LEARNING TO SCALE New Biz Heights
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Sep, 10 2012

LEARNING TO SCALE New Biz Heights

Time is now ripe to hit it big in a service-oriented business like education as it's been regarded as the safest investment opportunity for womenpreneurs to make quick bucks. Find out how women in education business are all geared up to give their competi

WHAT’S actually driving women to get into the world of business? This question must be haunting many people. The answer is not very far away to seek. While they seem to prefer the education sector, it is really the franchise model of business that has made it possible for their dreams to be turned into a reality. Women entrepreneurs prefer franchising for the simple reason that the business model allows them to follow their dreams without any major restraints. And to cash in on the lucrative business opportunity in the education sector made realisable by donning the franchising cap, they are attracted towards recession free divisions of education business that majorly involves early child skill development through abacus training, preschools/play or day-care centres and tutoring services.

Leaving behind the age-old legacy and beating male dominance in the world of business, nowadays, more and more women are gearing themselves up to add wings to their dreams by investing in low-cost yet profitable sectors. Education has always been reckoned to be the most preferred sector for womenpreneurs to invest in as it can be managed effortlessly. Also, it allows them to create a balance between managing the family on the one hand and fulfilling business-related commitments on the other. Moreover, the investment will not burn a hole in their pockets and also affording them a timely break-even. Unlike other sectors, in education,

One can make multiple profits in a row, as parents do not compromise when it comes to spending on their wards' quality education.

Market’s potential

A growing economy, change in mindset related to the importance of early child skill development, rise in income levels of the middle class, increase in demand pertaining to quality education and the dominance of organised players in the sector, have been the major factors propelling more investments in the education sector. For women in particular, it's the best sector to invest in, as it allows them the luxury to work from the comfort of their homes or they can opt for it as a part-time business opportunity. The big shots that have taken the education industry by storm are EuroKids, Shemrock, Kidzee, Kangaroo Kids, Tree House, Brainworks, Little Elly, SmartQ, Aloha India, to name a few.

As of today, the potential of the preschool industry is vast but it largely remains untapped because of its low penetration. According to a recent research by CRISIL, the industry is expected to register a 4-year CAGR of 20 % to reach near Rs 105- 115 billion by 2014-15. According to Indian education report 2012, the number of preschools is expected to reach 33,000 by 2015, with a CAGR of 26 per cent, backed by the expansion of preschools in urban and non-urban areas. The current market size of the industry is $1 billion and will scale up to $2.56 billion by 2015, at a healthy growth rate of 38 per cent.

Franchising, the hottest pick

ccording to Indian education report 2012, the franchise industry has grown at a rate of 25-30% over the past year and education franchising has shown a robust growth rate of 30-35 %. To be more precise, franchising in education has grown from 30% in 2010-2011 to 39% in 2012.

Women, who are all set to try their luck in business, can now make the most of the tremendous business opportunity that lies in franchising. Education has been and will always remain the hottest pick for women investors the world over. And in collaboration with franchising, it is set to trigger off a new wave of opportunities for thousands of women franchisees. Apart from low cost investment models, the industry also presents part-time home-based business opportunities to millions of women wanting to make it big in the industry.

The education franchise constitutes a major chunk of the franchise industry with 38 % of the industry dominated by education and training. When asked about introducing any special business model for womenpreneurs, Prajodh Rajan, Director-Education Services, EuroKids International, said: “As many as 95 % of our franchisees are women entrepreneurs. The business model established by EuroKids since its inception has been designed for women entrepreneurs. At EuroKids, we believe in appointing women franchisees as this opportunity provides a healthy work-life balance.”

He adds: “Through franchising, there is an easy transfer of technical know-how and the well structured procedures and policies reduce the risk and gestation period associated with any business. A good franchisor provides extensive support and a robust training mechanism to franchisees to make them successful.”

On going gung ho over tapping the women franchisees, Rajnikant Rao, Founder and CEO at SmartQ, says: “Our model primarily appeals to women entrepreneurs. The reason is it involves education, deals with young children, is part-time in its occupation and offers some flexibility in timing. Over 90% of our partners are women.”

On similar lines, Brainworks also boasts of the fact that more than 90% of its business partners are women.

Meenal Arora, Director, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools, also echoes similar views. “Yes, we do encourage women entrepreneurs to take the forefront and we give them a platform where they can not only become a franchisee, but also perform the roles of headmistress, counsellor, etc. We also provide training so that they can perform their roles well. In this way, the franchisee can always save a lot of amount on the fixed overheads like salaries, etc. It has also been observed that women are preferable in this sector and play a more active role with a lot of passion. It is noted that female franchisees are more equipped to deal with female staff and have better people management skills,” says Meenal.

Preeti Bhandary, Co-founder and Curriculum Director, Little Elly, finds franchising the ideal way to expand one's business. “Franchising is the ideal way to expand any business today, but it's not something to embark on lightly. Our expansion through franchising primarily means to expose Little Elly to many more children in every neighborhood. Our future expansion plans are to develop successful franchisees across India,” says Preeti.

