It is a true story, it is filled with pathos, and it comes with a happy ending. 12-year-old Aproopa lives in Hyderabad and loves science. She was readying her project (a barometer made with, of all things, a used plastic water bottle, a toothpick and a straw) for the finals of an inter-school science contest, when tragedy took the form of a spinal injury and multiple surgeries. “She still made it to that stage and stood second,” recounts Navneet Anhal, chief operating officer, Zee Learn, with the easy pride of someone who has narrated a favourite story to a legion of admirers or, as in this case, newcomers to his company.
Zee Learn is the education business that was hived off from Zee Entertainment Enterprises in April 2010. It runs preschool chain (Kidzee), K-12 schools (the Mount Litera Zee Schools and the Mount Litera World Schools), vocational education centres (the Zee Institute of Creative Arts and the Zee Institute of Media Arts), plus a private university in Dehradun as a separate venture. The Essel Group forayed into education because of the founder media baron Subhash Chandra’s, deep-rooted desire “to improve the quality of human capital while investing in a sector that was ripe for investment”.
Kidzee began operations in 2003 but it’s only of late that Zee Learn has seen traction in the business. Enrolments have risen from 33,000 in 2009 to 60,000 in 2012, across 900 centres, and the business now contributes 60% of the company’s total revenue. An IDFC-SSKI report says the $300 million organised preschool market, which saw a 36% CAGR till 2012, is split three-ways as of now. Kidzee has 34% of this lucrative and growing market, making it the market leader, Euro Kids has 30%, and Tree House brings up the rear with 3%.
Clearly, the brand’s decision to take the franchise route to growth has worked well for it. A typical franchisee of the preschool, on contract for four years, invests Rs.8-10 lakh in a centre, and bears the cost of real estate, salaries and advertising, while Zee Learn takes care of the content and activities vertical t