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Oct, 03 2011


There's been a lot of jubilation as Podar Jumbo Kids marked a century recently and the brand is on a roll once again, as it mulls aggressive expansion pan-India.

There's been a lot of jubilation as Podar Jumbo Kids marked a century recently and the brand is on a roll once again, as it mulls aggressive expansion pan-India

There is a scope of 25,000 pre-schools. Podar Jumbo Kids, one of the pioneers in this segment, offers opportunities for investors.

THEY help kids to identify their potential and create a 'happy learning atmosphere' by implementing the head, heart and hand philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. They ensure that children experience this kind of an environment, as they believe in creating a play house with a difference! Podar Jumbo Kids was founded in 2001, when there was dearth of good research-based play-way pre-schools. Podar Jumbo Kids is a part of the Podar Education Group, which has been in the field of education since 1927. Presently, Podar Education Group has schools all across India and educates more than 50,000 students annually. The company is one of the select few renowned education groups that make up the organised pre-school league in India.

The brand has been working in an organised model ever since its inception. Their growth strategy was to strengthen all four systems- training, pedagogy, monitoring and mentoring in the first five years and then after setting up their base they began to engage in aggressive expansion plans.

Podar Jumbo Kids began its journey in 2001 at Santacruz, Mumbai. Initially, their first centre started with 18 children. After receiving an overwhelming response from parents because of its research-based curriculum, play-way techniques and parent-partnership programme, the brand also launched a teacher-training college simultaneously so that the pre-school would be benefited from the latest research in the field. Podar Jumbo Kids then launched a centre in Pune and soon got enquiries to spread to more locations. To cater to parents' needs across other places, Podar Education Network took a cognizant decision to franchise the brand.

The brand's forte is its child-centered approach, which they call 'kiducation' that helps in making every child unique. They are also special because of their unique parent-partnership and parent training programme that help a child in getting the same enrichment and nurturing both at home and pre-school.

As the pre-school industry in India is crawling its way towards getting organised, therefore, opportunities galore in this industry. The market size is huge with approximately 25-30 lakh children between two and five years in urban India. There is a scope for at least 25,000 pre-schools. Looking at the potential, Podar Jumbo Kids, one of the pioneers in this segment, offers numerous opportunities.

Franchising in education

As the franchise pre-school market in India is in a nascent stage, the brand believes that the growth trend of this burgeoning market will follow a trend wherein it will boom and then bust and then the brands will emerge to sustain the market growth. In 2001, Podar Jumbo Kids blossomed with three franchise centres in Mumbai at Andheri, Bandra and Malad, respectively, and since then there has been no looking back. Soon, the brand started to branch out, as they had their first master franchise in Karnataka and the growth was propelled by joint team work; quality and stringent monitoring and mentoring systems.

After tasting success in expansion via franchise business model for their pre-school chain, the company started to franchise for Podar Happy Kids, their daycare centre. Today, Podar Education Network stands tall, as it's the only brand that has two separate sub-brands expanding via franchising model in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. According to Swati Popat Vats, President, Podar Education Network: “Presently, the pre-school franchise industry is poised for strategic growth and multiplying returns and this is perhaps the right time to expand across the country.”

Since its inception, the USP of the brand has been customer satisfaction. The brand, in pre-school franchise business, believes that there are three customers to please- franchisee, parent and children. So, their aim is to satisfy all three customers. To associate with the brand a potential franchisee needs around Rs 6 to 7 lakh and a minimum of 1,200 Sq.ft.

Step-by-step support

Podar Education Network recognises the value and significance of a meticulous and comprehensive training and support system for franchisees' success. The brand believes in handholding, supporting and mentoring their franchisees 24x7. By doing this, they are able to give franchisees multiple revenue earning models.

From site selection to school launch, staff training, staff selection, a fully detailed and structured curriculum, planning and support in events every month, a unique and interactive website, a teachers' training programme that ensures that the centres have trained staff and support of interns etc among other facilities are offered by them.

The brand firmly believes that to build a brand one needs to have a product, with a cost position and a market position. Their marketing strategy is based not on bombarding the brand across different channels, but on customer involvement marketing. Therefore, their marketing strategy is to have events that relate to kids and parents and publicise and market them.

Babies’ day out

Nowadays, the urban upper-class is dependent on nannies, the middle-class on babysitting services and lower middle-class on crèches and local daycares. Looking at the need and potential of a good daycare centre, Podar Education Network took the plunge to provide daycare services pan-India. Daycare service is a growth-based industry, as it is not a structured one.

