Amol Arora, Vice Chairman and MD, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools
Amol Arora, is a visionary with a multi-dimensional personality. A pioneer in school franchising in India, he is the prime force behind building the Shemrock brand on the strength of its franchise model and in transferring the same stress-free and fun-filled learning environment to Shemford Futuristic Schools. He has led the Group to become India’s leading Chain of Schools with 300+ preschool and senior school branches in India and abroad, with 3,00,000 alumni. As a tribute to his contribution to the education fraternity in India, he has been honoured with several prestigious awards including the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2006” Award by the Lt Governor of Delhi and award for “Outstanding Contribution to the Indian Education System” by the Independent Schools Federation of India in 2006.
In conversation with Dominic Rebello, he reveals how his group’s concept and model in its philosophy – a centralized research based organization, enhances the teaching-learning process in each school. Incidentally, after opening 2 schools in the 1st year, they had 9 in the 2nd year, 16 in the 3rd, and 36 in the 4th and today he has 51 schools operational with a total of more than 90 schools signed up along with an entry into the Limca Book of Records for launching the most schools in the shortest time.
What drives you?
I think that the fact, that whatever I do is going to impact the lives of thousands of children, is what motivates me that most, to do what all I can to ensure a better future for the children. What drives me is, our organisation’s growth and the fact that we are able to reach out to so many children, I think that’s a huge motivation factor for me.
How big is the potential for a business like yours?
The education sector, with a large number of players, is of course a growing sector and as a result the awareness about good Preschool and K-12 education is increasing on a day-to-day basis. The Government school system has not been able to satisfy the parents and quite frankly, this is where the entrepreneurs need to step in to fulfill that gap. Otherwise, leaving alone the future of our children at the hands of the govt. schools, will paint a very bleak scenario for the future of this country.
Since it’s not just about the money that you have invested, but also about the lives of thousands of children, one has to grow at a rate one can manage. We have been experiencing about 35% growth year on year and it feels that we have a healthy growth that we can maintain and manage.
-How do you plan to scale up; raise funds through seed or venture capital or simply grow the old fashioned way through rising turnovers?
We feel that venture capital is not suitable for an industry like education because with venture capital there is a lot of focus on immediate, short term financial returns and it does not have the patience that a sector like education requires. When you start making decisions based on quarterly results or quarterly profits, you might end up making decisions that are detrimental for the careers of children.
However, since we are growing rapidly, by using the franchise model we have a way of using others’ capital for mutual growth. So, rather than raising capital from venture capital for our own schools, we decided to adopt the franchisee model because franchisees, when they invest in education sector, do understand that the situations which may seem to be financially unproductive in the short term, might actually be good for the students in long term. We believe that the franchisees and the franchisors in the education industry have set their interests better aligned than those in the venture capital system.
Who would primarily be your consumer audience?
The Middle and Upper Middle class parents of the children fulfilling the age criteria for our schools in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, as also, whose residences are accessible to the schools, are our consumer audience.
Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
In 5 years, I think we would have around 1500 schools, established in the Middle East and South East Asia.