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Nov, 08 2010

LOW ON COST, HIGH ON PROMISE

It's a brand that holds a lot of promise. A pioneer in offering personality development courses for students from classes III till X, Promise has made a remarkable name in the education industry and is now on an expansion spree, armed with its ‘golden’ fr

It's a brand that holds a lot of promise. A pioneer in offering personality development courses for students from classes III till X, Promise has made a remarkable name in the education industry and is now on an expansion spree, armed with its ‘golden’ franchising model of low investment and high profits.

SUPPLEMENTARY education plays a pivotal role in a student's all round development. As per a recent research report, the supplementary education industry in India accounts for more than Rs 10,000 crore.  Informal and supplementary education shares the maximum in the education franchising pie. There are approximately 50,000 franchised education outlets in the country as compared to about 2,200 company-owned.  Organised players in the supplementary education are at an initial stage and have a tremendous opportunity to grow.  Expansion via franchising, especially in areas like child skill enhancement, e-learning, teacher training and finishing schools, are in vogue. Franchising in supplementary education is a rage, nurtured by organised players like Promise. The personality development sector is largely untapped, overlooked up till now, but Promise, being a pioneer, is trying to organise it to the fullest.

With changing lifestyles, majority of parents do not get quality time to educate and groom their children. Nowadays parents seek solutions on how to make their children competitive and successful. Promise is the largest supplementary education company in India that helps parents understand these objectives and find new ways to reach them.

At Promise, students undergo training programmes to enhance their personalities. Promise offers students personality development workshops in a group setting, once a week, with exciting topics ranging from 'How to Make Friends', 'How to Handle Peer Pressure', 'Time Management', 'Accepting Gifts like a Pro', etc.

Enhancing business potential

With the growing demand, Promise is now exploring the potential of personality development business at a national level and is on an aggressive expansion mode. It is looking at potential franchisees to strengthen and expand its business. As per Gulraj S. Shahpuri, Founder, Promise, “Since nobody else has made a sizable impact till now, we are proud of our franchisees who are opening centres throughout India. In a way, not only are we waiting for competition but welcoming it too and hoping for tie-ups. In these strenuous times, we would be more than glad to give any newcomer a helping hand to ensure success; success for the children, success for the industry.”

Promise has had great success in appointing the best franchisees, who have developed a strong franchise network. Although Promise has been in operations for about seven years now, but it took its first step up the franchise ladder approximately three-and-a-half years ago. Having an enormous pressure to take the concept to a national level, the company chose franchising to achieve the kind of growth they were targeting at. After having presence in a few cities, the company has further decided to reach out to millions of students through franchising, well known as 'The Golden Formula' of business expansion by industry observers.

As far as potential franchisees are concerned, the company is seeking for people whom they can call their family members, people who are passionate are ready to spend time and work hard, and not those who simply want to utilise their commercial space or those who are investors.

Developing franchise tree

Having 41 franchisees across 28 cities pan India, such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and in mini-metros like Patna, Coimbatore and Nashik, Promise is still in its growth phase. Most of the company's existing franchisees are at a stage where they are either taking up the franchise for opening their second or taking the exclusive rights for their entire regions.

Promise is often referred to as the next big thing in education. As per Amri Shahpuri, Co-Director, Promise, “There will be more than 200 Promise centres throughout India by 2012. We are currently ahead of our targets and have been very fortunate with our growth so far. Our goal is to work very hard for each new franchise centre before moving on to the next.”

The company also plans to go global and is looking towards the Gulf for new franchise opportunities. Promise is now entering in the next phase of growth strategy by appointing master franchisees in the major metropolitan cities and tying up with pre-schools, schools, and finishing schools to leverage synergies.

As per Lokesh N Darira, Head of Franchise Development at Promise, “We have franchisees from all walks of life with us, from ambitious house ladies wanting to do something extraordinary, to businessmen and retired couples.”

