Monday, July 25, 2011

Oracle CEO-backed company eyes IB school space in India

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison co-founded Knowledge Universe and UK's Knightsbridge are in the fray to float a joint venture with Mumbai-based Core Projects & Technologies to tap India's growing demand for premium international schools.

Core, which is a technology solutions provider in the education space, had mandated Ernst & Young to advise on setting up a chain of premium K12 schools, said sources familiar with the matter. Core had identified UK's leading school network Knightsbridge and Knowledge Universe, an education and training conglomerate backed by Oracle Corp founder Larry Ellison and Wall Street's former Junk Bond King Michael Milken, as potential partners.

When contacted, Core Projects declined to comment. A decision on the foreign partner in the proposed 50:50 joint venture could come as early as this week. The demand for international education has been growing in the world's second most populous and second fastest expanding economy.

India currently has 70-odd International Baccalaureate (IB) schools, with nearly 60% of them located in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad. These schools charge anywhere up to Rs. 250,000 as fee per annum. Then there are 245 schools that are affiliated to Cambridge International Examinations, which are again mostly present in the Western and Southern parts of the country.

Core Projects plans to show up with two premium benchmark schools, with emphasis on sports training, in Delhi and Mumbai initially. These could be subsequently extended into other tier-I and select tier-II cities. Dubai-based GEMS Education and Singapore's Global India International Schools have been expanding in the country.

Mumbai's Ecole Mondiale and Dhirubhai Ambani School are among the niche players in the super-premium segment of K12 education. Last year, DY Patil had appointed Kotak Mahindra to raise $100 million for setting up a network of affordable international schools. Real estate costs and scaling up remain the big hurdles in the way of expanding the school network in India.

Source: The Times of India, July 25, 2011
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