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Dec, 07 2010

Parenting a brand from far away land

Good parenting helps children become healthy, productive and successful adults. In a very similar way, a franchisor rears a brand and his franchisees to help them become strong and successful. This is more vital in case of international brands, which ente

LAST few years have witnessed an increase in international brands venturing into the Indian markets. Joint ventures, franchising and licensing are few of the ways through which these brands foray into a new market. However, employing a Master or Area Franchisee is always a preferable route for the international players to popularise their brands. Nonetheless, even Master Franchisees/licencees and joint ventures also need a lot of support and training from the parent companies to launch their brands in the local markets successfully.

Significance of support

Franchising, as a business model, has been compared in the past with marriage as well as a parent-child relationship. In the former, both the partners provide support to each other while in the latter, parents always give a helping hand to the children, which may or may not be mutual. So, it is safe to say that franchising can be better compared to a parent-child status, in which the parent company always act as a parent and provide unconditional support to franchisees to grow up and succeed. This becomes more important in case of international franchising, as the parent company is not near to guide at every step. Regarding the significance of providing training to partners in India, Joseph Cherian, CEO, Global Services, GFA, said, “GFA strongly believes that our success is dependent on our partners' success and hence, we invest heavily in training and back-end support for all partners to operate our stores successfully.”

Says Manisha Ahlawat, Master Franchisee, Vivafit India, “It is very important for the international brand to provide complete and honest understanding of the business to the Master Franchisee. The brand and their Master Franchisee in India should maintain an open and continuous communication channel so that they can together repeat the brand's success in a new market.”

States Arpita Mittal, CEO, Helen ‘O’ Grady international, “The quintessence of the entire programme of Helen O'Grady is to provide young minds a platform to think, ideate and express themselves, which is absent in our current test-oriented education system. Therefore, training and support play pivotal roles in making any franchise business model successful.” Sharing his views, Manpreet Gulri, Development Agent, Subway India, says, “Training is extremely important and Subway recognises the same. We have a comprehensive training programme for development agents and a host of online training modules for development agents.”

Product versus service sector

It is pertinent to know that all franchise sectors do not require the same amount of training. In a broader horizon, it can be said that the service sector requires more guidance and practice as compared with the product sector. This is because in the latter, manufacturing of all goods is done in the same way globally. On the other hand, a service franchise like a food franchise, beauty salon, etc involves services which can show visible difference from the parent company.

To avoid such situations, it is a must to get sufficient training and guidance so that it is precisely like the original business. As said by Ahlawat, “This can be achieved by staying with the tried and tested franchising and operations methods of the international brand and balancing it with some adaptations in price positioning and marketing methods.” Mittal, stated, “I, as Principal of Helen O'Grady International's Mumbai operations, was invited to Perth for a 10-day comprehensive training programme. This was due to the fact that the parent company wanted the standard of the new units as the replica of original ones.”

Modes of training

After looking at the significance of support provided by the international brands to their Indian partners, the next step is to find out the methods in which they guide and assist their partners. Subroto Mukherjee, Chief Operating Officer, Graviss Foods Pvt. Ltd, the company which holds the Master Licensee for Baskin Robbins, said, “Our parent company provides all manuals ranging from brand manual, standard operating procedure, training modules, training content as well as complete support on facility planning and material standardisation. Recipes for ice creams are also provided as a data bank to all Master Licensees across the world.” Cherian said, “We provide support in the market study to analyse and assess the potential for each brand in a specific market. We also support the store design, store construction, recruitment of the staff, research, development and marketing.” Informs Gulri, “We have an online University of Subway that is available to the development agents. Staff management, marketing, store construction and all other aspects of business are covered.” (See box for training modes)

Time and duration

Any international or national parent company has to provide continuous support to its Master Franchisee/Licensee or sub-franchisee. Nonetheless, the support and guidance is more vital in the initial stages. With time, partners in India also become experienced and can train their sub-franchisees as well. In regard to the duration of training, Cherian informs, “Every team undergoes a mandatory 21 day training programme at the academy. Through this programme, we make sure that every new joinee understands the DNA of the brand and what it takes to provide customer delight.” Mukherjee adds, “Sixteen days of store opening training is provided before the opening of the store. Teaching selling skills comprises 50 per cent of the programme whilst the process and product training encapsulates the remaining period.”

Referring to this, Mittal shares, “Locally, the duration of training depends upon the modules offered. It ranges from three to five day training thrice a year besides the consultation for marketing and business development, which is provided from time to time.” Quips Ahlawat, “Three-week training is provided in Lisbon on centre operations, sales and marketing. Internship at the centres is also offered to receive actual working experience of a Vivafit centre.” Gulri states, “The initial duration is of two weeks. However, on-going training is flexible as per the need of the development agent.”

To conclude, training and support is essential for the future success of any brand, whether it is national or international. International brands, however, have to offer a wholesome package to their partners in India due to the distance as well as to safeguard themselves against failures due to their small carelessness in providing support.

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