The lockdowns caused by the pandemic have boosted the edtech industry and brought online learning to the fore. But in recent months, as the pandemic slowly loses its grip, countries around the world are gradually returning to physical education classes.
While online learning has its benefits, the importance of physical education should never be underestimated. Considering that the early years (0-8) are the building blocks of all learning in a child’s life, it is safe to say that preschool education plays a crucial role in shaping a child’s growth.
A $3.5 billion In the industry, pre-school education is one of the fastest growing segments in the Indian education sector, growing at a CAGR of 23 percent between 2017-22. However, there is a great demand for affordable private preschools that is not being met due to a lack of adequate infrastructure. Most private preschool models are unsustainable in low-income areas and rural parts of the country. High franchise fees and license fees from kindergarten chains often result in franchise partners not being able to make a profit or break even, leading to an undersupply of private kindergartens 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, quality education to all. The school has introduced a unique model by incorporating the industry’s lowest school franchise fees into a quality education and is now one of the largest, fastest growing and affordable preschool chains in India with a presence in Tier II and Tier III cities .
The founding years
Kshitiz’ father Sanjeev Bhasin ran a publishing company from 2004 to 2018, through which he supplied preschools in India with books, bags, uniforms and other school furniture and toys. After graduating from Delhi University, Kshitiz also worked in the family business between 2015-18. The insights and observations that Kshitiz gained during this time allowed him to develop a sustainable preschool model for low-income parts of the country, which laid the foundation for My Chhota School (MCS).
“We have been able to provide education in areas where this has always been a challenge and where students previously had to walk miles to school.not only improves children’s learning, but also educates parents on why early childhood education and care is important,‘ shares Kshitiz.
Although it is easy to run a preschool, it is difficult to run a preschool that puts quality first while being affordable.
Standalone preschools in Tier II/III areas are unable to provide quality education due to high costs due to lack of scale, while other leading preschool chains that provide quality education charge high franchise fees Rs 10-15 lakh and 15-20 percent royalties. As a result, the model is unsustainable in low-income parts of the country where the ability to pay per child is low. My Chhota School has managed to provide quality education while keeping franchise fees as low as possible Rs 60,000 coupled with a zero royalty model. This has enabled many franchisees in Tier II/III cities to open My Chhota schools across the country. While the tuition that franchisees charge parents is pocket-friendly, the MCS model still allows them to generate excellent returns.
Teaching methods that leave traces
Explanation of some standards for the curriculum at My Chhota School, says Kshitiz, “Our curriculum is based on the research of the most renowned education experts. It was designed by our education team to support those important early years, to inspire children to be brave explorers and happy, confident life learners today. We believe that children learn best through play.”
MCS’ child-centred curriculum provides the needed flexibility in terms of age and ensures a smoother transition from pre-school to early primary school, leading to positive self-concept and confidence, better achievement and better retention – from activity-based exercises given to children a sense of achievement for topic-based learning that seeks to incorporate diverse skills and knowledge into a specific topic, a playful approach through stimulating materials, and a project/research-based approach that allows children to make their choices and explore their interests.
Since the pandemic, MCS has also been offering live online courses under the ‘MCS@Home“ initiative started in April 2020.
The way forward
With a current presence of 850 schools in more than 325 locations, MCS is targeting 3,000 schools with a user base of 1,00,000 students by 2025. The company also begins internal approvals under the MCS+ Umbrella. With MCS+, the company solicits admission via its website/app and directs it to the closest existing preschool to the student’s home. Students gain access to a simple and hassle-free sign-up process, as well as exclusive online content and features such as arts and crafts classes, spoken English classes, dance classes and more, in minutes from a mobile phone/computer.
MCS+ will provide My Chhota School with an additional revenue stream with higher earnings per student. “To date, our income has come only from franchise fees and the sale of MCS branded book sets and uniforms to our students. As part of MCS+ we would be working with our franchisee partner schools on a revenue sharing model for all admissions made through the MCS website/app.” says Kshitiz.
The organization also plans to invest heavily in brand building, marketing and team expansion. “In terms of revenue, we should be able to grow from an annualized run rate of 100 million rupees currently to 500 million rupees in the next three years. While much of this growth would come from our existing operations, the remainder would come from new initiatives that are already in the pipeline. In addition, the growth target will be met while maintaining our mid-term EBITDA above 20 percent. As a company we are very focused on the bottom line and will continue to be so.” adds Kshitiz.
Funding-wise, the company is in talks with some of the industry’s top VCs and plans to raise funds in the coming months.