Restructuring Our business
I realized that I could blame no one but myself for getting this wrong. Not just this was my responsibility, no one else was looking. So they would not have known. They wont still know if I don't tell them. But I have now decided to live my life differently, and vowed not to run away from trouble, but to stand up and face it. I am not sure this courage thing will pay off. I am not even sure that this is an intelligent strategy, given that the job market is turning south and i haven't saved much money to see myself through. However, I have not done the 'right' thing too many times in life - when I faced a difficulty and even if I knew the answer, I did not go the extra mile to convince everyone else to follow my solution. That's my nature - I do not like confrontations. But this time around, I have decided to stand my ground, remain committed and fail if I must - this is going to be the test of my enterprise, more than anything else.
So, what have I found out - what have we got wrong?
I think the first thing we got wrong is our reading of Indian consumer and how to market our courses to them. Direct English is an excellent English training product, with its unique pedagogy, extensive coverage of usage and cultural issues, multimedia material and interesting course content. But this isn't an ordinary English course, which everyone seems to expect. This needs an erudite audience, who is culturally matured and emotionally open.
Besides, the course does not come cheap, and as one of the senior managers in Aptech, the big Indian training company, puts it - in India, financial ability and requirement of English language training is inversely related. So, our plans to spread this course across India through franchising have its own limitations - first from the product side and secondly from the price point.
The third issue on the table is why the Indian consumers buy. I am convinced that the Indian consumers in general are 'brand sceptical' - the product attributes and the price matter such more than the brand. So, for training too, a 'value for money' model is what the market demands, whereas we have created an elaborate 'added value' model - where one pays extra to get a 'global' experience.
So, in short, I have my job cut out. Over the next few weeks, at the same time that I try to bridge the culture gap between my Head Office in Ireland and the offices in Hyderabad and Manila, I must also come out with a final, firm business model for franchising. A model which will put the Direct English product in its place, but will create a balanced, multi-product offering available. I have felt this before, and know now for sure, that we are in the wrong business ourselves - of teaching English rather than in franchising as we should be. However, I have come to realize the business of teaching English isn't that bad a thing, and we should be able to do a lot there.
Therefore, what we are going to have in the next eight weeks is the model ready to teach India English - a two-tier model offering a complete English Learning/ Business Communication course for the companies, and an Everyman's English model, cheap, easy and accessible, which we shall roll out through franchising and take everywhere. It will be an interesting exercise to sort out the branding exercise - do we use one consistent brand or two brands at two levels - and also to handle the transition from one centre entity to a multi-location business. However, this is what I do expect from this business - a real life strategic exposure - and it seems that I shall get this in abundance over next few days. I am sure I am going to have the time of my life!