Hyper-competitive times and the availability of more incomes are seeing today’s parents look at pre-school education more seriously. Gone are the days of simple playschools, run by competent housewives in the neighbourhood. They are giving way to the Eurokids and Kidzees of the world. As more organised chains of playschools with sizeable scale dot the country’s landscape, the focus on their branding is bound to gain importance. The beginnings are already in evidence.
Eurokids has 450 playschools and will add another 200 by next year. Kidzee, promoted by Zee, has 418 operational and 120 signed-up playschools. Apart from these two national players, there are strong regional chains like Kangaroo Kids in Mumbai, Shamrock in Delhi, Applekids in Tamil Nadu and a number of others, which may add up to about 30 to 40 chains overall.
Eurokids, in existence since 2001, started off with Mumbai and then spread its network to other states. Uday Mathur, managing director, Eurokids International Pvt Ltd, says, “Branding is getting important in this space. To a consumer, branding is the bridge that builds confidence. Since this is a service industry, branding is all the more important.” The fact that today, pre-school selection by parents is a much more informed and deliberated decision than before, makes branding a serious need as well.
As there is no prescribed syllabus for playschools, there is an opportunity for each of the pre-school chains to differentiate themselves. Remarks Mathur, “Most of the chains promise the same things. Everybody is trying to copy each other.” Eurokids, since its inception, he insists, has positioned itself as ‘The preschool specialist’ and intends to stick to its position.
A Kidzee spokesperson agrees that branding is very important. “Our brand is a promise that we make to our consumer. Kidzee is a brand that promises to the parent that we’ll help identify and nurture the unique potential in their child. We need to stick to that promise since it is integral to our existence, competition or no competition.” He adds that competition also justifies the case for branding as the clutter increases.
Eurokids started off with an advertising and marketing budget of Rs 2 crore and now spends about 10 per cent of its revenues, which is close to Rs 5-6 crore annually. It typically uses women’s publications such as Femina, Women’s Era or Good Housekeeping for its print advertisements. It also taps television for bigger communications. Mathur adds, “We do promotions at two levels – at a national level when we promote Eurokids as a brand, and at the city level when we advertise admissions or opening of a new branch. For the former, we use television and for the latter, we use print media such as the city editions of prominent newspapers, as well as banners and leaflets.”
The money invested in pre-school education also makes it important for pre-school education chains to establish themselves as brands that deliver value for substantial money. The fees for Eurokids start at Rs 500 per month at the lower end, going up to Rs 3,000 per month for its centers in upmarket locations such as south Mumbai.
Kidzee also makes use of events regularly to promote its brand. Says its spokesperson, “In addition to our regular advertising campaign on TV and Print, we try to associate with events that help nurture talent, be it Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs or our own Toddler Shows, Talents Hunts and other such programmes.”
A strong consumer demand in the space is fuelled by parents’ urge to give the best pre-school education to their child. Says Santosh Desai, managing director and CEO of Future Brands, “Parents are keen to start giving inputs to their children early in their lives. Organised playschools are a hot segment to keep children occupied while also enabling them to learn a few things.”
Desai insists that the branding wave will only get more intense in the future as the unorganised sector is quite large in this space. Although the space has just started to evolve, there is no doubt that the national players are taking their homework assignments in branding quite seriously.