Sesame Street has had a presence in India since 2006, when Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Hindi version of the show, started airing on Cartoon Network, Pogo and national broadcaster Doordashan.
The show’s characters include Boombah, a hedonistic, vegetarian lion who believes he is a descendant of Indian royalty, and Chamki, a schoolgirl who also does Karate. Galli Galli Sim Sim claims to have reached 90% of children in India under eight-years-old who have access to a television.
The original mission of Sesame Street — giving preschoolers an educational boost before entering grade one — is now being rolled out in Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh as a for-profit business franchise based on Sesame Street’s first preschool in India, in Jaipur. Sesame Workshop aims to have 20 schools up and running by March 2013, with plans for 382 within the first five years. So far, one has opened in Jaipur and another four are planned for this year, two in Jaipur, one in Kanpur and another potentially in Delhi.
The main challenges in India include finding good teachers and ensuring the 44-year-old Sesame Street brand is protected, Ms. Banerjee says.
“It’s important that we get quality and the right pedagogy and inculcate basic hygiene and safety features, because most Indians don’t understand that or are very lackadaisical,” she says.
The organization is even considering starting its own teacher training college to provide a “bank” of fresh graduates trained in “Sesame” rather than the didactic style of teaching typical in Indian classrooms, adds Ms. Banerjee.
“The very idea of the Sesame curriculum is built around teachers and kids constructing knowledge together.”
Franchisees must provide a building with at least 2,000 square feet of covered, carpeted space and adequate outdoor space for the play equipment Sesame Workshop prefers – made from wood and other natural materials that connect children with the outdoors.
Brand protection is crucial when starting a franchise business, particularly in the unregulated preschool market, according to Franchise India.
“International brands are skeptical about investing in India because they [Indians] don’t respect intellectual property [laws],” a spokesman for Franchise India told India Real Time.
The license fee to start a Sesame preschool is 150,000 rupees ($2,700) for three years. Sesame Schoolhouse, which is based in India and oversees the enterprise as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sesame Workshop India, takes 15-20% royalties from a school’s earnings. Parents would pay between 25,000 rupees and 60,000 rupees a year on school fees, depending on the location.
Profits made by Sesame Schoolhouse will go toward making Sesame Street’s other ventures in India sustainable, says Ms. Banerjee.