Husband-wife duo start AJ Plackal Eduventures to help in child learning and developmentSindhu Kashyap
It is a common belief in Child Developmental Psychology that the sensory experiences a baby has, have a profound impact on his or her overall development and learning. In 2008, UK-based child development specialist and child psychologist Dr Lin Day created the Baby Sensor and Toddler Sense programmes.
These were designed with the basic belief that caregivers and parents play a strong and integral part in a child’s development. Designed for infants from birth to 13 months, the programmes focus on stimulating the child’s senses, which leads to accelerated physical and brain development.
Building the ropes
Looking at the gaps in the early baby and infant learning ecosystem in India, husband and wife duo Anju Cherian and Jose Paul, 35, left their corporate jobs abroad to return to India with their daughter and make a positive difference in the lives of young Indian parents and children.
They established AJ Plackal Eduventures in October 2014. They began with introducing award-winning international early learning programmes and creating localised solutions that meet the needs of Indian audiences.
“We currently represent the Baby Sensory, Toddler Sense and Mini Professors programmes from the UK. We are the master franchisee for India and our neighboring countries. We also run The Alchemy Nursery, a specialised daycare and learning centre for infants and toddlers,” adds Anju.
Through interactions with parents, the duo realised that parents rued the lack of daycare and early learning centres that provided the same level of quality and focussed on early years’ development.
“To address this demand, we launched The Alchemy Nursery, a specialised daycare and preschool for children from birth to three years following the Early Years Foundation Framework Stage (EYFS) framework from the UK,” says Anju.
While the programmes were well received, due to a number of factors stemming from the many cultural barriers in India, they knew that the infant programme was something they would need to nurture over a longer period of time.
So, they decided to collaborate with several other groups like children’s specialty hospitals, large residential communities and mother child stores to educate customers about the importance of early learning in infants.
In parallel, they also launched the Toddler Sense programme to help children below the age of five. Owing to growing demand from parents who had heard about the programme, they have also launched additional venues in other parts of Bengaluru.
“To beat the high real estate costs, we offer the classes from existing venues, which met our international health, safety and operational standards,” adds Jose. In all, it has been a great first year that has witnessed them launch two programmes across three venues and branch out into the daycare and preschool space.
Learning and re-learning
While AJ Plackal Eduventures was established in 2014, the seeds of the idea were sown in 2012. Anju took a break from her corporate career to focus on raising their daughter. Being a voracious reader, she prepared for her new role by reading up extensively on early years’ development in children.
The more she read and researched, the more convinced she was of the importance of sensory stimulation and the impact of the first five years on a child’s development.
After speaking to her husband, the duo started exploring parent child programmes they could attend with our daughter. “This is how we came across the Baby Sensory programme developed by the UK’s leading child psychologist Dr. Lin Day. Amongst all the programmes we attended, Baby Sensory stood out for how well-researched and well-designed it is,” says Anju.
After having experienced the benefits of the programme, the duo decided to bring Baby Sensory and its affiliate programmes to India, with the desire to make a positive impact on society. They spoke to the parent company in the UK and went through an extensive selection process before being awarded the master franchise for Baby Sensory and its affiliate programmes in India and our neighboring countries.
They spent time in the UK getting trained on the various programmes and business aspects. Eventually, they decided to move back to India as a family and focus on making the programmes a success in India. “We are also proud to be supporting young parents who are often far away from their families and dealing with parenthood on their own,” says Jose.
The programme and its benefits
Anju adds that every activity in Baby Sensory has been scientifically designed to provide a rich environment full of interesting sights, sounds, smells, colours and materials that help build a foundation that boosts brain development in a child.
Toddler Sense is designed for kids in the age group of one to five years. The award-winning toddler development classes introduce children to a galaxy of magical worlds. Here, structured activities go hand in hand with the freedom to explore and imagine. Each week has a unique theme, meticulously constructed to stimulate a child’s brain, co-ordination and physical development.
Growth and future plans
Starting with one location and one Baby Sensory class a week, AJ Plackal Eduventures today has three centres across Bengaluru that offer both Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense classes, with over 10 times more babies, toddlers and their parents attending the classes every week.
The overall number of children registered for the classes are also growing month on month. “Our revenue model is very simple. We charge our customers a subscription fee for the classes, schooling and care services. Going forward, our revenues will be a mix of subscription fees from our own centres and a franchising fee through network expansion across the country,” says Jose.
Currently bootstrapped, the duo aims to focus on continuing to make Baby Sensory, Toddler Sense and The Alchemy accessible to more parents and children across India through a network of own and franchised centres.
“Our franchising programme is also designed to enable women who are looking for flexible business opportunities that fit into their own schedules,” adds Anju.
They are also working on launching different new international early learning programmes, starting with Mini Professors, which will be launched in the first half of 2016. “Over the next two years, Baby Sensory, Toddler Sense and Mini Professors will be present in all the key metros across the country,” adds Jose.