This article by Jennifer Tan (left, Director, Research & Products, Equities & Fixed Income, at the Singapore Exchange) was published in SGX's kopi-C: the Company brew series on 27 April 2018. The article is republished with permission.
For educator David Chiem, his greatest source of inspiration growing up was a poor, illiterate peasant girl who became a spirit medium for Guan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.
Starting afresh in Sydney was like a rebirth, Chiem said. "I still remember my dad's words - 'For everyone who made it to Australia, someone else died'."
Plugging the Gap
Chiem noticed a gap in global education - one involving the mindset of the learner. "All of us spent many years at school, and essentially for five days a week, we were taught the what to learn, but never how to learn," he noted.
"Very rarely do we learn the craft of how to learn, and more importantly, develop the mindset of a learner - to be the best that we can be, and achieve our full potential in all areas of life."
MindChamps, founded as an educational research centre in Australia in 1998, is set to fill that gap by designing for every child a new operating system, one optimised for the age of globalisation and information explosion, where methods of rote learning and memorisation have become irrelevant.
The MindChamps pedagogy - a 21st Century educational system involving the Champion Mind, the Learning Mind and the Creative Mind - was developed in collaboration with global experts hailing from the domains of education, neuroscience, child psychology and theatre.
|Over the years, many have suggested we introduce a mid-tier brand, but I disagreed and said we should stay focused on the early childhood premium segment. That has helped us to become who we are today.
- David Chiem
It is the only preschool brand globally to work directly with award-winning neuroscientist Professor Emeritus Allan Snyder, founder of the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
In Singapore, MindChamps is the largest operator and franchisor of premium range preschool centres. Following the opening of its first pre-school in 2008, the Group now has 36 centres in the city-state, and holds a 38.5% share of the premium-range preschools market - defined as one that has school fees in the range of S$1,700 and above per month (before promotions and subsidies) for a five-day, or five-and-a-half day week, full-day programme.
In the region, MindChamps opened its first Abu Dhabi nursery in September 2017. It is scheduled to roll out a second centre in Dubai in July, and has plans to launch several more later this year.
Down under, it is focusing on franchising to drive expansion in Sydney and Melbourne, having sold a master-franchise of 20 licenses of reading-and-writing enrichment centres for these two key cities.
Currently, the Group has 10 company-owned and 44 franchise-operated pre-schools, as well as reading-and-writing enrichment centres, across Singapore, Australia, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from these key markets, MindChamps views the US and UK as potential targets for its global ambitions.
|Expanding Regional Footprint|
The Group, which listed on SGX Mainboard last November, has a current market capitalisation of nearly S$200 million. In the 2018 year-to-date, its shares have generated a price gain of 3.8%, compared with total returns of 5.4% and 4.0% respectively for the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) and broader FTSE ST All-Share Index.
Due to merger and acquisition costs as well as one-off IPO expenses, net profit declined 16% to S$4.9 million.
China's Golden Age
The outlook for China's preschool education is indeed bright. "The market is not huge - it's gigantic, with some 260,000 preschools currently. Even with just a 3% share of this pie, the growth potential would be massive," Chiem added.
The implementation of a two-child policy by the Chinese government in 2016 will likely provide another boost, according to Deloitte's 2017 Education Industry Report.
China's preschool education market, which was valued at RMB380 billion in 2016, is expected to exceed RMB540 billion by 2020, as the country's education sector enters a "golden age" of expansion in terms of industry size and market activity, the report noted.
|China already has the hardware, with their brick-and-mortar schools and enrolled students. What they need is software, and we can provide that through the MindChamps-branded curriculum and teacher training.
- David Chiem
Meanwhile, MindChamps' unwavering focus on achieving pole position in the premium segment of the market has been instrumental to the Group's growth, Chiem said.
"Over the years, many have suggested we introduce a mid-tier brand, but I disagreed and said we should stay focused on the early childhood premium segment. That has helped us to become who we are today."
Essentially, it's all about maintaining the right attitude, he added. "The key is continuous improvement and upgrading - we should always be ahead of the curve, but never ahead of ourselves."
Likewise, Chiem, who co-authored several books, one of which - "Only the Heart" - is now an English literature text for Junior College students in Australia, aims to nurture the right mindset in his son.
"I want to cultivate in him the concept of 100 percent respect and zero fear," he said of his 19-year-old, who is pursuing a major in theatre studies.
"This is because we live in a world where respect is lacking, and judgements and conclusions are formed in a blink of an eye."
Chiem always encourages his son to dig deeper, and seek to understand multiple perspectives. "I want him to have the confidence to find his true self. Many kids today live shackled lives, conforming to the judgments of others, and imprisoned by the fear of failure."
It boils down to discovering and celebrating what is unique in every individual, which constitutes the essence of the MindChamps philosophy, he noted.
"Every child comes into this world with something special. It's important that he finds his own voice, unearths the champion in himself, so he can achieve his full potential and contribute to society."
|Year ended 31 Dec
|Half-year ended 30 Jun (S$'000)||1HFY2017||1HFY2016
Source: company data and IPO prospectus
|Outlook & Risks|
MindChamps PreSchool Ltd
MindChamps PreSchool holds the Number One position in the premium range preschools market in Singapore, with a share of 38.5%. Its growing global presence includes premium preschools and enrichment centres in Australia, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Philippines, and soon Myanmar, Vietnam and China.
Based on a cutting-edge, scientifically researched curriculum, MindChamps is helmed by a highly experienced management team and an esteemed World Advisory Board, chaired by world-renowned neuroscientist Professor Emeritus Allan Snyder (Fellow of the Royal Society). MindChamps is the only educational institute to collaborate with Professor Snyder on the empirical research of the three minds model of education - the Champion Mind, the Creative Mind and the Learning Mind - which is uniquely built into its curriculum. The Group's unrelenting commitment to excellence in cultivating young minds has led to the organisation being honoured with some of the most sought-after awards in the Singapore education sector, as well as industry-wide recognition in the fields of intellectual property, franchise management and branding.
This includes winning both the Influential Brands®' Top Brands Award and the Superbrands®' Mark of Distinction for four years in a row (2014-2017), ranked top 1000 of Singapore companies for five consecutive years in Singapore SME 1000 Awards (2011-2015), and most recently ranked 8th out of 50 top companies in the 2017 Enterprise 50 Awards, as well as bagging the 2017 Dun & Bradstreet Business Eminence Awards.