SoftBank-backed FirstCry acquires playschool chain Oi

MUMBAI: SoftBank-backed FirstCry, which retails products and also operates a social network catering to young parents and babies, is entering the education space by acquiring Oi Playschool in what is the first of its kind deal in a fast consolidating segment. FirstCry plans to expand Oi Playschool — which currently operates about 55 centres in Hyderabad and Bengaluru — across the country with over 1,000 centres in five years.

The deal size was not disclosed, but it is an all-cash transaction to buy the business from Hyderabad’s People Combine Group, which sold Oakridge Private School earlier this year for Rs 1,600 crore to Hong Kong’s Nord Anglia. Oi will compete with players like KKR-owned EuroKids and Kidzee, which is owned by the Essel Group. This segment’s size is pegged at $2 billion, which is expected to reach $5 billion by 2022.

“What is attractive about Oi is that it is a premium chain and their educational curriculum is one of the best in the market with very passionate franchisee partners who are more educationists than business owners,” said First-Cry CEO Supam Maheshwari, a serial entrepreneur who started the company in 2010. The company raised $400 million last year from SoftBank Vision Fund and is valued at over $850 million.

The move, which is the second major acquisition by FirstCry after it bought Mahindra’s baby care retail business Babyoye in 2016, will allow the firm to be present across the life cycle of a child from before conception to early education. FirstCry is already the largest retailer, both online and offline with over 400 stores, in the babycare space and also recently expanded overseas starting with Dubai.

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