Part 1 — How We Went From INR 0 to INR 200 Cr Run Rate In Just 12 Months
In March 2020, we were well on our way to add a whopping 600 independent and unbranded preschools into the Flintoclass family, giving us a total value of more than INR 5 Cr (My previous articles will give you the backstory on how we created this preschool disruption and built a globally-acclaimed learning program)
As luck would have it, this was the exact time COVID hit the country …and boy, did it hit hard.
By March 16th, the government ordered the closure of schools and preschools.
One week later, a nationwide lockdown.
Most schools and preschools were clueless about how long this would last. More so, there was an impending fear kicking in whether schools would even sustain to open for the next academic year.
(The fear stemmed largely from the fact that most preschools had not completed admissions or collected the fee for the following year)
When we hit rock bottom.
By mid-April, a second lockdown was announced, by which time we had a hunch that this was likely to continue.
Our sales plummeted. We lost almost 80% of our partner preschools — most either cancelled their registrations or deferred indefinitely.
We put off our orders and began wrapping up our efforts, as we were reduced to an almost ZERO revenue business.
When ZOOM took the world by storm.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world was switching onto ZOOM classes. It was a new rage, a new culture, a “new normal” of education.
While ZOOM seemed like a plausible concept for K12 schools, we weren’t convinced about it for kindergarteners and preschoolers — despite the revenue pressures at Flinto.
Here are 3 main reasons why:
- At Flinto, it is always Child-First. We compromise on nothing to ensure that a child’s play and learning is fun, hands-on and holistic
- It was the Summer holidays in India — a time for children to be free of “studies”; a time for them to explore, play — not sit in front of a laptop for the sake of it
- Ask anybody and they would tell you that early learning CANNOT be delivered over ZOOM classes :)
So why then were all the preschools jumping the bandwagon?
The sad truth was, they were trying to survive.
Preschools had to “prove themselves” and convince parents by staying relevant so as not to end up with low admissions in June.
We however decided to do neither for short-term gains!
Foreseeing the new classroom: Learning at HOME!
We took this time to re-imagine “preschool” and interacted with parents and educators.
We not only realised that home learning would be the driver in 2020–21 but also perceived how the pandemic was likely to change the future of preschools.
So we went back to the drawing board with the objective of how kids could learn within their new classroom — their Living Room (Coincidentally when we designed Flintoclass preschools, our objective was to empower edupreneurs to run preschools from “your living room, classroom or even under a tree”. Refer to the 2017 video in our previous blog where we made this Nostradamus-like prediction!!)
From what we understood, it’s definitely not as easy as running a ZOOM class.
While a child between 2 and 6 barely settles down in a physical preschool environment, let alone in front of a laptop… how do we motivate or entice them in a way that would ensure their learning continues within the four walls of the Home?
What did it take to deliver a holistic preschool program at home that would match the effectiveness of physical preschool education?
It was a lot of thinking hats to put on. But we tried everything we could!
For one, we realised that hands-on learning is uncompromisable.
Let’s face it. At the end of the day, if a child’s motor skills, coordination, balancing, cognitive etc are not catered to, then a ZOOM preschool class is just as bad as playing a game in front of the laptop.
Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t against online education.
While we embraced digital platforms to deliver the learning, we realised the dire need for adding physical touch to the product.
- We also had to understand what frequency was the right frequency for digital preschooling
- We needed to understand the willingness of parents to don the hat of a teacher (while keeping parent intervention as little as possible)
- We had to ensure the program was more child-driven than parent-driven
It was around May 1st 2020 when we finally came to a consensus on the shape the product would take.
In the middle of a lockdown, we scavenged our warehouse to find a relevant theme and quickly put together a box of preschool learning materials.
At the risk of being detained, I literally snuck out into the empty streets (fully masked, of course), to deliver this box to Vimala — an accomplished early learning expert from our team.
I asked her to record a 1-hour session content that was free-flowing — something unlike a YouTube video — but one that resembled a teacher interacting in a LIVE classroom.
She set to the task, shot the session from her living room using her phone, and in 3 days gave us the first trial video.
While this may not have been the perfect outcome, it was good enough to give parents a perspective of our “holistic” learning program vs an otherwise purely online preschool program.
So we sent this to a few parents and asked for their feedback.
By this point, a lot of parents had already lost faith in ZOOM classes, seeing it as neither viable nor worth the effort they had to put into it.
Our ‘pre-recorded session’ clubbed with a box of hands-on materials, was a clear winner welcomed by many, and the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive.
We realised we were onto something truly exciting…
And that’s where we started our journey with Flintoclass@HOME.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I take you through how we created the product amidst the lockdown!