The case for India

Establishing a partnered international school in India

Paul Cabrelli and Andy Homden look at what UK schools must consider when including India as part of their strategy for establishing a branded international school.

An attractive emerging market

As UK schools aspiring to ‘go international’ look for potential partners and ponder the emerging locations for establishing a new ‘branded’ international school, the case for India is being made more frequently. And with very good reason:

  • Now the world’s most populous nation, India has a young demographic profile, although this will gradually change
  • Education is highly valued in India and families will make considerable sacrifices to give their children the best possible education they can afford – at every level of society
  • The Indian economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and an increasing number of parents will want to offer their children the opportunity to attend a ‘premium’ branded school
  • There are multiple academic, cultural, sporting and personal links between the UK and India which make for a potentially strong long-term relationship which will benefit both partners in a variety of different ways
  • English is a very strong first or second language for many families in India and there is a strong tradition of teacher training in the medium English
  • A high proportion of Indian students graduating Grade 12 have aspirations to attend overseas universities, not only in the UK, but also in Canada, the US, Japan and Australasia

The argument for establishing new schools is therefore very strong in the next 5 – 10 years and the market is likely to become increasingly competitive.

More context

At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that India already has a very well-established private school sector, with a broad range of national and international curricula being offered in private Indian schools at price points that are considerably lower than most premium international schools.

Nevertheless, with the economy so buoyant, there is likely to be a growing appetite for high-end international education and that growth in this sub-sector of Indian private education will almost certainly involve UK partner-brands being established in increasing numbers over the next ten years.

The right opportunity

As ever, finding the right partner for the right opportunity is the key issue. India is vast and finding the optimum match for a partner school will not be easy.

The right partner may also provide opportunities to open more than one school in more than one city. Given the price point of private Indian education, this is likely to be an important factor for the UK school when considering its international financial targets.

An active strategy

However, adopting a passive strategy of waiting for potential partners to discover you is unlikely to be successful.

Finding a partner in India will need to be an active process implemented with the support of the right kind of local agency. This need not be an overly expensive process but it will require a budget and in order to identify the right kind of opportunity it will be important to define the precise value proposition that the UK partner school brings to the table in an Indian context.

With this in mind, the following general strategy seems sensible:

  1. Identify the right agent specialising in education to work with.
  2. Discuss the precise nature of your offer for an Indian context with the agent and listen to their advice. Then define the offer clearly and succinctly in a well-constructed value proposition, preferably using an easily accessible digital format that can be viewed on a smartphone.
  3. Define any geographical limits for the search.
  4. Monitor progress with the agent regularly – as with a house search, this process will help them to understand what will work for you.
  5. Ensure your search and agency contract includes the option to exercise due-diligence as the field narrows.
  6. When ready to engage with possible partners, scrutinise the potential partner’s business plan to make sure that there is room for an adequate financial return to your school.

Having access to good legal advice is also essential. The interests of the UK partner needs to be protected on the ground in India, while compliancy issues, regulations and labour laws must all be understood, anticipated and addressed as the project moves forward through the usual stages to opening.

Other points to consider

Although the ties between UK and Indian partners are likely to be very strong, Indian schools tend to operate according to very different cultural and in some respects different educational norms. Both partners will have to work on their relationship in order to develop a strong partnership when planning to open a new school. Areas to consider for long-term, in-depth conversations will be:

  • Governance
  • Leadership (particularly the importance of middle leadership and how that works) and organisational structure
  • Decision making
  • The role and nature of continuing professional development
The opportunity

Overall, the case for establishing premium international schools in India is strong, but pursuing this avenue needs to be undertaken with care, patience, awareness and the right kind of support.

 

Paul Cabrelli and Andy Homden are Senior Consultants with Consilium Education specialist consultants to new international schools.

 

 

 

 

FEATURE IMAGE: by Unsplash + in collaboration with Getty Images

Support images:  by Sunny Kumar on Unsplash,  Syed Ali on Unsplash – Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India

and Anil sharma from Pixabay

 

 

 

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