Training & support

What's truly attracting women into the concept of franchising is its versatility, as it can be easily adapted and replicated without fail. Franchisors render their constant support to assure that quality standards of a brand are not diluted in any way. Enlightening on what they have for their aspiring franchisees, Rajnikant Rao, says: “Firstly, we are a process-based company. Every aspect of the business has been defined and designed. Be it related to marketing collaterals, parent orientation -giving tools; student registrations-forms and receipt books; course conduct-batch cards and feedback; instructor training-guides and videos; partner world-our web-based partner-login-based portal that holds all relevant information of the partner, student, batches and inventory.”

On the aspect of working as a team with the franchisees, Arora says: “We have developed proprietary software which helps us stay connected with our franchise partners. Regular visits and training sessions are conducted from the corporate office through-out the year which facilitates one-to-one interaction. Besides, we, as management make us accessible at all times for all the needed upkeep.”

To avoid any brand dilution, Little Elly also offers an excellent support service to its franchisees by delivering training and logistic support to operate the school, enhanced earnings through programmes and honing the franchisee skills through specially designed motivational workshop. Training related to customer satisfaction and retention programmes is also provided for franchisees.

Turning hurdles into opportunities

Venturing into a business is no big deal but to make it a success and sustain it in the long run require a lot of grit, determination and patience. For women entrepreneurs, particularly in a scenario where they have to compete with their male counterparts, the ideal option is to establish themselves as franchisors or franchisees to reap rich harvest that the franchise model offers them. They can give birth to new business ideas and in the process help realise the dreams of other women as well, who share their aspirations in harbouring the desire to own their own business.

About the kind of people they look for to partner with Bhandary says: “It is always a challenge to get a person with right skills, attitude and investment capacity. We are looking at passionate people who have an attitude to work with children with a decent financial and educational background. We have a comprehensive training programme which covers the basic skills to become a successful entrepreneur. We follow simple tests to understand the skills and attitude level of the prospective franchisee. Overall, they need to be focussed and should be able to work hard to achieve positive results.”

EuroKids also looks for committed partners who can carry forward their ambition of making learning a fun-filled experience for kids. They are interested in prospective partners who have a college degree, a keen interest in education services, who love working with young kids and have reasonable financial resources.

For Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools, their franchisees must have a good educational background and the ability to understand the system. They must have the capacity to invest in the project and operations. For better returns, they should be patient enough with a sound business sense.

Doubling the brand's network

Currently, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools operates 175 preschools and 50 senior school branches. In terms of their further plans, Arora says: “We would be managing our schools with more than 50 preschools and 15 senior schools in India and even abroad. All the branches would take the franchise route. We are looking forward to opening our schools in select markets and will continue to grow via franchising. Apart from expansion in India, we are also targeting the Middle East and SAARC countries.”

Little Elly has 55 centres running successfully in Bengaluru, Mangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.

SmartQ operates over 50 franchise centres. Going ahead, SmartQ is planning 200 franchise units in its portfolio.

Presently, EuroKids operates 23 company-owned and 857 franchise units. By the end of this year, their target is to open 232 franchise units. In terms of brand promotion, EuroKids follows three-pronged marketing strategy - national, city-based and local. Elaborating on their strategy, Rajan says: “We tap print, electronic and digital media at the national level. At city level we focus on print and outdoor media and at the local level we predominantly conduct below the line activities. EuroKids International Ltd has multiple marketing strategies to reach out to our target group. We are currently on CNN-IBN, Times Now, Cartoon Network, Pogo, Nick and Colors.”

Brainworks operates 14 company-owned and 63 franchise units. For Nanette D'sa, CEO at Brainworks, the way forward amidst competition is completely set. She says: “Even as there are a number of players entering the fray, in the next three years, we see ourselves with a presence in all the cities in India and an international presence as well. However, we would like to take our time to expand, as we would not want to compromise on quality.”

The road ahead

The preschool industry's future landscape can be best understood in the words of Rajan.

“The demand for an organised preschool industry would continue to increase. In future, we would see more consolidation, as the players would strive to achieve scale through mergers and acquisitions, apart from investing heavily in the content. Going forward, we definitely see a marked shift of parents' preference in choosing organised preschools rather than the unorganised ones. We expect the organised preschool share to increase from the current 8% to 25 % in the next three years,” says Rajan. It's clear that through the franchise model, the cost-effective divisions of the education sector are poised to achieve a massive growth in the next coming years. Through enhanced curriculum, good infrastructure and quality teaching methods, the class of organised players is all set to offer a blended service of preschool and daycare centres, even tying up with schools to provide supplementary education to capture the attention of working parents, giving the players an edge over their competitors in the market. It's reckoned to be one of the evergreen businesses wherein women can make quick returns as the demand remains unending.

FRANCHISE FACTS

Company Investment Area (sq.ft) Break-even RoI

EuroKids NA 1,000-2,000 12 months 18 months

Shemrock Rs 5 -7 lakh 2, 500 6 months 6 months

Little Elly Rs 8 10 lakh 1, 500-2,000 After first year 35%

Smart Q Rs 30, 000 150 6 months NA

Brainworks Rs 5-7 lakh 1,200-1,500 NA NA

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