What does it take to switch professions and start a business post motherhood? Anju Cherian of AJ Plackal Eduventures tells us
Anju Cherian, Founder and Director, AJ Plackal Eduventures talks to us about her venture which is an early learning and development focused company that makes learning fun for young children. What made Anju step into this new profession and turn it into a business? Let’s get to know today.
Hello, welcome to SHEROES, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I have a BSc in Mathematics from Stella Maris College, Chennai and a MBA in Marketing from Cochin University. I am a certified baby sensory trainer. Prior to starting AJ Plackal Eduventures, I was a Senior Project Director with AMRB MENA. I started my work life as a consumer researcher and have over 10 years of experience in the field, working on projects across Middle East, North Africa, Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia.
Today I consider my true calling is to be an educationist and will be dedicating the rest of my productive years to make the highest quality of learning and education available to children in India and neighbouring countries.
Tell us the story behind your venture and the core offering?
I decided to give up my corporate career and take the route to entrepreneurship when I tasted motherhood for the first time. With my husband Jose Paul, I started AJ Plackal Eduventures, a company focused on providing world class early learning and development programs for children, in India and neighbouring countries.
When my daughter Talia was born, I decided to quit working and look after her full time. Being a voracious reader by nature, I prepared myself for the new role by reading up extensively on early years’ development of children. The more I read and researched, the more convinced I was of the importance of sensory stimulation and the impact of the first five years on a child’s development.
I started exploring parent child programs that I could attend with my daughter and that’s how I came across Baby Sensory program developed by UK’s leading child psychologist Dr. Lin Day. Amongst all the programs I attended Baby Sensory stood out for how well researched and well-designed it is.
After having experienced the benefits of the program, I decided to bring Baby Sensory and its affiliate programs to India, with the desire to make a positive impact on the society.
In October 2014, my husband and I started AJ Plackal Eduventures. AJ Plackal Eduventures represents Baby Sensory and its affiliate programs in India and neighbouring countries as the Master Franchise; and currently offers Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense programs across three centers in Bangalore.
AJ Plackal Eduventures offers a host of programs for young children- Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense (parent child programs for children from birth to 5 years focusing on their holistic development), Mini Professors (a preschool science program for children from 2-6 years) and The Alchemy Nursery (a specialised day care and preschool for children from birth to 3 years following the EYFS framework).
When starting-up, how did you manage the initial running of operations?
My husband and I have started this venture completely bootstrapped, putting in our life savings. It was not an easy decision giving up the security which comes with well-paying senior roles in the corporate world. Going forward we are looking to partner with like-minded people who are committed to the cause of making a positive impact on the future generations through quality early learning programs, as investors and as franchisees.
As a woman in business, what key challenges do you face daily?
From a business perspective, I am proud to say that being a woman has helped me in the business as I am able to better connect with the needs and sentiments of the parents. Most of the people whom I interact with are new mothers and I can easily relate to their needs as I am a mother myself. The challenges were mostly faced initially when setting up the business, mostly involving visiting various government departments and building our facility.
From a personal perspective, the biggest challenge I face is spending quality time with my daughter along with managing the business.
The good part of running programs like Baby Sensory & Toddler Sense is that I can schedule them to fit my personal calendar and my daughter also attends the program whenever it’s for her age group.
What would you say is the prime differentiating factor of your business?
What differentiates us is the quality of the programs we offer. Everything we do including the programs we offer, our facilities and our staff, reflects our international quality aspirations.
Our programs are unique, they are perhaps the only international award winning early learning programs in India. Both Baby Sensory & Toddler Sense are highly scientific programs, based on years of research and experience of some of the world’s renowned early learning experts. Everything in the program from the structure of the activities, the equipment used, the layout and the music are all put together to achieve a specific learning goal in children. What is also unique about our program is that we impart a lot of knowledge to parents on what they can do to aid their child’s development at home.
From a social perspective a business as such provides employment opportunities and entrepreneurial opportunities for many women. It’s the perfect platform for women who are looking at starting a business which provides them flexi hours with minimal investments while representing one of the best international early learning brands.
What would you tell budding women entrepreneurs?
Fly with your own wings. Be driven by passion and work hard to realise your goals. There is nothing which can stop a driven and passionate woman who believes in herself.