According to Popat: “In 2002, we were approached by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai to help design a professional scientific daycare spread over 10,000 Sq.ft. Today, the daycare is a successful example of an ideal daycare with a waiting list of over 250 children.” To cater paramount services at their daycare centres, the company visited daycare models in Canada and New Zealand to study the safety, security and overall development systems that they require and how to develop and use them. After doing rigorous research, the brand decided to adapt the philosophy of ‘te whairki’ devised by the government of New Zealand, by taking essential elements from it, suitable to Indian values, needs and expectations. The brand then eventually implemented the same for their own project, Podar Happy Kids which has a combination of kindergarten and daycare and runs from 8 am to 8 pm.

The brand strongly believes that it can't succeed till their franchisees' succeed. Based on the franchisees' performance and potential, the brand also offers multi-unit franchise option. On multi-unit franchising, Harsh Podar, MD, Podar Education Network avers: “We have quite a few franchisees who run both Podar Jumbo Kids as well as our daycare option Podar Happy Kids. Also, all the Podar Jumbo Kids franchisees are encouraged to start after-school programmes. We provide franchisees with a syllabus for the programme and it's a great way to generate additional revenues.”

Spreading its footprint

The brand is presently educating kids via Podar Jumbo Kids and Podar Happy Kids in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Out of their 100 centres, 70 are run by franchisees and 30 are owned. So far, the best performing markets for Podar Jumbo Kids are Maharashtra and Karnataka. When asked about strengthening their presence pan-India, Dr Pavan Podar, Chairman, Podar Education Network, avers: “Presently, we plan to expand further in territories where we are already present and then target Punjab, NCR, West Bengal and Kerala.”

Support system includes

= Site selection

= School launch

= Staff training

= Staff selection

= Re-training (if required)

= Monitoring centre quality

= Monitoring parent satisfaction

= Monitoring child development & growth

= Conducting workshops for staff and parents

= Publicity and marketing design

= Round-the-clock online support cell

= Manuals and videos for franchisees

= Detailed and structured curriculum

= Planning monthly events

= Support in parent-partnership programmes

= Interactive website

= An online councellor

High on (l)earning curve!

With over 25 years of experience and expertise in education, Swati Popat Vats, President, Podar Education Network, in a chat with TFW Bureau, discusses her growth and expansion plans in detail.

With the influx of numerous brands, what kind of competition are you facing and what steps are you taking to stay on top?

We compete with ourselves! The challenge we have been facing from others is 'low quality and price' but we don't consider it to be a threat. Our way of dealing with competition is that we need to take a good idea and push it faster than others. And that's what we have done, first by introducing educational philosophies and approaches from all around the world and then by setting our curriculum on nine intelligences and on latest brain research.

What kind of growth your brand witnessed in the past financial year?

We have achieved our targets for the past financial year and are satisfied with our growth. Our franchises have achieved their numbers and growth and so there is overall satisfaction with the growth of overall brand and stakeholders in the past financial year.

Do you offer home-based franchise or have any other plans to offer?

Yes, we are ready with a home-based franchise programme that can be run by housewives. The programme is called 'Happy Achievers Clubs' and it has four activities.

A franchise does not require any fixed area and can run it from home. The investment is only Rs 1 lakh and royalty per child is 20 per cent.

Fact File

Annual turnover of Podar Group of Schools 2010/2011: Rs 125 Cr

Podar Group of Schools operational since: 1927

Started franchising: 2001

Presence in no. of cities: 30

No. of franchise units: 70

No. of company-owned units: 30

Total investment: Rs 6-7 lakh

Area required: 1,200 Sq.ft

Preferred location: Pan-India

Return on Investment: 1 year and three months

Expected break-even (no. of students): 45 students

Franchisees’ entrepreneurial journey

“I made a humble start at Worli with barely 15 children and 4 teachers. It is under the guidance of Swati Popat Vats that I have dug deep into my inner reserves of strength and achieved my dreams.”

Diana Tyagi, Podar Jumbo Kids, Worli

“My Journey started in 2004 with the first Podar Jumbo Kids branch at Banashankari, Bengaluru. The BRAND, CURRICULUM, CONSTANT SUPPORT, Podar's rich heritage in education and the Podar team have make my dream and vision a reality. Today I have 3 branches and plans are afoot for the 4th one and when I look back at my journey with Podar, it brings immense satisfaction.”

Vaidehi Arun, Franchisee, Podar Jumbo Kids, Bangalore

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