500 Million Rupiah to Spare? Buy a TBI Franchise!

As I mentioned earlier last week, it’s exam time at my current school and I’ve been bogged under with student exam papers. For this reason, I haven’t posted anything new for 5 days. However, Cam has had some spare time, so he has played around with the formatting of this website in the meantime and reprinted a couple of interesting old emails which showed Luke’s control over every aspect of the VKU teacher scam. The main change, however, is that it should now be easier to access the archived material from 2012 posts on this website. The changes seem to be for the better. Someone researching TBI Bogor, for example, was easily able to access the old newspaper reports about the 2007 TBI teacher deportations from that school. Old news you say? Same owner, then and now. Would you want to work for someone who is known to have thrown 2 British teachers under the bus?

That brings us in a round about way to today’s topic. I don’t think we have ever mentioned before exactly how much TBI asked for the rights to open a TBI franchise. The amount (recently confirmed by another former manager) is half a billion rupiah. That’s Rp 500.000.000 just for the right to use the TBI name. Oh, and you do get “Head Office support” for your money! This used to amount to one half-hearted visit a year where they arrived, looked over the school with a lot of self-important hustle and bustle, and then went again, leaving a few vague suggestions in their wake. You also got sent a few lousy XL spreadsheets from Ashley Platts for your money, That’s it: I’m not making it up!

Most of the franchise owners thought their “support” was scandalously bad, which is why Retty, the former Franchise Manager, finally got the sack. But at least she was good at selling these franchise schools. She managed to sell about 10 of them between 2004 and 2010. (She landed the deal to sell TBI Cibubur and TBI Depok before Luke Preece took over, though the start day for these schools was much delayed.) After she was replaced by the surfie dropout from South Australia, not a single franchise was sold.

Now back in the day when the rupiah hovered around Rp 9000 to the dollar, each franchise sold would have put around $60,000 in the pockets of Head Office. This is really not bad. You can buy a very decent apartment in Indonesia for that amount, so someone was profiting nicely from Retty’s hard work. But over the past two years, not a single franchise school has opened. This is one of  the signs that their business model has sailed into some very stormy weather. Now the official line we heard was “TBI not opening more franchise schools is their choice!” They care so much about “getting it right” that they have decided not to sell any more franchises until the problematic schools have been fixed. It’s all about their commitment to quality!

These people really are spin doctors, aren’t they? They care so much about quality that they have turned down offers of half a billion rupiah? Pull the other one! These, mind you, are the same people who cared so little about quality that they allow alleged sex offender and teacher abuser, Binsar Simorangkir, to remain at the helm of TBI Bekasi. This is the school whose true mantra is “we like it cheap”, replacing every expat manager with Indonesians only a measly few millions per month. This is a company that care so little about academic quality that they have employed a motley crew of illegal teachers on VKU visas for 3 years as a way of circumventing Indonesian law. And anyway, what are these “problematic” schools? Last time I saw a TBI ad they were still implausibly claiming to be “the benchmark in ESL teaching in Indonesia”. The benchmark of ESL teaching and “problematic schools” are contradictory concepts, but they freely flip from one to the other, using whichever fits their agenda of the moment.

The truth of course is that they would love to have had more investors coming on board. But the investors are thin on the ground. In 2012 and 2013 they have proved non-existent. Their past sins seem to be catching up with them, and they are now more of a benchmark of a TEFL school with a massive PR problem than anything else.

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