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Institutes always look for various means to attract students, the question which arises is whether the known marketing principles apply to educational institutes? Is it similar to the marketing of shampoo or telecom services? Usually, marketing strategies and branding principles are universal. One has define its brand, decide what it stands for, articulate and project its distinctive features, develop a brand plan and then implement it. The tricky part, however, is that the creator or promoter of the brand might want to show his product in a certain light but the audience can perceive it in entirely different way. This is especially applicable for subliminal services such as education.
An educational brand is defined by several intangible factors like the quality of the education it provides, its faculty, culture and resources available for students. The several other factors are campus size, quality and diversity of the graduating batch and their track record in getting jobs. For education institutes, the "product" i.e. the education to be branded is very different from regular consumer product. The relationship between the consumer (student) and the product (education) is predetermined and time bound, and the consumer cannot enjoy two competing products simultaneously.
For an educational institute best way of advertising is by the "word of mouth". So it is very essential for the educational institute to provide quality education to students so as gain confidence of the consumer (student). It is very difficult to estimate the return on investment on marketing and advertisement of an educational institute because usually in an educational sector it takes around 10-15 years to establish a educational institute brand.
Making the Right Noise
Educational institutes in India, spend close to Rs. 150 million annually on promotional and advertising activities. According to TAM Media Research, spending on advertisement by the education sector have been increasing steadily over the last three years, with the education sector accounting for 1.1 percent of TV advertising and 15 percent of overall print advertising in 2008. Considering the case of Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), the pioneer of "full page colour ads" in national newspapers says it has an annual budget of marketing of Rs. 800 million and concentrates mainly on print ads. According to the Amit Saxena, president, Corporate Communications, IIPM "The IIPM brand has been created through smart content-driven advertising". The institute has faced several controversies, the most recent being the nasty blogger controversy in 2005 regarding the authenticity of its claims in its print ads.
But according to various experts in case of educational institutes excessive advertisement can also dilute the brand image of the institute. As there is the perception that institute do advertisement only when they are not able to provide quality education and able to attract consumers (students). Whereas excessive advertisement is case of tuition and coaching institutes helps to create awareness and reach out to more number of consumer (students) and provides a platform for coaching institutes to project there past success record.
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Future of Brand Building in Education Sector
Indian education sector is opening up new avenues and opportunities as it is progressing and reshaping itself. Many competitors, multiple opportunities, coming up in this segment. Question arises about building of brand and communicating with students (consumers), attracting talented students to course of their choice.
How scenario is going to change of brand building in education sector
News Paper Advertisement
Educational institutes allocates lot of budget to print media based advertisement
Target youth of India is moving towards internet, news paper based advertisement is going to get less attention in the future.
Seminar, Road Show
Institutes conduct seminars in 5 star hotels, seminar halls. Conversion rate is low and student acquisition cost is high in this case.
Institutes will start conducting online webinars, online discussions. It will be the way to interact with students
Institutes have multiple franchises, training centers to sell application forms. But tracking mechanism, conversion rate of students is missing. Institutes do not get clear picture of pre admission, admission process.
Centralized way to track student interaction, student interest, no leakage of revenue in terms of application forms fee. Better student acquisition and huge cost savings.
Customer Centric Approach
Student as customer approach is missing in the current context. Delay, misplacement is application form creates confusion among students
Institutes would be customer centric. Usage of technology would be high. Prospective students would get better service.
CHALLENGES FACED AND AHEAD
Today one of the major topics under discussion in the education sector is the opening of the sector for entry of private players that can make this field as competitive as any other sector in a free market economy. As we know, healthy competition can help to eliminate incompetent players, while allowing the better participants to succeed by providing top-of-the-line products and excellent services to their customers. We have all seen this process happening in action in other industries, so why is there such a hue and cry when it comes to the education sector?
