Mumbai: Mumbai-based Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd, that runs a chain of elite pre-schools and schools, plans to launch lower-priced versions to cater specifically to the middle income segment of urban and semi-urban markets.
Called Brainworks, the chain aims to offer the same quality of education as its more elite branches — Kangaroo Kids and Billabong High — but without the frills. So while kids that go to Kangaroo Kids or Billabong High study in air-conditioned comfort and have better infrastructure, the Brainworks schools will look more or less like an average school except that the course material will be the same as the one being used in Kangaroo Kids and Billabong, says Lina Ashar, chairperson, Kangaroo Kids.
The move signifies that the demand for high-quality private education is creating a market for specialized services beyond the rich and the very rich. For example, a 2008 report by Pratham, a not-for-profit with a focus on universalization of education, found that overall enrolment in private schools across rural India was around 20% in 2007.
“There is no doubt that the demand for quality education is growing across the country,” says Madhav Chavan, a founder and director of Pratham.
Brainworks is targeting a segment of the population that wants good education for their children but find cost a limiting factor, says Ashar.
Fees for the Brainworks pre-school, which includes a creche facility, will range from Rs18,000-30,000 per year (depending on the real estate cost in the area) and will cater to children in the age group of newborns to six years. In comparison, the fees at Kangaroo Kids are about Rs45,000 a year.
At the lower end, the new schools will charge Rs1,500 a month, still a lot by Indian standards, but more parents will be able to afford this fee than the Rs3,750 a month Kangaroo Kids charges.
Initially, the company plans to set up 35 pre-schools this year. The first three are being set up in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. By next year, the plan is to grow the number of Brainworks pre-schools to 150, with 400 schools in the next four years. “Later, we plan to scale up to primary schools and eventually to high schools for this segment, just as we went from Kangaroo Kids to Billabong High” adds Ashar.
Pratham’s Chavan believes that there is scope for such players. “Any player that offers good quality education at the right price will become popular in regions where income levels are rising and the availability of good private education is scarce,” he says.
While Pratham does not have statistics on the demand for private education, Chavan says the hunger for private education is quite high in rural Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. But whether any of these private players, including the to-be launched Brainworks, will have an overall impact on the country’s education standards is a question mark, he adds.
Kangaroo Kids Education started its first pre-school in Mumbai city in 1993. It has since grown to more than 60 pre-schools, primary schools and high schools across the country and West Asia. Most of the schools currently in the fold are franchises.
Brainworks’ expansion will have a similar model. While the promoters will set up and own some of the schools, a significant number will be franchises in which the promoters will have an equity participation. “This gives us a say in the running of the school,” says Ashar. Each franchisee may have to invest Rs20-30 lakh, including a royalty to the promoters, who will also invest in a training academy for the Brainworks chain’s faculty.
Ashar says the approach for Brainworks will be different from that used by the company’s other brands: “Most of the parents that send their children to our other schools usually are well travelled and are aware. The segment we are planning to target for Brainworks may not have had that kind of exposure, but is still aspiring to give their children a high-quality education.” Part of the process of familiarizing parents with the teaching methodology will include training them as well.
Brainworks is a joint venture between Kangaroo Kids Education and Better Value Brands Pvt. Ltd, with media company Star Group Ltd as media partner.