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Sesame Street steps into Indian education business

Characters from Sesame Street's Indian programming.

Tess Vigeland: Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? By way of India?

The Children's Television Workshop has built Sesame into a global brand over nearly half a century. It broadcasts in more than 145 countries and licenses everything from books to Elmo toys. Now in India, it's launched a franchise business of for-profit Sesame Street-branded schools. It plans to open 20 preschools by next spring and 380 within five years.

Marketplace's Mark Garrison has this report, brought to you by the letters N and Y, for New York.


Mark Garrison: Elmo’s crooning is well-known to American children. But if you grow up in say, Mumbai, you’re used to a different tune.

The theme to "Galli Galli Sim Sim," the Hindi version of "Sesame Street." Beyond the show, Sesame has long worked with Indian educators to develop lesson plans and materials. So Sesame Workshop India managing director Sashwati Banerjee says her team is well-equipped to succeed in selling a full preschool curriculum.

Sashwati Banerjee: We thought it was the most logical extension.

For the right to use the brand and materials, franchisees will pay Sesame a fee and a cut of tuition revenue. That tuition starts at the equivalent of about $450 a year, no small sum in India. Private school franchises are big business there. There are hundreds. Well-off parents turn to them to escape poor public schools.

Mike Jani is the Indian-born, California-based V.P. of the consultancy Franchise India. He says the Sesame Street branding will stand out in a very competitive market.

Mike Jani: I think it could be of great potential because it’s a name that is recognized.

Banerjee knows she’s on new turf for a storied brand, so she’s choosing partners carefully. She says franchisees must buy into…

Banerjee: The ethos and the values of Sesame as much as they are buying into the business.

And that Sesame ethos just might translate into a lucrative new emerging market business.

I'm Mark Garrison for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.
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