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School franchising has a unique advantage of making inroads into the remote, rural, and far-flung areas where private edupreneurs under the aegis of a charitable trust or non-profit society are apprehensive of making a financial, logistical, and intellectual investment.

Most of India lives in its villages. As per the latest Statista figures, 905 million Indians live in rural areas, whereas 506 million live in cities. Quite proportionate to this division of population, most of India’s 15 lac schools are located in rural areas. The Central Square Foundation (CSF) Report 2021 puts this number at over 12 lac (85%) of total schools. But dig a little deeper into the figures and a new picture emerges. About 77 percent of total schools in rural areas are government schools where learning infrastructure isn’t adequate and pedagogical practices are still outdated. Teachers are not sufficiently trained and students rarely get to access the facilities for all-around physical, mental and emotional development.

Understandably, the private schools have started gaining traction across India, in both cities and villages. According to the CSF Report, private schools have grown by 5 percentage points in the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19. Most of this growth was focused on urban centers (7 percentage points) and the rural areas saw a growth of just 4.5 percent.

There clearly is a case to be made for greater penetration of private education in rural India. But there are several impediments to it.

  • Aspiring edupreneurs in rural areas may own land, but lack sufficient resources to start a new school
  • Lack of knowledge about legal formalities and regulatory guidelines to be met for launching a new school
  • The low risk-absorbing capacity of rural investors
  • Long ROI period owing to the low paying capacity of rural students/parents

The school franchising model helps to tide over these impediments. It is a model in which a reputed brand enters into a partnership with aspiring edupreneurs to launch a new school or to turn a loss-incurring school into a profit-making one. The franchiser and the franchisee enter into a partnership through a mutually agreed contract in which the former usually agrees to extend a wide range of support services – in some cases, complete handholding – to start a new school.

Here’s how the school franchising model can support the cause of education in rural India.

1. School franchising can be successful in both green-field and brown-field projects in rural areas. The associate business model provides for the franchisee-owned company-supported (FOCS) framework in which the school gets the high launch pad and benefits from the brand name, value, and quality assurance.

2. Meeting the architectural specification and building adequate infrastructure on a rural campus can be quite daunting. The franchiser provides architectural support, does financial projection and school planning, and even helps to identify high-quality human resources for the franchisee as a part of the pre-launch service package.

3. Marketing, branding, and communication requires a different approach in rural areas and tier 3 cities than they do in urban locations. A franchiser with ample experience and a long legacy will understand the nuances and help to generate the right buzz with a smart campaign.

4, Edupreneurs in rural centers often lack technical know-how and expertise about successfully running an educational institution. This is where the partnership with the franchiser comes in handy. The franchiser provides assistance in CBSE affiliation, shares a detailed process manually, extends IT and auxiliary support, and assists in curriculum design and implementation.

5. Studies have shown that despite the presence of government-run schools in rural India, the quality of education there remains abysmally low. The franchisor brings strong quality checks through regular audits and review processes.

6. Another shortcoming of education in rural India is the lack of quality teachers. The school franchising model addresses this problem by not only providing guidance in the hiring of the teaching staff but in ensuring regular teacher training programs to up-skill and re-skill educators with the latest competencies.

7. School franchising model helps the institutions in rural areas to keep abreast of the new-age pedagogical practices. A brand with a vision to reform education in India’s hinterland can introduce practices such as Design Thinking, Experiential Learning, Project-based Learning, Computational Thinking, Art Integration, Health Education Curriculum, and STEM education.

What Is Needed: Patient Capital and Resilient Partnerships!

Starting and successfully running a school requires patient capital. The franchisee is expected to make an initial investment, the payback period of which in terms of CAPEX can be 8 years or more for a K-12 school and 2 years or more for a preschool. The franchisee must be willing to invest this patient capital. This collaboration must be coupled with resilience on the part of both parties. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how resilience and adaptability can overcome any crisis. So the secret is to forge resilient partnerships and invest for a long time. That is the requisite approach to empower the millions of aspiring learners in rural India who deserve every bit of the quality education matching global standards.