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Apr, 02 2015

School supplies business, a class of its own

The school infrastructure plays a vital role in the growing years of a student and the entire educational system goes hand-in-hand with the industry of school furniture and other supplies. Via this write up, let's explore the opportunity galore of the les

Gone are the days, when classrooms had traditional teaching methods of chalk and blackboard, tediously maintained notebooks and uninteresting monologues by the teachers. The introduction of new technology is making modern day education more interesting and a great learning experience for both the students and the teachers. In the modern scenario where PlayStations and iPads are commonly used by kids, the schools are also upgrading the teaching standards and are adopting various digital teaching solutions to educate students in a play way method. Not only this, but the modern day school furniture and playing equipments have become a new rage into the manufacturing and retail industry and undoubtedly offering great business opportunities to its dealers and distributors as well.

With fast pacing life and increased ratio of working parents (both mother and father), schools, play area and day care are the places where kids spent their maximum time of the day.  And amidst all this, to give an experience of home away from home, comfortable seating and smart class methodologies adds to the good memories of the students.  

Modus operandi

In India, the industry of school supplies and smart class technology is still non-organised and is majorly operational via dealer / distributor business model. Popcorn, Duke Furnishers & Interior Decorators, Kreedo, Play Tool, Kokuyo Furniture India Pvt Ltd., Knowledge Tree by Wipro, Megalogix and many others are among the leading players in the educational furniture and other supplies.

StationeryBazaar.com is a brand that provides all kinds of stationery, office supplies and printed stationery solutions under one roof. We also provide discounted rates compared to local players. It is focused to support pan- India presence via the franchise route and to support this strategy, the brand is opening warehouse at strategic locations across India while inviting franchise stores in all cities of India. Priyanka Goel, Founder and CEO, StationeryBazaar.com believes: “We provide our partners with best prices, and widest range of products to sell in market. Also our margins are good compared to their local purchase and we provide multi brand products under one roof.”

An international brand, Krueger International Furniture Systems (P) Ltd. offers a one-stop-shop to a school for all its infrastructural requirements. The company is a manufacturer of school and office furniture. Girish M Rakhe, CEO, Krueger International (KI), India is of the opinion: “At KI, we believe knowing our customers helps us serve them better. From our humble beginning in 1941 as a manufacturer of simple metal furniture, KI has evolved into one of the world's most respected brands in the contract furniture industry. Today, KI is known globally as a prominent designer and manufacturer of innovative furniture and movable wall systems for corporate, education, healthcare and government markets.” Headquartered in Green Bay, Wis, KI has subsidiaries include KI UK Ltd., KI Nova Scotia, KI Pembroke LP, KI-Sebel and has joint ventures in Wisconsin and India.

Another home grown brand Kreedo Early Childhood Solutions, is a comprehensive solution that helps in setting up a preschool by the name of one's own brand. Mridula Shridhar, Director, Kreedo says: “Though the brand is not into franchising but Kreedo aims to empower preschool owners with the knowledge, curriculum, materials, training and assessment solutions.” The company is looking for partners to expands across India via the dealer/ distributorship model.

Dealing to achieve opulence

With changing teaching methodologies and smart classes in schools and  at tuition centres as well, the manufacture of school supplies have also adopted changes in designing / manufacturing of products Even touch tables for primary education has also emerged as the evolution in teaching methods while the dealer / distributorship of these products can fetch real good benefits to entrepreneurs. Goel says: “We are currently not manufacturing any school stationery. But we do discuss with our vendors about latest educational and learning products available in global markets, and how we can bring it in Indian market. Till beginning of this year, we were focused on supply of office stationery, but now we are also targeting schools for supply of school stationery. We have been able to get few prestigious clients like GD-Goenka in our client list.”

For that matter, KI as a company has evolved with time to enhance its furniture's designs and products to meet our customer needs with the changing time and technologies. Our furniture is designed and tested as per BIFMA, Level and Greenguard etc., certification to meet the industry standards. As the changing methodologies in education systems KI furniture have changed to cope up to its users need. To ensure product quality and on-time delivery, KI deploys a comprehensive network of suppliers for the majority of its manufactured components. A similar network is deployed to facilitate product distribution, installation and service throughout all locations. KI India started its operations with well equipped and fully mechanised plant in Bangalore four years back. Rakhe adds: “We've designed our entire business around the customer and complete customer satisfaction. We never have  and never will  embrace an expedient 'one-size-fits-all' business mode.”

Challenges so far

No business is complete without the challenges that it brings along with. But overcoming them is what makes one successful and profitable. For educational furniture industry, the non-organised sector would be the first and the foremost challenge as it would never let the organised entrepreneurs to lead the race of benefits. Goel quips: “India is a vast country with very diverse culture and therefore requirements. Also till recently the stationery market was totally dependent on local retailers, with a very little or no presence of organised players. We plan to work these local retailer rather than separately to capture local markets. This way we will be able to reach those customers without conflicting with local businesses.”

On the same lines Rakhe asserts: “Unorganised players /manufactures holding the bigger share in furniture industry in India market. Furnishing knowledge acquired by KI over a period of 71 years comes into play and helps us to emerge as strong player in the industry.  We have been successful in educating our customers with the importance and use of ergonomically designed furniture. The company gets its winning edge with its state of the art manufacturing plant in India.”

Though, the age old wooden school furniture may have been replaced by lustrous fibre or other acrylic replicas but they are still preferred option by maximum of schools across India. Here are the locations known for excellence in woodwork.

As per the study of India Ratings & Research, a Fitch Group Company, the Indian education sector's market size is expected to increase to Rs 602,410 crore ($109.84 billion) by FY15 due to the expected strong demand for quality education.

The furniture industry employs a total of around 300,000 workers.

The total production of furniture in 2001-02 (according to Annual survey of Industry) was USD 3580 million.

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