An entrepreneur’s belief in his own products and services helped grow the business
MOHD Fadzil Hashim, 41, may not be an educator by training but he has plenty of faith in the services he offers at his private education centre.
In fact, the founder and chief executive officer of Brainy Bunch Sdn Bhd is so convinced by the quality of the centre’s education that he has enrolled his own children there – nothing says it better than putting your money where your mouth is, right?
“All my five children, aged from three to 13 are studying in Brainy Bunch,” he says proudly.
Brainy Bunch provides Islamic, Cambridge and Montessori learning for pre-school, elementary, secondary and high school levels.
The education centre, Mohd Fadzil opines, has found a good balance between giving its students the space to learn at their own pace and meeting parents’ expectations.
Good things are meant to be shared and Mohd Fadzil has put in a lot of effort to share what he believes is a good product with the market.
Over the years, his efforts have not only grown Brainy Bunch from a daycare centre in 2008 to 74 centres nationwide, they have also won him the Platinum award for Best Brand (Above RM25mil Revenue) at the Star Outstanding Business Awards 2016.
Mohd Fadzil’s branding strategy revolves around creating a positive customer experience by ensuring that his staff are properly trained and that its educational content meet the right standards. This gives customers the confidence in Brainy Bunch.
Having a background in sales certainly helped him build his brand.
Mohd Fadzil had worked as a sales director at a multinational computing company. But after 15 years, he decided to start out on his own.
“I could continue my career but I wanted to do more, something more impactful for the society,” he says.
In 2008, he started a training consultancy to train entrepreneurs and looked around for companies to acquire and groom.
His acquisitions varied from nasi lemak kiosks to a cattle farming business.
“I remember in those years, my favourite section in the newspaper was ‘Business for Sale’. That was where I got all the ideas on businesses to acquire,” he says.
Most of his acquisitions did not pan out well, but a kindergarten he acquired in Kajang in 2008 somehow endured.
He notes that it was well managed when he first looked into it. The kindergarten had been operating for seven years and he figured it could generate him some passive income.
However, new kindergartens started popping up nearby not long after and they lost many of their students to the new kindergartens, particulary the franchised ones, the following year.
Mohd Fadzil was at a loss – he had no background in running a kindergarten and wasn’t sure about what he could do.
But he drew inspiration from an Islamic Montessori kindergarten in Shah Alam which two of his children were attending then and decided to change the learning system at his Kajang kindergarten.
“What we love about the Montessori method is that the system respects every child as an individual and they are allowed to progress at their own pace,” he says.
He adds that in a conventional setting where a teacher typically teaches a class of 35, every student is required to complete the stipulated syllabus at the same time.
“Such method ignores the fact that some students are slower, or that they have different interests,” he says.
With the help of a consultant, the team at Brainy Bunch devised their own learning system, which they implemented in 2010, whereby teacher to student ratio was capped at one to 15. This, he says, allows the teachers to serve as better facilitators in their classes.
“With the new system, the students will use all the language tools available to them and the teacher will be there to facilitate their learning, giving them the chance to learn at their own pace rather than having the whole class relying on a single textbook,” he says.
He also engaged a Syariah advisor to train the teachers in Islamic studies.
After seeing that parents were receptive of their new system, they opened another kindergarten in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya in 2010. This was followed by another three centres the next year in Semenyih, Shah Alam and Puchong.
He also started branding Brainy Bunch as a English-speaking kindergarten as he found that parents prefer to send their children to such kindergartens.
“We send all our teachers for a six-month English language course. I told the teachers it is a sin to speak any other language other than English in front of the students. If you are not sure of what to reply to the students, check your script, or check with other teachers,” he quips.
That assurance helped build parents’ trust in their system.
Subsequently, Brainy Bunch expanded its offerings to elementary school students in 2013 due to demand from parents. The centres offered Cambridge-certified programmes for elementary school students and included programmes for secondary school students in 2015.
Mohd Fadzil says the key emphasis in these programmes is for students to focus on learning rather than on studying for exams.
“We emphasise to the parents that we cannot compare their child with other children, twins or otherwise, as all of them are different. Some even compared us to other schools that are exam-orientated.
“In our schools, apart from the academic syllabus, we also provide other activities such as computer programming and programmes that encourage entrepreneurship to cater to students’ interest,” he says.
With over 6,000 students in their kindergartens and 320 students in their elementary and high schools, Brainy Bunch has undoubtedly grown from its humble roots.
Apart from its 74 centres nationwide, it also has two centres in Singapore and one in Indonesia. It also has a charity school in Gaza, Palestine.
Its latest campus in Cyberjaya is currently undergoing construction and is scheduled to be ready by third quarter of the year. Renovation works for its school in USJ One City is also ongoing.
Mohd Fadzil has a vision to achieve one million students by year 2030.
He is eyeing a listing exercise, hopefully by 2020, to fund the building of more purpose-built kindergartens with proper facilities.
“We will use the money for expansion, not to cash out,” he concludes.