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Interview With Ms. Mona Singh, Vice President, Sesame Schoolhouse

Ms. Mona Singh VP Sesame Street

1. What is the specialty of your brand?

Sesame Schoolhouse brings the globally acclaimed Sesame Street’s approach towards education to India. Sesame Street combines education and engagement in a manner that has had positive impact on children educational outcomes, in the US and in over 150 countries. Sesame Schoolhouse now brings this high quality educational experience to Indian children, changing the paradigm of preschool education.

We put the child at the center of everything we do. We believe all children have unique potential that should be encouraged. And we know that for children to excel in today’s complex and technology-driven world, they need a new set of skills—social and emotional, as well as academic.

Our programs introduce concepts not as stand-alone subjects but as a wealth of interconnected knowledge. When different streams of learning are taught together, children make more connections—multiplying the benefits to their education. With this interdisciplinary foundation, children grasp advanced concepts faster at the school level.

At this critical age, quality of teaching matters most. Thanks to a remarkably low teacher-student ratio, our educators can identify each student’s needs and address them directly. Teachers create an immersive learning experience that links audio and visual content, technology and the natural environment. By observing, questioning and searching for answers, children gain a sense of curiosity about their world. In turn, learning becomes fun, continuous and lifelong.

Our philosophy is backed up by 40 years of research and proven impact. Numerous studies tell us that children who are exposed to Sesame Street content are more confident, better able to make connections between diverse sources of information, and are more active, curious and inclusive. The impact is validated by parents themselves, who tell us their children are changed by the experience.

2.When and how did the brand enter India? What makes your brand promising for this market?

In 1969, the creator of Sesame Street™ dreamed of a television show that would not just educate children, but also entertain them. That is how Sesame Street came into existence. In 2006, Sesame Street entered India with Galli Galli Sim Sim – the flagship television series which has been watched by over 100 million children since its debut . In 2012 we entered into the preschool education space in India with Sesame Schoolhouse.

Sesame Schoolhouse is setting a new standard for early childhood education through the unique preschool and afterschool programmes. It is a learning experience like no other, brought to life by the fun and furry characters of Sesame Street and its Indian adaptation Galli Galli Sim Sim. Our unique brand of age-appropriate education puts kids at the centre of everything, from playful project-based activities to an environment made for rampant imagination. And the results are dramatic: children who attend are better-rounded, better adjusted, and more confident. In short, they’re better equipped for school and for life. Our Preschool and Afterschool programs are developed by the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street and based on 40 years of insight into how children learn best.

3.How many schools do you have as of now and where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

Sesame Street Preschool is currently present across 10 cities in India including Delhi, Ghaziabad, Dehradun, Alwar, Patna, Meerut, Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Pune and Udaipur offering preschool programmes for 1 to 6 year olds including Beginners (Parent- Toddler Programme), Playgroup, Nursery, Prep I and Prep II. Furthermore, the preschools provide a set of after school programmes inculcating critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills. Few Sesame Street Preschools also provide Extended Day Care facilities which help in the child’s social and emotional growth in a fun filled and supervised environment.
There is a growing demand for quality education in India especially in the Tier 2 cities. We are expanding pan India.

4.Share the brand’s current presence in Indian market through company owned as well as franchisee schools?

We currently have 21 schools operational across 10 cities in India. All our schools operate on franchise model.

5.Tell us about the brand’s product portfolio? What is the targeted clientele?

