Every mother barring a few—if she has a safe and credible alternative for her children—will go back to work after maternity leave,” says Priya Krishnan, an entrepreneur and mother of two boys, who has started a child-care eco-system for working mothers in six Indian cities, including Bengaluru. Getting young mothers back to work is her life’s mission.
“Started in July 2011, the Klay (Kids, Learning and You) Schools cater to children aging between three months and 10 years,” says Krishnan. Klay centres in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Chennai take care of 2,000 children.Krishnan, who was running a fledgling business in London, had put her boys in a day-care in the UK. From there she got the idea that she can help many other working women like her. “My family was very positive and supportive of my decision, and gave me a lot of encouragement,” says the CEO of Founding Years Learning Solutions, which operates Klay Schools.
The 44 centres across six states work on two models—in-house day-care centres on the company premises and community pre-schools and day cares that are close to a mother’s workplace or home.
“Though the official timings are 9 am to 6 pm, parents are allowed to drop their kids at 8.30 am and pick them up till 7.30 pm,” says Krishnan, who runs the operations with a team of managerial staff.
Many women are not able to take their profession further due to motherhood. “At such a time, grandparents are not in a position to provide solutions and nannies, and maids are not so reliable option. I wanted to create a system in which parents can drop their child and go to work without any worry. The need of day-cares is increasing so fast that mothers are prepared to invest 60-70 per cent of their income on child’s welfare,” she says. “The off-site centres in Bengaluru are very close to workplaces such as Prestige Shantiniketan, Kadugodi and Whitefield.”
Klay Schools provide employment to 640 personnel—trained teachers, nurses, cooks, drivers, etc. Of this, 623 are women. Each centre has a staff of 10-15 people.
“Bengaluru is evergreen in terms of migrant population and they are willing to test new services unlike Mumbai people, who are traditional and not so open-minded,” explains Krishnan. “Therefore, our primary market is Bengaluru, which has the youngest population aged between 25-35 years. We have 16 centres there, with three on-site centres at firms such as ABB, Ujjivan, and ITC Infotech. We have received a lot of support from product companies and FMCG, but did not get much traction from IT majors.”
Their 22 on-site day-care centres are supported by companies such as Unilever, Airtel, Royal Bank of
Scotland, Johnson & Johnson and ITC Limited. Some firms allow opening of care centres on company premises and provide space, electricity, water and security without charging anything.
“Big companies are very progressive and want participation of women at every level of their working. In HSR Layout, we will be opening a 6,000 square feet centre for catering to 120 children,” she explains.
Krishnan, who grew up in Mumbai, has about eight-year working experience in London-based firms.
She says, “Through our Klay app, we send regular updates about the child. If paediatric nurses look after toddlers, trained teachers will take care of kids over 1.5 years of age. We also cater to special children with learning disability, autistic kids, but not physically challenged, as we don’t have facilities for them.”
The fee at Klay Schools centres ranges between Rs 6,000-18,000 per month in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and NCR, while in Mumbai, it is between Rs 9,000-25,000.
Vaishno, mother of Akshadha, says, “Leaving my daughter in a day care was a hard decision. Though I was nervous about Akshi settling down here, the teachers made it an easy and pleasant experience. Within two months, Akshi has started feeling comfortable here, and she is learning new things.”
Jasveen and Jasjot, parents of Sehaj, add: “We were assured our child is safe, well-fed, and well-rested. Our child looks forward to going to the school daily.”
Krishnan’s mission is setting up 200 centres by 2020. “We have decided to operate in foreign markets such as Singapore and Dubai,” she says.