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2014-05-26

Not a Child's Play

Being the leader in preschool education in India, Shemrock & Shemford Group of Schools, has evolved itself as a dynamic and vibrant organisation focusing on kids\'s learning and growing in a playful environment.

Talking to SMEntrepreneur, Amol Arora, Vice-Chairman & MD, Shemrock & Shemford Group of Schools, shares his views on the franchising route to growth, current state of Indian education sector, the challenges and much more.

 

Tell us in brief about Shemrock & Shemford Group of Schools.

We have always strived to be the organisation where children enjoy as well as learn with a simple philosophy and this has been proved to be successful with 425+ branches in Indian and Nepal. With the same philosophy, we plan to carry forward the same style of working that we have been doing so far. We plan to end up with 1,000 schools by the end of the decade.

 

How has been the franchising journey of the group in India and abroad?

Our journey in franchising began two decades ago, and at that time, we were the pioneers in the field of preschool franchising. We have carefully nurtured each of our franchisees and have a very high success rate. In the coming years, we plan to foray into SAARC countries and Middle East.

 

What is the current state of Indian education sector, and what is the most promising segment to start a business?

The education sector is growing rapidly, thus giving a scope for research and creativity in education. Those, who can come up with unique ideas, will definitely rise in the education sector.

 

Children have to be educated at all levels from the age of 2 till pursuing their doctorate. It’s a question for the entrepreneurs to decide which sector they want to work in as all sectors have equal chances in the crowded scenario. However, I feel that in the current position, companies are not being able to find viable and sustainable business model in location and space at the bottom of the pyramid.  

 

Lack of real estate perhaps is the biggest challenge for education sector to flourish. What do you expect from the new government?

We hope that subsidised real estate should be provided to educational institutions on perhaps long-term basis so that quality of facility is provided. Thus, creating a market as per the quality of institutions such that the end user should decide and ultimately eliminate low quality institutions is what is expected from the new government. So, the new government should provide good quality institutions. In such a case, the competition will be reduced and the good quality institutions will compete amongst themselves.

 

How has been investors’ attitude towards the sector?

We have always used our internal funds for growth as we believe that external funds will not have the patience that the education sector requires. Moreover, investment in the education sector is not for the short term. Thus, most of the education funds have made most of the companies to be driven short term. Therefore, in the education system, investment seems to be drying up as compared to the previous decade.

 

Tell us about your CSR initiative.

The previous government had imposed a law wherein we could not charge the fee from 25 per cent of the children, with the CSR point of view. This has forced us to accommodate the new law. Thus, we had to modify the policy to be able to sustain in the new environment. Besides this, we offer free or highly subsidised education to the children of the staff working in our schools, including class IV employees.

 

What are your expansion plans? 

We hope to continue to grow the way we have been growing, which has been at a manageable rate so far. There is no point in growing at an unmanageable rate that hurts in the long run, which is very common in the franchising industry. Hence, we expect and continue to receive the support from our franchisees to be able to accommodate a larger number of franchisees.

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