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Nov, 01 2011


As education tops the priority chart, distribution must play a critical role in improving reach and visibility. Taking franchising as a mode of spreading education pan-India, Kangaroo Kids Education Limited (KKEL) is building new distribution channels and

THERE are many challenges, but with changing times and attitudes, women entrepreneurs are leading all spheres. GenNext women entrepreneurs are not just making a mark in their home land, but also going places. One such edupreneur is Lina Ashar, Founder of Kangaroo Kids Preschools and Billabong High International Schools. Lina's conviction to offer an education which sets the child in its centre, led her to start her first preschool in Bandra (Mumbai) in the year 1993 with 13 students. Presently, the brand has 69 schools, including 55 Kangaroo Kids and 14 Billabong High International Schools across 24 cities in India. Lina dreams of a society in which every child will have right to quality education and a joyful childhood. It's not just business for her; it's her passion to deliver quality education to children and to work for them. To make her mission and passion possible she stepped into the field of education. She left no stone unturned to take her brand to new heights!

KKEL model

Under the umbrella of KKEL, the brand has three verticals-Kangaroo Kids Club, which is a toddlers' club, for 10 months - 1.5 years. The second venture is Kangaroo Kids pre-school, it offers playschool, nursery, junior and senior KG for 1.6 to 5.5 years. And third vertical, Billabong High International, which has grades from class I to 12 across IGCSE, ICSE and CBSE boards. The brand vouches for the quality of their curriculum. Like Kangaroo Kids, Billabong curriculum is also researched and application based, ensuring better life skills for students.

When asked about the USP of the brand, Lina says: “We are an extremely child-centric brand. The curriculum offered at Kangaroo Kids and Billabong High is based on active and experiential learning. An optimum teacher-student ratio ensures effective implementation of this activity-based curriculum. The teacher-student ratio varies at various grades. We offer a research-based curriculum to make sure that we provide windows of opportunity for children.”

KKEL also has a teacher-training brand KITDR (Kangaroo Kids Institute for Teacher Development and Research) under which they offer a one-year ECCE programme (diploma in early childcare and education). An ECCE course is a pre-requisite to be able to teach in any school and KITDR course equips you with a certification, which enables you to teach toddlers upto grade-II students.

Franchise lesson

Franchising is a quick-start vehicle; as a franchisee doesn't have to work on establishing the brand. KKEL forayed into franchising 13 years ago and since then there has been no looking back. Appreciation from parents and the demand to have similar schools in their hometowns made KKEL choose franchise business model to expand their wings across the nation. The brand believes that franchising makes the unorganised marketplace organised and provides opportunity for organised centres, especially in tier-II, III and IV towns. The franchise business model has played a critical role in improving reach and visibility for the brand.

The brand opened its first franchise out of Mumbai in 1999 in Greater Kailash, New Delhi. According to Lina: “We have been extremely fortunate to have partnered with all our franchisees; all of them helped us take our vision forward. When it comes to franchising, we believe in partnering with like-minded people. While partnering with people we ensure that they align with our vision of education, people who are looking at education as social-cum-business responsibility, people who are not only looking for financial dividends, but social dividends as well and people who have financial and management resources to run a school.”

To partner with the brand, they are looking at franchisees, who are passionate about education and children and have sound investment capabilities. Also, the potential franchisees must possess good management skills with a hands-on approach. KKEL has a strategic approach for its franchisees' selection. They do it by using a process known as 'triangulation'. This involves seeking at least three sources of information about a candidate. The three sources are- a detailed application form, site visit and observations and then structured behavioural assessment based on an interview.

Besides, a playschool franchisee needs to invest Rs 50 lakh in 5,000 sq.ft, whereas for BHIS, a partner needs to invest Rs 10 crore in one /two acres and if a partner is located outside metro then the area increases to four/ten acres.

Guidebook of growth

Training and support is provided to all its franchisees by KKEL to maintain similar quality standards at all its franchise schools pan-India. The brand offers support to its business partners in four forms- training, guidelines, standard operating procedure (SOPs) and expertise consultation. In the initial stage of training for franchisees, centre heads and principals, the company has an extensive 7 to 10 days training schedule at head office followed by on-site training if required. For every aspect of set up and operations there are extensively detailed guidelines and SOPs provided for all domains of operations right from infrastructure manuals, HR, school operations, marketing and affiliations.

These guidelines and SOPS ensure franchisees are aware what to do, how to do, when to do and what outcome to expect. Franchisees undergo three phases of support at the initial stage they are supported by business development to ensure that they have all requisite documents, processes and due diligence to ensure a franchisee can start his/her own venture. At the set-up stage, the new ventures team supports franchisees until the completion of first academic term in all respects and then they support them throughout their partnership on a day-to-day basis for all aspects of running a school to the standards required. Expertise consultation is provided when franchisees need advice and guidance from experts either as part of the contract or at a nominal fee.

Spreading its reach

KKEL is looking at a huge expansion across the country, especially in the northern and western regions. Five years from now, the brand is aiming to set up around 150 Kangaroo Kids and 75 BHIS across tier-I cities and metros in the country.

Besides new markets, the brand plans to reinforce its presence in existing markets like Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The list of new markets includes Jaipur, Pune, Gurgoan, Delhi, Kolkatta, Coimbatore, Cochin, Chennai, Lucknow, Chandigarh and Goa.

KKEL is also eyeing overseas presence. They are looking at reaching out to developing countries that have similar cultural/demographic makeup like India. They already have franchisee-operated centres internationally. They have two Kangaroo Kids centres in Dubai and one each Kangaroo Kids and Billabong High in Maldives.

Master of the game!

Empowering young minds has been the principle motive of Lina Ashar, Founder of Kangaroo Kids Preschools and Billabong High International Schools. The company is privileged to have Lina as its founder, who believes that out-of-the – book education that prepares students with the correct attitudes and aptitudes creates a winner’s brain that has at its core the attitudes of perseverance, resilience and positive spirit that actually are at the heart of all human success stories. Read more about her take on life and women entrepreneurs.

Why do you prefer women entrepreneurs. How is your brand suitable for women franchisees?

I believe that gender is purely incidental. We always look forward to work with individuals who have a passion for children and possess a drive for success and an entrepreneurial spirit. The education sector, like any other service industry, needs passionate people for whom the cause is paramount. Home-based franchises have low overheads, making it easier for women to start their own venture.

How many women franchisees do you have at present?

We have a large number of women franchisees, especially for our pre-school brand Kangaroo Kids. Quite a few women who have partnered with us for our high school brand Billabong High International School.

How is franchising ideal for women?

There are several more opportunities in franchising today than they were 30 years ago. Franchising covers about 80 industries, which practically guarantees that all women will be able to find a franchise concept they feel compatible with. More choices also mean the option to work-from-home and greater flexibility. Certain factors that make franchising ideal for women are natural networking, collaborating and multitasking skills. Women are collaborators, so having a support team to rely upon is really beneficial.

Fact File

Kangaroo Kids

ROI: 20 pc plus

Break-even: 1 year to 18 months

Investment: Rs 50 lakh

No. of franchisees: 55

Area: 25,000 sq.ft + play area

Billabong High International School

ROI: 15 pc plus

Break-even: 3-6 years

No. of franchisees: 14

Capital investment: Rs 5 crore

Area: In metros 1 acre, others 4 acres

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