Bridging the care gap

Amit Verma is on a mission. He wants to bridge the gap between childcare providers and parents and is setting up a website which provides a platform for childcare providers to advertise what they do and their availability and allows parents to rate them.

Childcare

 

Amit’s background is not in childcare. He was a finance lawyer who was made redundant from his City job during the credit crunch. Some of his family and friends were in the care sector and got him interested in it. With the support of his parents, he bought a day nursery in Alton, Hampshire, around four years ago. The nursery had a bad reputation and needed a lot of work. Amit says he put himself in the shoes of parents and what they might like in a nursery. He had the nursery painted, replaced most of the resources for the children, installed a sensory room, built a new outside play area, reduced the flooring and bought a minibus for outings. “Parents want what is best for their child so we made our nursery the best it could be,” says Amit.

Although there has been a lot of praise for the new-look nursery and the Ofsted ratings were good, Amit wanted to get the word out to parents more widely. He had tried open days and advertising. That’s when the idea for My Kids Care came. “A nursery may be on the way to outstanding and be in the same category as another which is just scraping good. It’s unfair if parents look at that and they think they are the same,” he says. My Kids Care, he states, helps childcare providers to sell what they do best and its review system allows parents to rate the care their children receive. Childcare providers can also respond to any criticism. Amit says he hopes that one outcome is an improvement in childcare. “We don’t just want to present providers in a glowing light. Other sites tend to recommend childcare and don’t allow potentially critical reviews,” he says.

Micro site

The site, which launches in July, is for nurseries, babysitters and childminders. Childminders get an interactive micro site of their own to advertise what they do. “Hardly any childminders have their own website as it’s too expensive. We give them a site at a fraction of the cost of what they would have to pay to set one up themselves,” says Amit. Babysitters get a basic listing and can advertise ad hoc care and nurseries can market their facilities, for instance, whether they provide free places for two year olds, can manage children with allergies, whether they offer in-house catering and if they have extra facilities, such as sensory rooms.

Another feature of the site, which will be free for parents, is that childcare providers can advertise their availability for extra sessions. “A lot of parents need ad hoc extra sessions. From the perspective of a nursery provider all the childcare is paid for. The only extra is a bit of food. It is profitable to accept ad hoc care if staffing is not a problem. The website can show where there is availability for the week ahead. Parents can see at 11pm if there is a session available and can book it online. It also saves on admin time for nurseries,” says Amit. He realised that it was not just nurseries who could benefit from the idea. “There’s a big market for those who can do this well, give the rise in self employed,” he says, “and it saves on worry and stress.”

Amit plans to extend My Kids Care nationally and to other providers, including nannies and tutors.
For now, though, there’s quite a bit of work to do to get the word out and get childcare providers to register. Already lots of childminders and babysitters have signed up.

Amit says he is keen that the service he offers is affordable. A monthly subscription for childminders and babysitters costs no more than one hour’s childcare plus the first three months is free.

The idea for My Kids Care has been germinating for two years and Amit has done a lot of research drilling down into what parents and providers want. It was not until last November, though, that Amit started work in earnest. He assembled a team of contractors – web developers, designers and marketing experts. Once the site is up and running in July many of these will not be needed and the team will mainly consist of a small sales force. These will work from home, but are within driving distance of Amit, who has recently become a dad.

He has business interests in care homes which help finance his work on My Kids Care, but says his passion is childcare. “When I started with the nursery I was working there till 11pm every day. I wanted to know all about it and to learn from the ground up, to forge relationship with parents and understand what they wanted,” he says. “Now it has become a passion.”

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