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Friday, March 06, 2009

What a load of $h1t!!!

So, I've been working at a franchisee of Hero Mindmine for some time now, and I have to say that the experience has been less than flattering. It has become an out-and-out case of willingly serving the franchiser as a servant would serve his lord. Tsk tsk tsk...

The last few years have found me working in the training industry, but even after all this time I don't seem to have understood it a great deal. In fact, I've often found myself at the crossroads of battling with the theory and the practicality of it all. I'm willing to accept the fact that it has a lot to do with me and how I try and make these two sides of the same coin fit together, but I'm going to say that it has a lot to do with the perception of what people hope to achieve through "training".

There are several other features of this industry which I think I will devote an entire other post to. In the meanwhile, and coming back to the company, or the "franchiser", having worked here only a little over four months now, I have to say that I'm disgusted by the experience. It's been a typical case of send an email, wait a month to hear a response. Or, in some cases, hear that it wasn't received and if it was that someone will respond to it as soon as they can. Come to think of it, when I walked into this sham of a business arrangement, things had already gone from bad to worse. I was expected to try and help boost business because it was crazy to think about how a place with so much apparent potential could be doing so poorly; Trivandrum is the state capital of Kerala, and with the number of "spoken English institutes" in the city you'd think that the Queen of England was due to arrive shortly. On my third day on the job, I got a feeling for the fact that everything that I had been told during my pre-briefing session in Bangalore was a lie. A few days later, I confirmed this. Then, to make matters worse, the contact person for all South India franchisees sent me a couple of horrendously misunderstood proposals to programs that I had requested proposals for. This was the procedure, but after being the recipient of such shite, I decided that there was another way of doing this.

Also, the lack of market knowledge before entering the Kerala market is astonishing. Everyone here knows the importance that people in the state have paid to spoken English in the last decade and a half. But here's a training vendor "with the largest network of training centres" not having a clue about the nature of the market it's getting involved in. So, the first thing they do to try and make themselves sound special is to use the term "Spoken English" for one of their courses. Good one. This is after not understanding that "Spoken English" institutes are a dime a dozen here in Kerala. So, we've become another name in the market, with a slightly more expensive program and a brand name that won't do anything but sit high up on it's display mounting. Truly a sorry state of affairs.

On this note, it surprises me that as far as Hero Mindmine is concerned, there is a lot of training that they do outside of the spoken English skills, and IELTS preparation. They also do corporate training, but they have explicitly told franchisees to stay out of that market. What for? There's more money to be made in this field. But no, the franchiser wants us to inform them of any such opportunity that arises, so that they can "handle it". Hahahaha!!! If that doesn't sound like one helluva stick-em-up situation, then I don't know what does.

The money-grubbing nature of this company is easily apparent from the money it has taken, and the lack of advertising it has done. This, and the fact that the courses are somewhat prohibitively expensive outside of a metro area, as I alluded to earlier. The franchiser has not promoted it's brand at all in Kerala, and there's a weak amount of publicity following the initial launch press conference more than six months ago. Since then, most or all of the franchisees in Kerala have been left languishing to slowly, but surely, wither away. I have introduced the idea of breaking away from this financially draining arrangement, but only time will tell if this is path we will take. This lack of advertising seems to me to be a case of senior management sensing that they may have rushed into this venture without having thought it through. Either that, or they've grabbed the money and are heading to the nearest international airport. ;-)

Most of the people I've spoken to about this have told me that the whole point of being a franchisee is to end up paying money to a company that will eventually not care for long as you're adding to their overall profits. To see it done so blatantly is sickening, to say the least, and I sincerely hope that it does get back to them in some way. In fact, because most of the key people involved in setting this up are now "unreachable" and have been for the last few months, it's safe to assume that they've jumped ship and are well on their way to greener pastures. Every single person I speak to, everyone who asks me what business is like has only one thing to say: "What are you doing keeping this place open?" My response? The infamous Indian shoulder shrug, complete with upward-facing palms.

Only time will tell, I suppose, about the manner in which this franchiser-franchisee thing will turn out. And, I don't mean for this post be a warning or deterrent for those wide-eyed, I-want-to-be-a-franchisee-of-Hero-Mindmine aspirants. Not at all. I will say this however, they're not the only ones in this business. They may promote their parent company, The Hero Group, in every single thing that they do, but I look at that as a sign of weakness, along with their constantly droning on and on about their successes in North India. Whoopee! How about a bit more focus on South India if you want to make this successful? No answer. Not yet, anyway. But like I was saying, please don't let this post discourage you. Lastly, and quite seriously, please consider what you're getting into. ;-)

Last minute cheap shots anyone? How about Hero Mindless. Tee hee hee...
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