No kidding!

“We are looking for entrepreneurs who are hands on and whom we refer to as owner operators rather than investors who merely have a profit bent of mind,” says Projodh Rajan (Vice President, Eurokids) about their franchising strategy.

Shobha and Satish heave a sigh of relief, as the biggest decision of their daughter Shreya’s educational life has been made. These days, parents face an uphill task when it comes to making decisions on their children’s education. A familiar scenario? Before you visualise a teenager choosing between careers, stop right there. Shreya is all of two years and her parents have spent many a sleepless night identifying an ideal pre -school.

With close to 567 preschools established across 210 towns and cities in India, Eurokids Preschools has established itself as a leading player in the vastly unstructured business category of preschools with a defined approach that focuses on building the best foundation for a child.

Making the difference

Before the advent of Eurokids, most of the preschools in India lacked basic infrastructural facilities and followed no curriculum. Even today, the preschools segment has several ‘aunty next door’ outfits that follow their own systems. Eurokids offers preschool and kindergarten programs that emphasize on the all-round development of children through age-appropriate learning activities that makes all the difference. This plays a crucial role in preparing a child for primary school, thereby easing some of the pressure off parents. It’s no wonder then that Eurokids has grown in popularity and how! From Dharmapuri to Tuticorin, Ahmedabad to Kolkata, Eurokids has a widespread reach.

“We are looking for entrepreneurs who are hands on and whom we refer to as owner operators rather than investors who merely have a profit bent of mind,” says Projodh Rajan (Vice President, Eurokids) about their franchising strategy.

The key differentiator in this success story is the method of learning adopted at Eurokids. It aims at doing away with the rote mentality that is the current approach taken by most other educational institutes in India. In an age where even young children are not spared a competitive comparison, the benefits of an early start in the learning process are immense.

Changing routes

“What stands today as a nationwide network of preschools was not the perceived plan. Eurokids intended to be licensed publishers of children’s books of western titles with a cornerstone to reduce prices through indigenous printing,” says Projodh Rajan, Vice President, Eurokids International. In 1998, The Indian Express Group partnered with Egmont International, to further this venture. But, findings of a detailed research of preschools presented an opportunity to float a preschool that followed a structured curriculum. Eurokids started two pilot schools in Mumbai, both as franchise models and gradually grew to become a chain of preschools across the country. By 2004, When Egmont exited its operations in Asia Pacific to consolidate its business in Scandinavia, the current team of Ganesh Venkatraman, Vikas Phadnis, Uday Mathur and Projodh Rajan turned promoters through a management buyout. “The growing need to bring lucrative change to the education system has lured many private equity operators to invest in the pre school segment. This year, Eurokids has found strategic partners in Educomp, a leading education solutions provider,” says Rajan.

Bringing fun into learning

With a cuddly mascot called Buddy, Eurokids helps children understand that learning can be fun! The content and curriculum itself is the result of well-researched efforts by experts in the field of early learning programs. “The hallmark of Eurokids is the focus we give to development of key skills like motor and social skills in a child,” states Rajan. His words seem to hold merit as over one lakh of Eurokids’ alumni have been absorbed into premium primary schools, based on merit.

Eurokids fiercely guards against the rigours of the prevalent education system, be it parental anxiety on performance expectation from a child. The teacher or the facilitator as one is referred to here, expedites learning and skill development of a child taking into account his or her ability. The educational experience at Eurokids is on par with the highest international standards and efforts are made to constantly evolve novel programs.

Successful business model

According to reports by brokerage firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, the preschool industry in the country is currently estimated to gross about Rs. 4,004 crores. The report also indicated that the largest chain of preschools in India comprises just 550 schools, less than 4 per cent of the total market potential of 15,000 preschools. This is primarily because most preschools in India fall in the unorganized sector.

Keeping in mind their vision to be the dominant player in the global preschool segment by offering the best educational experience to our future, Eurokids seeks to offer franchise options to people with entrepreneurial instincts and the love for working with young children. “We are looking for entrepreneurs who are hands on and whom we refer to as owner operators rather than investors who merely have a profit bent of mind,” says Rajan. The investment amount expected of a franchisee is in the range of Rs 8 to 10 lakh, although this tends to vary with the prominence of the locality and city. Unlike primary or higher secondary schools, which are issued a mandate to be run by non-profit trusts, preschools can be set up as for-profit companies. Most preschools in the Eurokids chain are turning profits within the first year- quite a feat in the franchise model. That explains the fact that except for 25 centers of Eurokids, all the others are franchisees.

A step ahead of competition

Within the preschool segment, Eurokids’ fee structure is relatively steeper. Rajan defends the fee structure quoting it as a resource requirement to cover their extensive program module that includes interesting field trips, innovative study material and play equipment. He asserts that this is no impairment to the chain’s growth within India. The singular edge that Eurokids holds over its competition is the fact that they are also leading players in the children’s book segment in India. Having acquired licenses from some of the world’s best book brands like Disney, Mattel, Enid Blyton, Noddy and Tin Tin, the company incorporates these into their preschool curriculum. Loveable characters like Mowgli, Mickey, Aladdin, Noddy and Barbie, presenting educational concepts to children has been a big hit.

Despite their innovations, Eurokids faces stiff competition from all quarters, be it the friendly neighborhood aunt’s set up or contemporary preschool chains like Shemrock Schools, Kangaroo Kids Inc., or Kidzee, an arm of Zee Interactive Learning Systems that has more than 600 centers across India. “Parents are more discerning than ever in choosing a pre school but Eurokids’ international standards and superior teaching techniques score over the plethora of aunty next door set ups as well other branded outfits,” says Rajan.

Eurokids aims to be an integrated education operator in the country and the management is now focused on achieving their medium term goal of 1,000 preschools in the next two and half years. Their vision to extend the value chain to primary and secondary schools with Euroschool is taking shape in the form of 12 Euroschools, with a CBSE and ICSE curriculum being established across India. The promoters look to extend that figure to 30 schools in the next five years. Rajan also reveals plans of opening a day boarding cum residential school which will follow the CBSE and IB Board, located in the outskirts of Chennai.

‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school,’ quoted Albert Einstein, the scientist genius.  Eurokids is set to annul the saying by bringing about a paradigm shift in the way preschool education will be perceived in future.

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