How This Brand is Fighting Language Barriers in Asia
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Have you ever travelled across borders and found it difficult to interact with the locals there because of language barriers? One of the problems of travelling, tourists have often found solace in finding an English translator. This led to the rise in the number of schools and even volunteers travelling to different countries to teach English to adults.
When it comes to India, there has always been a deep fascination for English, a language that we borrowed while the country was an Engish colony. Struggling for freedom, Indians managed to stand at par with their British counterparts defeating them by turning their own language against them.
Cut to 2017, and English has taken over the country and how. From career development to better job opportunities, people not well versed with the language too are coming forward to learn English. Students who want to study abroad are nervous to live in the foreign country because they often lack language skills. Sometimes, they are not confident enough to communicate in English. Many Indian tourists are afraid of getting lost in a foreign country because everything seems alien to them. As a result, people are enrolling themselves in English speaking institutes to create a successful path in the global market. Also, learning a bit of foreign language of any country you visit can save you from embarrassment.
Realizing the market opportunity in this, internationally renowned Wall Street English is waltzing into the Indian ecosystem through a franchise model.
Entrepreneur India caught up with Lex Baker, Franchise Management and Development Director, Wall Street English International at Asia’s biggest franchising event - Franchise India 2017 - at New Delhi to know what makes them believe that the Indian market (one predominantly functioning in English) still has scope for business.
From Italy to the World
Founded in 1972 in Italy by an Italian entrepreneur Dr. Luigi Peccenini, Wall Street English, is a premier provider of English language instruction for individuals and corporate clients around the world. Peccenini saw the need in Italy at that time to develop a course of English for adults that would give them flexibility in studying, so that they were not in a fixed group or time with a fixed teacher.
“The company was aimed at young professionals who were looking at improving themselves. Peccenini saw the market niche in the 70s' and in many ways, he developed one of the first blended learning methods through Wall Street English. The main idea behind it is that the student can study flexibly,” explained Baker.
The company is currently operating in 28 countries and has over 400 learning centers. One of their biggest market is Asia with over 90,000 students.
Eyeing Growth in Larger Hubs of India
In India, Wall Street English International is focusing on cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Baker feels any big urban hub with a lot of industries and business is a good place to start.
“India does have a certain level of English speaking population but also a large sector that has low income. We are a business driven company, that is by the volume of students. That’s why we need to look at the larger hubs (like Mumbai and Delhi) basically to get that level of business which will be required to run that type of centre,” he stressed.
In most Indian schools, English is the primary language but people still struggle when it comes to expressing themselves especially when they are looking at the international market for jobs.
Following The Blended Learning Concept
There are so many English speaking institutes offering Spoken English Courses in India but Baker believes the blended learning concept of Wall Street International sets them apart from competitors.
“Not many people offer the blended learning method similar to ours. There are online competitors but they are not many offering the similar service. The other thing is the level of support. We see our franchise more as a partnership, we don’t just hand over our business and say go and do it,” said Baker.
Baker believes there is a significant portion of people in the Indian society who wish to improve their communication skills because they are aspirational. He sees the potential in 10-12 major Indian cities to have at least 1-2 centres. Later, the progress will depend on the demand in the market.
Are Online Courses A Threat To the English Training Institute?
One can even question that with the coming up of online courses, why do we need brick and mortar institutes? The answer is simple for Baker. As a company, they believe the model of face-to-face content provides significant results in terms of learning progress when compared to any online English speaking course.
However, over time Wall Street English International has developed new methods that are online-enabled. Baker emphasized that online courses are disruptive but the model of face-to-face content is here to stay.
“We need to embrace positive elements of online. We are developing to make sure that we use the online elements lesser. However, you will not find online-only providers delivering significant results in terms of learning progress," he concluded.
With inputs from Nidhi Singh