For Promise, the master franchisees act as the face of their company in their respective regions, making it easier for franchisees to have the support they need. Says Darira, “Even young working-class people are under the category of potential franchisees of Promise. One of our franchisees, Jacob Johnson, who has given up a well paying MNC job to take the master franchise of Promise is a perfect example. His vision is to ensure that more than 10 lakh children in the Karnataka benefit from Promise.”

Five success factors

There were several growth boosters behind the success achieved by the company and its franchisees. Some of them are:

MasterMind: MasterMind is a mini-ERP software that virtually runs each franchise centre of Promise. To provide best of their services and eliminate inefficiencies, the company has spent the last few years developing it.  MasterMind also makes it easy for a franchise to run their Centre, as it helps take care of the day-to-day operations of the centres, including payroll, attendance, inventory, accounting, enrollments, emails, reminders, training, etc.

Set-up support: Each of the franchised centres is carefully conceptualised by its in-house design team. During construction, Promise sends its own staff (mainly foremen) to supervise the work. Besides this, there is a 17-page checklist that has to be implemented at each centre by the company's own staff, which ranges from things like training to role-playing on how to receive a walk-in customer.

Centralised content development: The company takes the responsibility of content creation for all its franchisees. Promise wants its franchisees to concentrate only on the activities of running the centres and takes care of the franchisees' content and training modules. The content and training sessions include personality development workshops, queries regarding academic questions and answers, counselling methodologies, staff hiring, induction and training manuals (and videos), various administrative forms franchisees need, customised bulletins and reminders for each client (through email and sms), done through head office's servers.

Continual staff training: Promise has spent years in mastering the processes, software and training modules so that franchisees run their centres without any twinge. All the operations are just a click away for franchisees. Each staff member is put through a 'Boot Camp' where they are updated on the company's concepts, over a one-week period. Thereafter, they are given regular trainings to keep their skills sharp. Prior to launch, every franchisee is given an opportunity to run a nearby existing centre for a week to help get rid of the initial hiccups.

Consistent monitoring and mentoring: To keep up the standards at par at all the centres, Promise is interconnected with all its centres through a server for assisting franchisees 24/7. Beyond that, each centre is assigned a 'mentor', who is responsible for each and every detail of the franchised centre while sitting at the head office. Appointing a mentor for each franchisee benefits the franchisee, as he/she can't go wrong with any of the processes to operate the outlet.

Women entrepreneurs at the core

As the cost of operations to run a Promise centre is low and it targets students of classes III to X, it is an apt business opportunity for women. Mothers are often at ease dealing with woman entrepreneurs and are willing to lay their trust in them.

The business is so carefully laid out with tremendous support from Promise's head office that most housewives are capable of managing both home and business. As per Suhita Banerjee, Head of Operations, Promise, “Presently, majority of the potential franchisees are women and nearly 75 per cent of its centres are either run by women or by couples.”

BOX

HIGHLY PROFITABLE, LOW-COST SET-UP

Apart from being one of the most innovative educational concepts in India, Promise is something that parents and children have been waiting for, for a very long time.

The idea of having a low start-up cost and low overheads formed the basis of their franchising model, from the very start. A step-by-step strategy on low-cost setup.

Squeezing into small, yet comfortable spaces: Promise Centres have big sign boards but are not required to be big. In fact, the smaller the better (but no smaller than 19 sq. mtrs, about 200 sq. ft.). However, Promise recommends about 350 sq. ft of space to opereate a centre, this implies low set-up cost and lesser rentals.

Staff salaries: Since the staff required to operate a Promise Centre is around four to five counsellors and a peon, salaries remain within a budget. If a Centre has a few students, they may only need a couple of counsellors, as compared to a Centre that has high number of enrollments. Therefore, the salaries and quite a few other expenses are directly proportional to the enrollments.

Linux and other open-source technologies:  All the softwares used at a Promise Centre are free and open-source. Promise computers run entirely on Linux and so do the servers. The hardware required to run the software is very minimal, as well. In a Centre where a newly appointed counsellor will need a fully loaded system, the costs at Promise is about Rs 8,000 whereas the same system, had it not been a thin-client, and ran Windows, instead of Linux, would easily cost more than Rs 30,000.

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