School with a View

 In this blog post, I would like to walk my readers through the journey that two startups took, namely, my company Brandscapes, and our client Value Budget Housing Corporation. VBHC is a housing development company floated by a bunch of professionals who have a dream for India, and truly wish to make a difference to the masses who otherwise cannot hope to have access to good education and decent living conditions. VBHC has a dream to build 1M affordable homes across the country, and within several of these gated communities they wish to install a school, so that two vital concerns of the Indian household are taken care of in one place.

Brandscapes has been partnering with them for the past 3 years in their quest to understand their target consumer, most of who belong to the lower middle class. We designed a demand estimation protocol, deriving out of extensive quantitative research, which allows VBHC to take informed decisions on the viability of a particular project site, and the exact combination of offerings that would see maximum demand from the TG.

One of the project features that we tested at their very first intended project site was the acceptance of an embedded English-medium school. We did this by talking to potential parents, interviewing all sorts of schools in the vicinity of the proposed site, meeting government officials and other decision influencers, and we advised our client accordingly.

The first week of June was a great day for both me and VBHC. I had the good fortune of physically experiencing the output of the research lead advice that we had given our client. I attended the inauguration of VBHC’s very first embedded English-medium CBSE school, Sujaya, nestled among green fields, in a distant suburb of Bangalore. It was a warm and cloudy Saturday, and as I entered the school grounds, I was awestruck by the sheer sense of space, and presence of Nature, that every glance presented.

Scattered in this beautiful setting were a bunch of totally enthusiastic people, some busy creating floral decoration in the central grass, others rushing around trying to get the classrooms in order, and a lady who took my breath away by presenting a classical dance show, on the tune of “We are the World”, and in a way that I could never have imagined. I was further impressed when I learnt that the dance was self-choreographed by a teacher!

I fell in love with Sujaya – A School With A Different And Refreshing Point Of View, almost wishing to return to school! 

I met the teaching and non-teaching staff, and was touched by the sheer enthusiasm and positive vibes they carried within themselves. As a mother of a 15-year old, I have been to at least half a dozen schools, but rarely have I witnessed this sense of simple happiness that emanated from everyone who had something to do with Sujaya – be it the Australian curriculum advisor, the senior educator from Bangalore, the Principal who learnt Kannada to make his parents feel at home, or the staff who were child -like in their welcome. The teaching staff has mostly been picked from nearby areas, with profiles that would encourage students and parent alike to be forthcoming, as our study indicated the extent to which this TG relies on everything that the teacher says, and seldom has a perspective on how their child should be taught.

I met Priya Krishnan, the brain and brawn behind the school. A professional finance graduate who left her cushy life in the UK, and dragged her family of four back to India to help make the Sujaya dream happen, Priya is delightfully down to earth, and exudes a joy and confidence that is captivating.

When I took a tour of the school, I realized that her relentless efforts have paid off well. At every turn, I could see how they had adapted our insights on the TG to make the school fit-in with the expectations of parents, taking every effort to avoid scaring this inherently shy segment away. I have tried to create a conducted tour of Sujaya through these pictures.

When we view this offering in the context of the average income of the parent who has enrolled his child in this school (under INR 8000 p.m.), and the fact that in many cases, the father has barely completed his schooling and the mother hasn’t cleared Class X, it becomes a commendable effort, worth blogging about! Instead of displaying the typical mentality of short-charging the economically weaker sections, Sujaya, and its promoters VBHC, prefer to pamper them. Within a few months of announcing the opening of the school, one saw 150+ enrollments. Again, when I tell you that the school only caters to primary education, and that each student pays a fee which is roughly a tenth of his father’s monthly income, it brings home the fact that this section of society is craving for good, honest education, and if they see it they will pay what is for them a significant sum of money to secure their child’s future.

The promoters were not tempted to replicate what we found other schools in the hinterland doing, however lucrative it might have seemed. Many schools in the hinterland were prone to taking capitation fees under some guise or the other, they gave preference to kids who came with influential recommendations, some charged very low fees but invariably did not bother to train their teachers to effectively cover the curriculum, they had hidden costs that kept hitting the parents during the course of the academic year, etc. Hardly any of the other schools offered assisted tutoring, co-curricular activities, or an imaginative environment. VBHC took all these insights on board, and came up with Sujaya, a school that is, quite obviously, a class apart in that area.

Finally, I got to meet one of the beneficiaries of the hard work that we had all put in – a Class III student, Hari. He was clearly proud to be part of Sujaya, and his parents have pulled him out of his current school with no qualms at all – kudos to the staff, for conveying the proposition effectively!

I’d like to end this post by saying that they are clients like these, with meaningful vision, and the ability to assimilate and implement research insights, which make my career in market research a pleasure.

This blog post is written by Parvati Mahadev, Insight Consulting Partner & Practice Leader – Global MR, Brandscapes Worldwide
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About Brandscapes Worldwide

Brandscapes specializes in marketing analytics and insight consulting for consumer goods, services and the retail sectors. We leverage the power of advanced data mining tools and the practical marketing and communication planning expertise to distil actionable marketing insights.
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