By signing up a school franchise, you get a ready-made and proven system, as opposed to creating a system all over again by hit and trial
If you are planning to open your own preschool or school, franchising is the obvious choice. Essentially, ‘franchising’ is an arrangement where one party (the franchisor) grants another party (the franchisee) the right to use its trademark or brand name, as well as certain business systems and processes to produce and market the good or service according to the standards set. Also, the franchisor offers assistance in organising, training, merchandising, marketing and managing in return for a monetary consideration. Moreover, parents mostly prefer established brands to standalone ‘local’ schools, as they assure quality.
By signing up a school franchise, you get a ready-made and proven system, as opposed to creating a system all over again by hit and trial. So, what all do you need to keep in mind while starting a school franchise?
Years of experience: The franchise sector has a history of fly-by-night operators, who have made unfulfilled promises. The number of years a company has been operating and franchising is, therefore, very important. Since you are paying for the goodwill, when you join a system, the more the number of years in the industry and the more the students and alumni, the better it is.
Management background: The vision, mission, goal and objectives of an organisation are driven by the top management. So, before making the decision, research about the promoters. Reading about them on their websites, competitive analysis and reviews by experts can help you get a brief picture of the brand, the people behind it, and their ethics, morals and values. It is important to choose a company where the management is actively involved. Conducting a personal research by talking to people and franchisees in areas where the brand has a presence is also important.
School design: Some brands tend to have no uniformity in the infrastructure and design of their school branches and are mostly concerned with quantity rather than quality; these need to be eluded. Also, try and visit or do a Google image search of the schools to see how attractive the interiors are, since you shall be paying for the same—so you should know how your school will turn out for the investment you make. A school system with a good network should be able to assist you in finding the right location, dealing with vendors and getting government approvals.
Recruitment and training: Teachers are the backbone of any educational institution. You must ask in detail about the assistance provided in teacher recruitment. Also, enquire about the trainings given by the head office—a good quality institution will offer both online and on-site training.
Technology: It is imperative that the system you sign up with has a technology backbone to manage and communicate. For instance, a good quality organisation should have an in-house IT development team.
Option for upgrade: The brand you tie up with should have a preschool, primary school and 10+2 franchise packages, if you’d want to upgrade your preschool to a primary and later to 10+2. You would not want to be stuck in a situation where you do not have flexibility to expand your school.
Hidden costs: Many franchisors get franchisees to purchase the ‘set-up kit’ and ‘customised’ products such as books, uniform, stationery, etc, from the franchisor itself. However, chances are they might be overcharging. One must enquire about the market price of the products and services and ask the franchisor about the option of buying the same from elsewhere, if it meets the specifications. One must also check for hidden costs like teacher training fees, compulsory purchases from the head office, forced advertising fees, etc. Also, many brands charge an agreement renewal fee or royalty on after-school activities, so you have to negotiate with the franchisor on getting the renewal fee waived for life in written, if it has been charged by the franchisor.
Distance between branches: You would not want to end up in a situation where you find another franchise of the same brand in your vicinity, thereby leading to unnecessary competition. Ask the franchisors about the geographies in which they are the strongest, then do research about the information received from their website, and check on for the distance between the branches of that particular area. You can consider including cities like Patna and Pune with large school populations in your research.
By keeping these things in mind, you can short-list the brands that will help you set up a quality school in your community, embarking on a journey that is both enriching and profitable.
The author Amol Arora, is vice-chairman & managing director, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools