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Smart Reader Worldwide Targets Domestic, Regional Expansion As Demands Surge

KUALA LUMPUR: Smart Reader Worldwide Sdn Bhd (SRW), the early childhood education franchiser, aims to establish a stronger presence in Malaysia next year as the demand for new centres is picking up pace post-pandemic.

Smart Reader Worldwide Sdn Bhd’s market goal is to continue growing the Smart Reader Kids brand in Malaysia, Australia, and Indonesia.

Executive director Kevan Ong said the East Malaysian market has been the company’s strong growth state, and part of the company’s strategy is to establish a broader presence there.

“We believe Sarawak is the right choice for expansion, as there are ongoing developments coupled with the resumption of oil and gas activities in the state.

“We are experiencing a surge in inquiries from young entrepreneurs keen to become our franchisee and operate new early childhood centres in smaller towns.

“We are also receiving inquiries from Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia. We foresee 20 new centres being operational throughout Malaysia in 2024,” he told The Exchange Asia.

Ong said a nationwide demand for affordable and quality preschool education continues to exist, and the rapid development and urbanisation in East Malaysia create more demand for educational services.

“We also have a regional office and hub in Kuching, Sarawak, and our centres in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

“Besides accessibility and support for existing centres, the team provides valuable insights and allows us to focus on targeted and viable locations for expansion,” Ong said.

Ong said SRW currently has approximately 300 centres nationwide, including those awaiting the granting of a franchisee licence to begin operation.

The company has 40 franchisees currently operating in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Apart from our target to expand 20 more centres in Malaysia this year, we are also targeting international expansions in Australia and Indonesia,” Ong said.

SRW offers preschool education programmes for children aged three to six. The curriculum is focused on promoting learning through play.

The SRW franchise fee is RM270,000, including setup costs, and the company offers several incentive plans for young entrepreneurs interested in entering the early childhood education business.

“We hit our target for 2023, especially with the new Smart Reader Kids++ concept, designed as a daycare and transit centre for primary school students.

“Further, we opened our fourth centre in Melbourne, Victoria, with the launch of Smart Reader Kids Hallam,” Ong said.

Touching on listing plans, Ong said the company aims to be a public-listed firm in Malaysia and abroad by 2025 after establishing a stronger brand presence, expanded operations, better earnings volume and perks to offer future shareholders.

“When want to make sure that when we are going for initial public offering (IPO), we want to show an upward trajectory of the company and a bigger appetite for shareholders as they may want to see positive organic growth,” he said.

Ong said SRW’s market goal would be to continue growing the Smart Reader Kids brand in Malaysia, Australia, and Indonesia.

“We aim to achieve this by expanding our geographical reach by opening new centres in untapped markets. This will also increase our enrolment numbers to 20,000 students,” he said.

Ong said the main criteria SRW seeks in selecting entrepreneurs to join the Smart Reader Kids fraternity is passion.

“We want people who are passionate about working with children. In terms of support, we have an established franchise system that has been in operation for more than 20 years, providing support from all areas, including training and development, human resource (HR), legal, branding and marketing, research and development, and operations,” he said.

When asked to comment on what the government should look at to improve early childhood education and initiatives, Ong said one factor would be initiatives to encourage home-bound mothers to return to the workforce.

He said one primary cause is that many home-bound mothers want to return to the workforce and how they can send their children to a proper education and care centre.

He said countries such as Australia already have similar centres for working mothers, and employers encourage a proper work-life balance for working mothers.

“The government and related ministries should emphasise new initiatives for young mothers keen to return to the workforce.

“There must be subsidised and affordable early childhood education and care centres in major cities. This would make it easy for home-bound mothers to return to the workforce and have their children begin their education in these centres,” Ong said.

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