With 109 years’ experience in providing language solutions worldwide, the London-based Linguaphone Group is a world-leading global language training provider. Millions of adults and children in over 60 countries have successfully learned a new language thanks to the company’s range of programmes, which are delivered under 3 brands: Pingu’s English, Linguaphone and Direct English. The past 20 years have seen a huge shift in the Linguaphone Group’s customer base and today over 95 per cent of the company’s business is generated from outside the UK.
Pingu’s English was developed in 2008, after the Linguaphone Group acquired the exclusive global English language teaching rights for the animated television character Pingu. The company went on to develop an educational, fun and entertaining English language course, aimed at children between the ages of 3 and 8. It is now used by children in over 20 countries across Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East.
“Pingu’s English succeeds because it’s fun to teach and learn, and all provided in a safe and happy environment,” says Sarah Cole, Head of Marketing at the Linguaphone Group. “Children with no previous English language knowledge develop strong reading, writing, speaking and listening skills by following Pingu’s true-to-life adventures in the South Pole. The programme is also successful because it uses a wide range of multimedia learning and support materials to help children build confidence in the use of English from an early age.”
The Linguaphone Group’s overseas business model is to appoint an exclusive Master Franchisee partner for a given market, who then has the flexibility to launch their own branded schools, appoint sub-franchisees and distributors, and collaborate with existing local education networks.
In expanding its business further overseas, the Linguaphone Group considers both markets that are new and emerging, and those that are already strongly developed, to assess where there is growing potential for its programmes. Since 1999, the company has developed a lot of experience in the Gulf and the wider MENA region, and has over 40 Direct English centres in Saudi Arabia alone.
The Linguaphone Group saw the strong potential that the Middle East offers in terms of increasing interest from the investor community in franchise opportunities within the educational sector. The company was particularly drawn to Bahrain and Qatar, where great importance is placed on education. It got in touch with UKTI in Bahrain and commissioned an to identify entrepreneurs, investors and those already working in the children’s franchise sector. UKTI drew up a shortlist of over ten potential candidates and in June 2013 the Linguaphone Group flew out to Manama to meet the preferred candidates.
“We have worked with UKTI for almost 10 years, and they have helped us to sign exclusive partners in markets as diverse as Thailand, Indonesia, Sudan, Bahrain and Algeria,” says Sarah. “We have seen how effective OMIS is, and we also value the on-going backing that UKTI gives us, for example attending launch ceremonies and supporting our partners through their own expansion plans in-market. With Bahrain and Qatar, UKTI introduced us to a number of good quality entrepreneurial prospects and scheduled a solid visit program for us. Many of the candidates we met had potential to act as our exclusive partner, and we decided to award the franchise to DSA Company, who will now represent our Pingu’s English brand in both these markets.”
Company: Linguaphone Group
Target Market: Bahrain & Qatar
Sector: Education & Training
The Linguaphone Group launched its first Direct English training centre in Bahrain with its partner Tylos in November 2013, at a prestigious event in the presence of the Deputy British Ambassador, Russ Dixon. Meanwhile, Pingu’s English Bahrain and Qatar are currently making preparations to open their pilot Pingu’s English Schools in early 2014.
The company is also working with UKTI and other marketing partners to further support its expansion of Pingu’s English and Direct English across the Middle East, including in Iraq, Jordan, Libya, and Oman.
The Gulf region has always been a focus for us, and we have regular on-going marketing campaigns for this area and the whole of the Middle East,” says Sarah. “There are growing links between the UK and both Bahrain and Qatar, which can only be improved by the work that UKTI is doing there. We appreciate their diligence, commitment and professionalism and we are extremely grateful for their support in identifying a partner not only for Bahrain, but Qatar too. There’s no doubt that our entry into this market with Pingu’s English has been accelerated with the help we had from UKTI. It may take time, but with the right long-term partners, both Bahrain and Qatar offer potentially lucrative opportunities for growth and development for companies looking to succeed overseas.”