Talking to Biz Innings, Dr Aperna Volluru, Founder and Director of My School ITALY says she is aiming at establishing 100+ preschools in India in next one year.
At a Glance
ITALY being a non-English speaking European country, couldn’t enter the world of International Preschool Franchising Industry. Even though the most famous Preschool teaching methodologies are Italian, such as Montessori or Reggio Emilia method, My School ITALY is the first ITALIAN Franchising Preschool chain to enter into India to infuse European curriculum into Indian Preschool education.
Established in 2010, My School ITALY has its strong presence in ITALY, ROMANIA and entered the Indian market in 2016, in less than a year’s time, they succeeded in selling 7 states’ Master Franchise which helped in establishing 20+ schools across 5 states in India.
Who are the pillars of your organisation? what responsibilities do they handle?
Our 3 Directors: Dr Giacomo Balzano (P.hD in Psychology), Dr Michelangelo Amendola,(MBBS; MD) and Valeria Fabiano (MA in Mass Communications); our R&D Manager: Dennis Martin; our Trainer: Giulia Valentina Acquaviva and last but not the least myself, the Founder and Director: Dr Aperna Volluru (P.hD in Child Psychology). We are all seasoned professionals with over 25 years of experience, we have stepped into India to give something very special and very meticulously developed concept of Preschool.
Being Indian by origin, I’m personally taking care of operations and marketing in India and the other Directors of the organisation are all handling the technical aspect, i.e. the research, concept building and continuous development of the product.
Too many preschools are hitting the market, what does this rush indicate?
Oliver Wendell said, “Children are our most valuable natural resource.” And 13.12 % of India’s 132.42 crores population lies in the tender age bracket of 0-6 years. Hence any vertical to do with Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), be it preschools, daycares, books, toys, animations, after-school activities, amusement parks, etc. have vast scope to come up and thrive in the Indian market. Personally, I feel even if we triple up the number of preschools in both organised and unorganised sectors, yet there will be no sufficient room for our child population in India. The only thing that we should keep in mind is, let’s grow and let other’s also grow…. there is more than enough space for all in this sector.
How far you progressed in this 2 years journey?
With my 25 years of Global experience as a child psychologist, an educator and an entrepreneur, I came back to my India where no one and nothing was mine… Every face was new, everything was a new experience… I had forgotten that I was no more an Indian in thought but just an Indian at heart, soul and body…But I had a mission… it was my Mom’s passion and my Dad’s dream. I had to fulfil it, come what may. So I listed my goals down, then I jumped into action and started working towards fulfilling them.
I was cheated by insignificant people and well known unethical marketing companies. But I continued to celebrate every small achievement to keep myself encouraged and motivated. As someone once said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” That’s how I’m progressing towards my goal.. to reach out and give to as many children in India the Early Childhood Care and Education of Global standards. I should say we had a great start in India, today we have 7 master franchises appointed across 7 different states and 20+ schools functional across 5 states.
When did this preschool trend begin in India and why?
From almost zero in 1992 to over 33,000 preschools in 2015 with USD 2.21 Billion growth, we have seen the rise of this multi-million dollar niche that is growing at one of the fastest rates in the market. Today these preschools are providing education to 16.5 crore children in the 0–6 year age category. This preschools’ trend shows us that we as a nation are developing, awareness about the ECCE among the parents is increasing, number of working woman in our society is rising tremendously, switching over from joint families to nuclear families, breaking down of nuclear families and growing % of single parents, ever-increasing tendency to ape the West.
Do kids really need education at such an early stage?
Though we see the child of 0-6 years growing every month, we fail to understand that his/her brain and muscles are also growing at the same pace. While we can see the former growth and measure it when we get the clothes and shoes for them, we can’t see the latter growth. But just like a sapling and plant that’s taken care of carefully and gets proper nutrition, yield a large number of fruits as a tree, similarly a child who starts his education under the tutorage of Early Childhood professionals will have a more fruitful future.
What’s your curriculum all about, could you please throw some light on your teaching methodologies?
Our curriculum is the backbone of My School ITALY. The basic principle of our curriculum is “Child Development” and “Child Learning”. We believe in stress-free learning. Our children are not forced to learn, but encouraged to participate and are involved in various sensory, exploratory and interesting activities to foster their holistic development. Through our CURRICULUM we want to shape the future of millions of children in India by giving them one unique standard European CURRICULUM set by European Union for its Member Nations in 2008 after a detailed investigation and examination of the curriculum of 10 countries: France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Norway,Denmark, Sweden, Germany, UK and Austria. Today this Curriculum is called the GLOBAL CURRICULUM. We have our own characters like those of Walt Disney’s Tom & Jerry; our Mascot Mr. Ritzy and our own books and worksheets where illustrations are hand drawn and crayon coloured. We provide lesson plans on a daily basis. We have MSIK Digital Curriculum for children to learn through videos and music. For parents we an MSIK App via which they can have access to all that has been done in the class during the week. MSIK Decant is our Teaching Tool and MSIK Milestones is our Assessment Tool. Our Methodology is based on Reggio Emilia and Waldorf Schools of thought.
You have your presence across different countries, do all the parents across the territories behave same or it differs?
Parents across the world have the same concerns when it comes to their children. In other countries, we have to spend a lot of time talking to parents about our services related to the child behaviour and grooming. Security issues and curriculum of the school is taken for granted as all preschools follow the same curriculum and same security systems. But in India, unfortunately, the Indian Government has not prescribed a preschool curriculum and security standards for preschools yet. So parents want to know what we are going to teach them and want to be sure if their children are going to be safe in the preschool premises.
Majority franchises in preschool segment bid bye after a certain period of engagement and turn their school into standalone, any comments on this?
If the Franchisor will not provide the Franchisees with the all-around support to run the school profitably and successfully, and the price at which they provide these services is far more expensive than what they can avail from the market, then, of course, the franchisees will opt for being stand-alone schools.
How do you equip your franchises?
We are one of those few franchising preschool brands in this sector who equip the franchisees with A-Z when it comes to setting up the school, training the staff, helping them with marketing, IT support, IT Gadgets, books, uniforms, bags, curriculum and last but not the least, daily lesson plans, worksheets, activities and weekly events and assessments.
Establishing 20+ schools in such a short span is a great deal, how are you enjoying your success? Going forward what are you aiming at?
This is just a humble beginning. I would call it a success when we will be able to reach the children at grass root levels, I mean in our small towns and villages, where still a huge population of 0-6 years don’t have access to ECCE.