The answer lies in the perception that is there in the mind of the people that education is essentially a not-for-profit arena where the focus should be on social good, not on capital gains. While most private players acknowledge the strong influence of this principle on industry dynamics, the state essentially looks towards government-run educational institutions and not to privately run ones to uphold the social element in Indian education - and herein lies the rub. It is a fact that India has a proliferation of government-run premium educational institutions like IIT, IIMS, NITS while privately run premium institutes are very few. This is mainly because of a strict licensing policy followed by the government where private players have to meet stringent regulatory measures in order to set up educational institutions that maintain the not-for-profit institutional structure and serves the society.
The debate in the industry and, indeed in academic circles, centers around the possibility that this licensing policy might be relaxed to allow private players to invest in education sector. On one side, advocates of the change, such as the noted economist, Kaushik Basu, argue that the quality of education delivered by government institutions is incredibly low and that the entry of more private institutions can help create competition and profitability as well as quality education, thus guaranteeing an improvement in standards of educational institutes. On the other hand, detractors proclaim that such a move will make the industry a free for all players, with the result that the social need of providing quality education will be ignored in the face of opportunities to make higher profits.
This issue of the present standard of educational institutions is a deeper one than it seems to be at first sight. It also involves arguments from both sides that talks about the low salaries received by the majority of academicians which forces them to quit for greener pastures abroad or in private institutions. This in turn has an effect on the quality of their teaching as well as increases the need to set up more technological advanced educational institutions with proper infrastructure and the use of the latest practices in pedagogy. The issue also does not seem to arrive at any conclusion. It is, of course, up to the people of India to decide upon the issue and remember that since the ancient university of Nalanda, India found popular recognition from the world in education only after privately run educational colleges were set up in the recent past.
The question before us is of prime importance. Does the education industry in India requires more private players? If this can be somehow achieved, will it lead to a better and more efficient educational system?
OPPORTUNITIES - BUSINESS PROSPECTS
There is a good demand for quality education and online tutorial services in India. With good facilities at competitive rates, India can attract more number of students from abroad. Unique teaching methods, educational portals and tools can be effectively used to make the sector useful and profit making.
How to Educate and Train the Indian students and workforce
The nature of action required by India Inc. to empower students would involve the following:
Investment in faculty and education infrastructure to increase supply of skilled professionals with relevant skills
Investment in training institutions to upgrade skill sets of individuals required for remote services
Communication (verbal and written)
Strengthening of the education curriculum to include
Understanding of other countries' cultures
Foreign language skills
Mandatory English language skills
Creative mechanisms of funding so that quality education is easily and widely available
Standards and bodies to certify skill sets
In India, corporates are investing heavily in education sector. This is expected to do benefit to the learning landscape in the country. But there has to be a check that what players are entering the education sector.
If there are no regulations in the education sector then all kinds of people will try to get into this space. The task for the government is to make sure that India does not have 'fly by night' operators and ensure that the regulatory procedures keep on quality checks from time to time. The government is playing its part by setting up more central universities, more IITs and IIMs.
Yet, a lot more work needs to be done to fill the vacuum. And so its a positive sign that the private sector is taking the initiative in this regard. Private players are actively making investment in higher education sector. However, when it comes at the school level, the corporate sector is not much keen to invest mainly because such investments will not yield high profits. Though it is expected that the responsibility to provide quality education in India is largely of the government, we would encourage the corporate sector to look at elementary education as part of their corporate social responsibility plans.
The Road Ahead
According to industry body ASSOCHAM, the education sector (along with the healthcare and FMCG sectors) will grow at healthy rates in 2010. The industry body said that the investments by citizens on education would continue to increase to "ensure growth for their dependents and wards".
The Centre plans to permit the private sector to establish educational institutions and access the capital market, as a way of addressing the aspect of funding in the education centre.
The government has finalized the sharing of funds-for implementing The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (the law making education a fundamental right)-between the Centre and the states, in the ratio of 65 to 35.
With the Government showing a clear willingness to engage the private sector in accomplishing the daunting task of educating India's13.5cr students, there are thus significant opportunities to tap for companies like Educomp Solutions, Everonn Systems India and NIIT Limited, both in the Government schools and Private schools businesses.
With increasing demand for skilled human resources also in sectors like Financial Services, there exist great opportunities for growth in the Corporate Training business programs