What is MFLP?
Music for Little People (MFLP) provides music classes for young children offering a fun and well-structured approach to learning about music. Good listening ability and an appreciation of rhythm are key skills in learning a language. Created by Karen Dickinson, a qualified music teacher, the business is based in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, and has been established since 1996.
A stint of living in the USA with her family, remotely managing the Music for Little People business in the UK, inspired Karen to consider further global expansion of the business. A couple of timely events coincided to pinpoint Chennai in India as a potential new market: firstly one of Karen’s UK teachers won a sought-after work contract in the prestigious KM Music Conservatory in Chennai (founded by A. R. Rahman with profits from the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ film) and secondly Karen found she had connections in the region through Trinity College, London.
Whilst there were indicators of an opportunity in Chennai, Karen wanted a better understanding of the market before investing time and money in a launch. Karen had been on UKTI’s Passport to Export programme, helping small and medium sized businesses to export, and worked with Dave Revitt as her International Trade Advisor. It was Dave who recommended UKTI’s Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS), which provides professional advice and funding to encourage businesses to understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating an appropriate launch strategy. There is a nationwide team of professional Research Advisers to support individual companies.
Karen met with Alice Mamier, Research Adviser for the East of England, in late 2012. “Alice was the best person!” Exclaimed Karen, “She really knew her stuff and was incredibly good at focusing us on what we needed to do”. Alice helped Karen to structure her research to ensure the important decisions could be taken: firstly, should they bother entering the market, what price should they charge and what should they pay their staff, what sort of music would be best, what regulatory procedures were required and, importantly, how should they promote their classes?
Karen began with desk research in the UK followed by a 10-day field research trip to Chennai in January 2013 where she spoke with a wide range of different people including pre-school heads, British High Commission staff, teachers at British Schools, parents of small children and other business owners from the British Business Group (BBG) in Chennai, asking them key questions which Alice had helped to prepare.
“During my trip, I learned that India can sometimes be frustrating and is, at first, something of a ‘culture shock’”, explained Karen, “However, it is also colourful, full of life, and exciting. The (long!) conversations I had during my trip really helped me to understand how India works!”
Karen learned that there was clearly an appetite for her classes, “Education is seen as very important in India and parents are happy to prioritise their spending”. In addition it became clear that a key benefit of the MFLP classes to the Indian market was their ability to hugely expand the English vocabulary of participants as well. The research showed that she would need to charge at least half of UK prices and that a proportion of the income would need to be distributed to the school as well as Karen’s staff, however, the costs were considerably lower than the UK. Regulatory barriers were found to be relatively low as the market is largely unregulated. “Another unexpected finding was the importance of taking ‘traditional’ newspaper advertisements or placing printed posters on telegraph poles near the school, as opposed to promoting through digital channels”, although promoting through Facebook worked well with the target audience of young mothers . Karen was also reminded of the importance of establishing and maintaining strong relationships in the Indian market.
The Creation of MFLP
The research gave Karen the confidence to structure a launch plan for success in India. Since the initial research trip, she has visited Chennai on further occasions to continue to develop relationships, recruit teachers and establish new classes, “We now have 4 teachers in Chennai and are looking to expand into Bangalore. Rewardingly, last time I visited, I watched some of the first classes actually running!”
“The EMRS helped us concentrate our thoughts and sharpen up our business both here and in India”, explained Karen, “It has helped us become so much better at focusing our attention on what we want to achieve and what needs to be done”.
Please follow this link to see how other Companies have benefitted from the EMRS.