we’re the category builder and have paved way for other brands to join in. Another strength of Kidzee is its strong network in over 550+ cities which is unprecedented by any other brand so far.

On the academic front, the unique offering of Kidzee is the advanced holistically crafted curriculum and pedagogy Interactive Illume’ that we offer to kids. The curriculum merges the use of technology in everyday learning.

The pre-school industry is at a nascent stage in India, though the overall education sector has improved drastically over the years, there is a lot of potential and gaps which need attention. With only 2.7 per cent penetration, the preschool industry is still in its embryonic stage. Our contribution has been enormous in creating awareness about the importance of pre-school education, which was a fairly unknown area when Kidzee started. Now, we are Asia’s leader in pre-school segment with more than 1550+ pre-schools in more than 550+ cities.Considering that the average enrolment in a pre-school is 75 kids per centre, 113 million kids would require over 15 lakh centres. However, currently India accounts for only around 40,000 preschool centres. This talks about the potential of the market, going forward we would continue to contribute towards bridging that gap by expanding in more markets.

Tell us about Kidzee’s journey from the day of its birth till today.

Kidzee was launched in 2003 with the aim of providing Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) to the kids in India. Kidzee has been spearheading ECCE space since its inception and has reached a marvellous number of 1550+ pre-schools in 550+cities, having touched the lives of over 4,00,000 kids across India. India has 158.7 million children in the below six years category as per the Census 2011 who are in need of ECCE for their bright future. To provide ECCE to such a large number is a giant task and this is where Kidzee stepped in, to facilitate accessibility to quality early education. Over the years, our footprint has substantially increased across markets including - southern and eastern.

In 2014 Kidzee expanded to Nepal with seven Kidzee centres, entering the Himalayan Kingdom.

Share details about the future expansion plans of Kidzee.

We follow an aggressive growth strategy and the progress is fuelled by the expansion of pre-school segment in Tier 1 and Tier 2 markets. On an average, 300-400 Kidzee centres get operational every year and nationwide most of these centers are run by women. We plan to keep strengthening the network and at the same time bring in innovative teaching aids to ensure quality education and empowering women across the nation.

What is interactive iLLUME? How does it bring out the potential in a child?

Interactive Illume is Kidzee’s pedagogy which was launched in 2014. The curriculum is a result of two years through research and examination. It is based on the philosophy of WRFC (What's Right for the Child). Our pedagogy focuses on nurturing each individual’s unique potential; hence, encouraging individuality since the very beginning.

Apart from that it also focuses on holistic learning rather than focusing on specific concepts in solitude. Instead of standardised assessments, we practice an observational and continual milestone tracking. Children are observed non-intrusively and tracked on their individual developmental goals. This provides the children with an environment free from anxiety and encourages spontaneous exploration and learning. We do not focus on memorisation. Instead, we ensure language, mathematical, cognitive, sensory-motor, creative and personal, social and emotional development in children according to age-appropriate milestones. Most importantly, it strives to connect with the parents and make them active participants in their child’s learning, so that children feel that their school is an extension of their home and not a different entity.

What is your opinion on franchising? How is this model helping playschools?

Franchising model has proved to be a very successful expansion route for Kidzee. We believe that the interventions in education need to be community led. This belief made us choose franchising as one of the ways of spreading our vision. We wish to have new age learning driving our future growth through Human Capital empowerment for the country. It can only happen when our society and our community becomes a part of this endeavour. Hence, we have adopted an approach to have our visionary business partners spread across the country to drive this movement. When someone from the community takes up a franchise and drives early childhood education in that catchment area with local expertise and best in class tools, techniques, learning plans and training that Kidzee provides, it helps the community and the brand become one with the cause.

An extremely strong advantage of this model is knowledge sharing, experience, brand image, and technical expertise that our brand brings to the table. Franchise based model facilitates a wider reach and empowers children across the country with quality education. It acts as a catalyst to deliver the best of education in various parts of the country and simultaneously acts as a catalyst in creating employment opportunities. This leads to a win-win situation for all stakeholders including business partners, children, parents and teachers and more importantly the Community and the Nation at large.

What factors do you consider before giving out a franchise? Share details of your franchising policy.

We are careful to ensure that our business partners share our vision for the brand which is built on the philosophy of What’s Right For the Child (WRFC). A right franchise partner should be driven and must have a vision to provide best education to children. Apart from these qualities, we ensure that the partner meets technical requirements too, some of which are;

Pre-requisites for Kidzee franchise:

ØPartner needs to have a property with minimum area of 2000-3000 sq. feet

ØMinimum investment capacity of Rs. 12, 00,000 – 15,00,000 (depending on the location)

ØNOC form society for running the pre-school

ØPreferably independent villa or bungalow on ground floor with separate boundary wall along with outdoor play area

How important is technology in education? Do you think the future of India’s education industry lies in EdTech? Elaborate.

India as a country has a wide digital divide between cities and villages. Over the years, with the influx of large number of service providers and affordable technology, this gap has been reducing. But the complete transformation of education on technological platforms would take time.

Keeping in mind the growing need to include technology in education, in 2014 Zee Learn introduced Interactive Illume which has Learning Apps offered via learning tablets with linkage to the Kidzee curiculum. By leveraging technology, we created a differentiated offering for our customers and also offered fully custom created learning apps, talking pens and lapbooks which have all helped us win many awards including Preschool Chain of the Year at the Indian Education Awards 2016.

This year, we have taken the amalgamation of learning and technology a notch higher; and created Kidzee Learning Tab with curated content chosen/created by academicians and child-experts. Kidzee Learning Tablet has helped Zee Learn Ltd enter into a technical partnership with Metis Learning (Eddy) to create the unique tablet which is specifically designed and customised for the needs of Early Childhood learning, adding apps and features suitable for age- appropriate easy learning. Zee Learn is venturing into the e-commerce space for the first time, by retailing the Kidzee Learning Tablet online on its own website.

What is one advice you’d give to your franchisees?

Kidzee provides the basic guidelines and technical support to its business partners. To ensure smooth operation of a franchise, we put in place a team which helps the franchise owner in both pre-opening and post opening training apart from the regular support that is given. The one advice which we give to all our business partners is to abide by the guidelines and believe in the brand’s vision. They are our partners in executing the best curriculum for ECCE in India and hence, their passion and drive are vital to the brand’s success.

What do you think is better – starting a new playschool name or franchising? Why?

Franchising is a better option of the two, as it brings along the brand name which has been carefully built over the years. Franchising would give instant recognition to a brand for the customers to relate to and business partner could ride on the existing credibility of the brand. This would result in less investment on marketing and brand visibility. The most important benefit is the kind of assistance that comes with it in terms of training, learning aids, guidance and operational support. Apart from taking the name, business partner also takes up our pedagogy Interactive Illume, the on-ground support, guidelines to teach, prescribes books/plays to be followed and so on. It’s the entire package and support that matters. Starting a new playschool would require planning, experience, designing, marketing, setting up the school from scratch – a journey which is made easier and more rewarding if one takes up a franchise.

Franchising, it turns out, is the safest and easiest route to enter the preschool industry. Focus, dedication along with experience can go a long way in making your preschool a success.

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