The KLAY brand of Daycare Centres & Pre-schools by Founding Years Learning Solutions Pvt Ltd (esb 2011) over the years has emerged as a leading chain of high-end day care, preparatory schools, and after school service for children aged 6 months to 10 years in the business hubs of Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Noida & Gurgaon. The company founded by Priya Krishnan, a business graduate of London Business School of Business having rich experience of IT consulting with several blue chips, with the intention of bringing women back to work post childbirth, has 155+ centres and counting.
Krishnan took an exit in 2020 and AK Srikanth, who had joined as the company’s COO in 2017, took over as the CEO and whole-time director of the company as per the planned succession and progression. In an interview, the KLAY Schools CEO Srikanth shares a few thoughts on Govt’s FLN mission besides talking the KLAY model with Autar Nehru
Stepping back, can you share with us, how was Klay born and when?
KLAY was born in 2011 as a single center in Whitefield, Bangalore. The brain behind this concept was the Founder Priya Krishnan, who started this with the objective of helping women get back to work after their maternity break, guilt free – in fact, her son was also in the first batch! What started as one center has since grown to be India’s largest company owned and operated chain.
So, as we speak today, what is the spread and composition of your centres? Can we say day-care is the USP of your business?
Our USP is care and holistic development of the child. At the age group we address (6 months – 6 years), it is proven by research that over 80% of the child’s brain development occurs in this period. We currently have 155 centers across India, and the most rapid growth is in the age groups of 2 – 4.
Of these 55 centers are on site dedicated centres with corporates and the others are what we call as the retail centers where it is open to both corporate and non-corporate parents. All over centers are company owned and company operated. We believe that any interaction that we have with the child is best conducted by our staff (currently 3600) – who are trained thoroughly by us.
We work with 3 models – Onsite (Built on campuses of corporates and exclusive to the children of employees of that campus), Near Work (Built on Tech Park areas where several corporates can use the facility), and Near Home (in residential areas).
Just to reiterate, all your centres are company owned and operated and you don’t engage in franchising?
Yes, we do not engage in franchises, we do not have partners – all centres are operated by company personnel. The location however is critical – we benchmark the potential by measuring the population of the relevant age group in that Pin Code, Corporate support, and of course, the fact that the Health & Safety Department clears the location to begin with.
While the day-care and after school is standardized to a degree, parents evaluate pre-schooling more carefully. So how do KLAY fare in this evaluation?
Our programs are driven by Dr Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences, a methodology that is recognised world-wide to be amongst the most holistic for child development. (This theory posits that there is more than one way for people to learn, acquire information, and gain knowledge. Dr. Gardner’s eight Intelligences include Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal and Naturalist.) So, we create different areas of learning physically and the child gravitates to his area of interest, picks up concepts from there.
Great. This also raises another related question. Parents also seek a good school after prep, do you offer any help in this?
We don’t have any tie-up with schools and we have no intention. But I must assure most of our children end up in good schools given their all-round development and school readiness.
Coming to future journey, how are you planning future growth?
I would like KLAY to be the Harvard of Early Childhood Education and Care in India. To this end, we are ensuring that our processes achieve a six sigma level, our personnel carry a joie-de-vivre in the classroom, and our thought leadership in this space helps us collaborate with the Government to create safer and happier spaces for the young ones. We are embarking on doubling our capacity in the coming 3 years across India.
That’s exciting. At the same time NEP 2020 and other Govt initiatives in early education and care are also creating waves. What do you think of it given you’re an important private player in the country?
I think the focus on Early childhood coming into what is termed as Foundation years is a great move, and certainly very exciting for players such as us. For organised players who work by the mandates of the Education department, this is a boon. The adverse effects would be on mom-and-pop styled centers that will either have to comply, or quit the business.
The Foundational Learning mission promises to be very exciting, and I am sure a lot of opportunities would come out of it for institutions such as KLAY. I think we shall not just watch the developments closely, but also would like to be involved in its evolution, in the form of giving inputs from the industry.
You have been in the early education and care for so many years, what is most singular challenge that you think is before us in India?
I think we still have a low percentage of women in workforce. It creates a challenge as well as opportunity. As there is no formal system of education for this segment though hopefully it has started with NEP, the lack of coordination between two ministries of women and child development (WCD) and ministry of education (MoE) also gives rise of clarity issues.
The move by the government with Foundational Learning is very good, we must wait to see how states implement it. I am optimistic and open to support, opinion or expertise.
Any recommendations for Anganwadi centres?
I think private players have a lot of expertise which can be leveraged if AWCs engage them as accelerators, activity experts etc. But as of now there are very little avenues of association. But as I said, CLAY will be happy to engage if the opportunity comes.