$277 million.

It may not be such a big number in the larger scope of investments, but it’s one that’s single-handedly revived interest in the private school market in India. It’s loosened a flood of aspirations—and questions—about the future. 

On 5 September, New York-based private equity (PE) firm KKR formally announced a majority investment in pre-school and K12 school chain EuroKids. K12 schools have grades stretching from kindergarten to class 12. In its first major investment in India’s private school sector, KKR has picked up a 92% stake in EuroKids, buying out existing investors Gaja Capital and Swiss Fund Partners Group. Gaja held a 75% stake in the company since 2013, while the Swiss Fund had a 17% stake. 

At two back-to-back education conferences held in Delhi last week, this investment in EuroKids was the big news. It even dimmed the shine on live tutoring platform Vedantu’s $42 million fundraise by incumbent investors Tiger Global and Westbridge Capital.

Unlike the cascade of investments flowing into the edtech giants like Byju’s and Unacademy, PE and venture capital (VC) investments in the private school sector have been few and far between. Schools are typically governed by stringent regulations, or have high capital expenditure in the form of buying land, paying teachers and building course curriculum.

In short, schools are not typical attractions for institutional investors.

But KKR’s taken a leap of faith, right into the heart of the private education space. And with the infusion of fresh capital, the EuroKids model could be changing the growth story for private education in India.

EuroKids, founded in 2001, now has different footholds in the education sector. Starting with preschools, the group launched their K12 chain Euroschool in 2009 and a daycare chain in 2018. 

Today, it’s growing rapidly, thanks to franchising.

Without any set regulations or the need for intensive teacher training, preschools lend themselves easily to the franchise model. EuroKids, industry experts say, could grow from its current 1000 to 2000 centres in no time. Adding middle and high school to the chain only makes EuroKids more promising for a potential investor like KKR. 

Scale ready

“Preschools are hyperlocal and a slew of them are needed in every neighbourhood. There are also barely any regulations involved in setting them up,” says Rahul Raghavan, co-founder of Bengaluru-based preschool PEP

“The reason why we could elicit their interest to buy is that there are only a handful of quality, scaled-up schools chains in India. EuroKids was one of them,” says Gopal Jain, co-founder of Gaja Capital. Plus, adds Jain, preschool has a huge addressable tier-1 market, with the potential to spread to tier-2 cities as well.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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