Education Interview 2016-09-07

We believe in innovating, not competing: Kangaroo Kids Chairperson

Starting with a single Kangaroo Kids preschool in 1993 and Billabong High International School in 2003, today, KKEL's revolutionary model of education is imparted at over 38 cities across India, Dubai, Middle East and Maldives.

We believe in innovating, not competing: Kangaroo Kids Chairperson

With the increased awareness and spending capacity amongst parents, getting children enrolled in a premium preschool has become an important decision for an overall development of a child in his/her initial years.

The Indian preschool market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 13.5 per cent in 2016. This growth will be driven by numerous factors including rise in disposable income, working mothers, nuclear families, and escalating demand for high quality preschool education for toddlers. In conversation with the Franchise India’s education bureau, Lina Ashar, Chairperson, Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd. talks about the success story of the education brand.

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

KKEL owned Kangaroo Kids & Billabong High International Schools, the pioneers in new format schooling and learning methodology, initiated a movement that has changed the face of pre-school and high school education in India.

We are the only brand that creates curriculum for three education Boards viz: ICSE, IGSCE CBSE. This curriculum is forward thinking. It forwards to a vision 20 years from today. This year, we completely overhauled our curriculum to focus on developing skills in our students that technology will not be able to replicate.

We were the first brand we are aware of that adopted a franchisee business model - scaling up systems and processes into a global footprint and freeing income to invest in research-based learning systems.

Starting with a single Kangaroo Kids preschool in 1993 and Billabong High International School in 2003, today, KKEL's revolutionary model of education is imparted at over 38 cities across India, Dubai, Middle East and Maldives.

Tell us about Kangaroo Kids’s journey from the day of its birth till today?

My conviction to offer an education which sets the child as its centre began with a preschool in Bandra (Mumbai) in the year 1993 with 25 students. The journey from one Kangaroo Kids Preschool to a network of Kangaroo Kids Preschools and Billabong High International Schools across 29 different cities in India as well as in Dubai, Maldives and Qatar has been an awesome journey supported by parents, education partners as well as a lot of dedicated, passionate and determined individuals at the school and central team level.

All of us work with a single mandate; creating a purpose of learning. The true purpose cannot be only to crack the Board exam, but to crack the life fulfillment test. We craft experiences that encourage children to be thinkers, innovators, problem solvers. We have been promoting and practicing 'topic based learning' since 2002, something that the Indian media lauded the Finland education system for introducing, very recently. The fact that we have in a year had 5 IGCSE subject worldtoppers and this year 3 city ICSE toppers is proof of the concept that learning can be fun, engaging and effective.

We spend a lot of time educating our parents to stop stressing and pushing their children in specific directions. To quote the psychologist Carl Jung ‘The greatest damage to the child is the unlived life of the parents.’

We believe in an education experience that develops children in all areas of their being. All this will enhance their ability to cope and succeed financially, spiritually and mentally, facing life and the challenges it throws, with a sense of conviction, compassion and confidence.

Leadership and biggest hurdle: If you have to lead each hurdle has to be turned into a stepping stone!

Share details about the future expansion plans of Kangaroo Kids.

I have never planned the road ahead. I have always been pulled in a direction that I have trouble keeping up with. Last year we ushered in a new ‘new age curriculum’ for IGCSE. This year we did the same for ICSE and CBSE, a curriculum that will equip our children to face the age they will need to work and flourish in. This is known as ‘The Conceptual Age’ or ‘Creative Age’ or ‘Age of Imagination’. We played a significant role in breaking the status quo of conventional schooling in 1993 and have this year reinvented our learning vision where the focus is on creativity, critical thinking (including being aware, mindful and responsible consumers) collaboration, problem solving, connecting the dots, imagination and conceptual reasoning.

Highlight some of the challenges that the brand has faced so far. How did Kangaroo Kids tackle them?

When we started in 1993 we faced a world of resistance from everyone in the field of education. We started with very few students as most parents did not understand this new style of teaching and learning, however, when parents saw the results we grew leaps and bounds. That is a perception challenge. A business challenge that still exits is that legally our courts do very little to protect franchise contracts and IP.

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

It allows for us to spread our vision for education much further and farther than we could have if we were to invest in the entire infrastructure ourselves. It has also allowed us to plough financial resources back in the research and development of cutting edge learning and teaching systems.

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

The key factors that make for a successful partnership are

  • a. An alignment with the KKEL vision
  • b.A passion for education and children

The key requirements to start a Kangaroo Kids preschool 3000 sq ft of space and an investment of Rs. 30 Lakhs, and to start a Billabong High International School it is a minimum of one acre of land, 50,000 sq ft built up space and an investment of Rs. 2.5 crores.

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

Technology has become an integral part of our life and the same will apply to the education industry as well. In the near future children will be using iPads with their entire lesson plans loaded on them and will submit their assignments online. Things will move to a paperless system and technology will play a very important role.

While Kangaroo Kids is a fairly experienced brand, there are newer international playschool brands entering the Indian market each day. What strategies are you working on to stand out despite competition?

The first thing we do is we do not compare ourselves to other schools. We focus on what is right for the child so that the child can grow up to be a mindful purposeful individual. We focus on spiritual, emotional, physical and cognitive growth. All our teaching and learning is embedded with neuro and energy science findings.

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

The advise to prospective Franchisees is to follow our guidelines to understand the market requirement - through our Location Assessment survey to assess the fit between the brand and the market need.

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

We believe that Franchising works well since it provides partners with a proven format, complete training and support and therefore, reduces the risk, minimises investment, and lead time to start the project. This works for partners who believe and align with the brand, follow the brand requirements, processes and philosophy without cutting corners to reduce cost or to get a quick start at the cost of long term project viability.

Running a preschool chain requires more than just money and infrastructure. Good preschools realise the value addition they provide to the children and parents. If you’re a brand, you would attract more parents admitting their kids for fruitful growth in early years.

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