Sesame Workshop is the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, the landmark television program that reaches millions of children every day in more than 150 countries. In India, we operate as Sesame Workshop in India and our mission is to use the educational power of media to help children reach their highest potential.
• The flagship TV show Galli Galli Sim Sim (GGSS) is broadcast on DD National along with 4 DD Hindi Belt Channels – Bihar, Rajasthan, Bhopal & Lucknow and DD Girnar, DD Sahyadri. It is soon expected to start broadcast on the SUN Network’s children’s channels.
• Another show Chamki ki Duniya is broadcast 5 days a week on the leading children’s channel POGO.
• Our educational messages are extended through radio shows, extensive community outreach programs and applications on digital and mobile platforms.
•The latest venture is in the preschool education space- Sesame Street Preschool

6. How you find Indian education Industry and how do you find franchise in India?

The Indian preschool sector is experiencing rapid growth. As per a report by CLSA Asia Pacific Markets, the preschool education segment in India was estimated to touch $ 3,426 million by the end of 2012. Another study by Ernst and Young estimated the market to cross $1 billion in 2012, with a growth rate of 35% . The organized sector is expected to rise considering the rapid growth of preschools in Tier III and Tier IV cities. In urban areas especially, a preschool is now considered a necessity by most parents. With the entry of a number of reputed chains, national as well as international, this sector is witnessing immense growth and development. With many of them opting for the franchise route to scale up their presence, the concept of franchising among interested and start-up entrepreneurs, has caught on fast in the last few years.

The preschool franchise model offers several advantages for a potential franchisee. It reduces the risk and gestation period associated with a business and provides an easy transfer of technical knowledge and the well-structured procedures and policies laid out by the franchisor. The advantage of partnering with a known brand helps in outreach and attracting more parents towards the school. A franchisee doesn’t have to worry about research and development of curriculum as a set preschool curriculum developed by experts is provided by franchisors.

From the franchisor’s perspective, the preschool business is not only lucrative; but also helps them quickly build up their presence in targeted geographical locations. The franchisor not only shares the brand image, but also their knowledge, experience, and technical expertise.

7.What factors motivated you to opt for franchise route for expansion?

The franchise model allows us to continue to focus on our core competencies of content development, teacher training, and adherence to standards of excellence. It also enables us to expand faster, especially to tier II cities where the need for high quality education is great. We are continuously seeking franchisees that are aligned with our vision of providing high quality educational experiences to children.

8.What are the basic franchisee fundamentals that you look for?

Sesame Schoolhouse is always open to caring and committed entrepreneurs to establish and operate independent centres in India. Here are a few of the particular requirements:

• Minimum of 2000 sq. feet (168 covered area on the ground floor with about 1000 sq. ft (84 outdoor area
• Should be located in a residential area or designated preschool area
• Should be away from the main road in an area that is safe for children
• Location should be easily accessible with adequate parking
• Must have a lease arrangement for the tenure of the franchise agreement

9.How much is the initial investment and area requirements by aspiring franchisees?

Aspiring franchisees should have a minimum of 2000 sq. feet (168 covered area on the ground floor with about 1000 sq. ft (84 outdoor area. Initial investment varies from INR 10 to 20 lacs depending on city and location. To make it easy for entrepreneurs to set up a franchise, Sesame Schoolhouse assists with premise search. We also provide all equipment, furniture and teaching materials to ensure ease of set up.

10.Tell us about the challenges that can be faced by franchisees? How can they be overcome?

Although the preschool sector offers tremendous opportunities for growth, franchisees do face certain challenges to achieve the desired objectives. Presently, preschools are primarily an urban phenomenon and rural areas are still to catch up on this trend. Also, due to the lack of a proper regulatory mechanism and any guidelines or checks by the Government, unorganized players are mushrooming in this sector. Moreover, a sizeable number of parents still do not know much about the modern education techniques and they don’t understand or care little about brand preschools.

To overcome these challenges, franchisees should aim at satisfactory and fulfilling partnerships with established, credible preschool brands. They should, nevertheless, conduct a proper background research and discuss the terms and conditions carefully before formalizing the contract or partnerships in order to get the maximum benefits from this growing educational venture.

11.Are you also looking for international expansion, in which all countries?

We are not actively looking for international expansion at this stage. But considering Sesame is a global brand present in over 150 countries, it could be explored in the future.

12.Any advice for the coming up and potential Entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs exploring the preschool education space should look at working with established brands which have a reputation and an expertise in the education space. Entrepreneurs must also plan for the future.

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