Running a quality-first, affordable preschool is not easy: Kshitiz Bhasin on bridging the gap with My Chhota School

Offering an affordable, but world-class education to children from across backgrounds, My Chhota School was founded with a unique model that integrates the lowest school franchise fees in the industry with high quality education.
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The pandemic-induced lockdowns boosted the edtech industry and brought online learning to the forefront. But, over the last few months as the pandemic slowly loses its grip, countries across the world are gradually moving back to physical education.

Even though online learning has its benefits, the importance of physical education can never be underestimated. Keeping in mind that the early years (0-8) are the building blocks of all learning in a child’s lifetime, it is safe to say that preschool education plays a crucial role in shaping a child’s growth.

A $3.5 billion industry, preschool education is one of the fastest growing segments within the Indian education sector, growing at a CAGR of 23 percent between 2017-22. However, there is a huge demand for affordable private preschools which remains unmet, due to lack of adequate infrastructure. Most private preschool models are not sustainable in low-income areas and rural parts of the country. High franchise fees and royalty charged by preschool chains often lead to franchisee partners not being able to earn profits or break-even, resulting in an undersupply of private preschools in low-income areas.

A play school for every Indian child, My Chhota School (MCS) was founded in 2018 by Kshitiz Bhasin with the aim of providing affordable, world-class education to everyone. The school has incorporated a unique model by integrating the lowest school franchise fees in the industry with high-quality education and is one of the largest, fastest growing, and affordable preschool chains in India today with presence in Tier II and Tier III cities.

The founding years

Kshitiz’s father Sanjeev Bhasin ran a publishing house between 2004-18, through which he supplied books, bags, uniforms, and other school furniture and toys to preschools in India. After graduating from Delhi University, Kshitiz too worked in the family business between 2015-18. The insights and observations that Kshitiz gathered during this period enabled him to come up with a sustainable preschool model for low-income parts of the country, that set the foundation stone for My Chhota School (MCS).

We have been able to provide education in areas where it has always been a challenge and students earlier used to walk miles to schools. My Chhota School does not only improve kids’ learning but also educates parents on why early childhood education and care is important,” shares Kshitiz.

Though running a preschool is easy, running one that puts quality first, while being affordable at the same time, is difficult.

Standalone preschools in Tier II/ III areas are not able to provide quality education on account of high costs due to lack of scale, while other leading preschool chains which do provide quality education charge high franchise fees of Rs 10-15 lakh and 15-20 percent royalty. As a result, the model is not sustainable in low-income parts of the country, where paying capacity per child is low. My Chhota School has managed to provide quality education, while reducing franchise fees to as low as Rs 60,000 coupled with a zero-royalty model. This has enabled many franchisee partners in Tier II/ III towns to open My Chhota Schools across the country. Even though the tuition fee charged by the franchisee partners from parents is pocket-friendly, they are still able to generate excellent ROIs owing to the MCS model.

Teaching methodologies that leave a mark

Explaining some of the standards for the curriculum at My Chhota School, Kshitiz says, Our curriculum is based on the research of the most renowned education experts. Designed by our education team, it’s created to support these important early years, to inspire children to be bold explorers today and joyful, confident learners for life. We believe that children learn best through play-based learning.

The child-friendly curriculum of MCS offers the required flexibility in terms of age and ensures a smoother transition from preschool to early primary classes leading to positive self-concept and confidence, better performance, and better retention – from activity-based exercises that give children a sense of accomplishment to theme-based learning that attempts to tie in various skills and knowledge into a specific topic, to play-based approach through stimulating materials, and a projects /inquiry-based approach that lets children exercise their choices and explore what interests them.

Since the pandemic, MCS also provides live online classes under the ‘MCS@Home’ initiative started in April 2020.

The way forward

With a presence of 850 schools across 325+ locations currently, MCS is targeting 3,000 schools with a user base of 1,00,000 students by 2025. The company is also starting in-house admissions under the MCS+ umbrella. With MCS+, the company will solicit admissions via its website/app and divert them to its nearest existing preschool from the location of the student. Students will get access to an easy and hassle-free enrolment process within minutes from a mobile/ computer, as well as exclusive online content and features like art and craft classes, spoken English classes, dance classes, and more.

MCS+ will offer My Chhota School an additional revenue stream, with higher revenue per student. Until now, our revenue only came from franchise fees, and selling MCS branded book-sets and uniforms to our students. Under MCS+, we would be working on a revenue sharing model with our franchisee partner schools for all admissions done via the MCS website/ app, says Kshitiz.

The organisation also plans to invest heavily on brand building, marketing, and team expansion. In terms of revenue, we should be able to grow from an annualised run rate of Rs 100 million currently to Rs 500 million in the next three years. While a large portion of this growth would come from our existing operations, the remaining would come from new initiatives already in the pipeline. Also, the growth target will be achieved while maintaining our 20 percent+ EBITDA in the medium run. As a company, we are very focused on the bottom line and will continue to do so, Kshitiz adds.

As far as funding is concerned, the company is in talks with some of the leading VCs in the industry and plans to raise funds in the upcoming months.

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