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ET Startup Awards 2019: KLAY Schools' Priya Krishnan bags 'Woman Ahead' category

Trying to bring a substantive difference to the society at an impressive scale is what caught the eye of the jury.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 22, 2019, 03.17 PM IST
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The jury was impressed with the scale of operations — more than 150 centres — at the KLAY Schools she has founded.
Substantive difference that Priya Krishnan is bringing to the society, by working at the intersection of childhood education and enabling women to return to work after having a child, clinched her the Woman Ahead award.

The jury was impressed with the scale of operations — more than 150 centres — at the KLAY Schools she has founded, and highlighted the social impact of solving the problem of low representation of women at the workforce, as they chose Krishnan for the award. They unanimously agreed that this is the first such business in India operating at this scale, and such fundamental businesses which are instrumental in bringing about change in India’s workforce landscape should be supported.

Krishnan’s passion to make a difference in pre-school education was driven by her mission of enabling women to get back to work after having a child. With that ambition, Krishnan in 2011 started Founding Years Learning Solutions, an education services organisation which runs playschool centres under the KLAY brand, along with a training institute for early mothers and staff training, called IDPE. The company also operates The Little Company, a platform that exclusively works with corporate houses.

Read: ET Startup Awards 2019: How the winners were chosen in eight categories

“It is an honour to be nominated alongside stellar women doing incredible work in their respective spaces. Truly humbled to be a recipient of this prestigious award,” Krishnan told ET. A business graduate from London Business School, she has worked in leadership positions at companies like Anderson Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers, before she decided move to India from the UK.

The company started with a chain of high-quality and trustworthy daycare centres in emerging urban hubs. In a span of eight years, KLAY has scaled to more than 150 centres. It takes a personalised approach to education and care, and uses technology to give parents a comprehensive view of their child’s growth.

One of the biggest challenges that Krishnan realised was needed to scale was creating standardised and safe childcare centres. To address this, the company set up a training institute for its staff, which it has now opened to young firsttime mothers as well — to navigate them through the journey of child care.

Today, it has tie-ups with more than 200 companies, including Bharti Airtel, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Infosys. It gets roughly half its business from such corporate deals.

This year, KLAY plans to expand to Singapore, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

KLAY’s parent has raised $22 million from Peepul Capital and Kaizen Private Equity. KLAY is the largest chain of playschool and day-care centres in India. It has been growing almost 60% every year, Krishnan said.

Earlier this year, the firm launched centres for children with special needs, in partnership with London Learning Centre.

Don't miss: Signed, sealed, Delhivered: ET Startup Awards 2019 zeroes in on the best of Indian startups

Other Contenders
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Zilingo| Ankiti Bose

Investors:
Sequoia Capital, Temasek, Sofina and others
Claim to Fame: Bose runs Zilingo, an online fashion and beauty marketplace, which is a platform for small-scale merchants from Southeast Asia. Zilingo is the first startup in Asia founded by a woman to be valued at almost $1 billion.

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Mech Mocha| Arpita Kapoor

Investors:
Accel Partners, Blume Ventures, Shunwei Capital
Claim to Fame: Kapoor cofounded Mech Mocha which runs Hello Play. She pivoted Mech Mocha from being a game developer to a regional language social gaming platform with a focus on the next billion Indians.

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FabAlley| Shivani Poddar and Tanvi Mallik

Investors:
SAIF Partners, India Quotient
Claim to Fame: Poddar and Malik run FabAlley and Indya, apparel brands tailored specifically for the contemporary Indian woman. The company, which focuses on affordable fashion for working women, claims to be one of the first ecommerce companies to have hit profitability.

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Mad Street Den| Ashwini Ashokan


Investors:
Falcon Edge Capital, Global Brain, Sequoia Capital
Claim to Fame: Asokan bootstrapped her startup, Mad Street Den, after she returned from the Silicon Valley. The firm, a computer vision and AI startup, creates data from retail merchandise and customer behaviour, correlates and analyses it.

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