Kamil Najjar, the chief executive of Kids First Group, wants to build a nursery on Saadiyat Island. The 47-year-old Lebanese feels it would fit in with the image of the capital as an upcoming cultural hub.
q You have worked in cosmetics, consumer goods, food and beverages, and marketing industries. Why venture into early childhood education sector?
a When I worked in Procter & Gamble for four years until 2008, I visited Singapore and learnt the importance of the first four or five years in the life of a human being in the formation of the life and character. So many government officials do not realise this. From 2008 until 2009 I also worked for Knowledge Universe [a global education company].
The Kids First Group is a holding group of nurseries. What is it about?
It was founded in August 2011, and now has seven nurseries. It has three in Dubai, three in Abu Dhabi and one in Doha. It started with acquiring existing nurseries. We upgraded the environment and invested a lot of money. Redwood Montessori Nursery in Khalifa City A, Abu Dhabi, is our first own nursery. It opened in January. We brought a feng shui master before we opened Redwood and he turned the place upside down. But when he explained why he is doing it, the architect changed the whole layout and colours. It has dual curriculum, English and Arabic, or English and French. There are 50 students at Redwood, and of that 10 are Emiratis. The capacity is 200. Redwood has a … plantation area where children can [grow] organic plants, take it into the "mini-chef area" to turn it into a sandwich. It has an atelier and a gym room as well as a mini-city with a roundabout, zebra crossing and splash park.
Isn't that a bit over the top?
Why not? Isn't it nice to see them happy? They learn to climb. We have a purpose-built hill, and that develops the muscles. You see them biking, having fun, getting tired and that's physical development.
How much does it cost?
For full five days, full time from 7.30am until 2pm, it costs Dh12,500 [US$3,403] per three-month term.
What are your expansion plans?
We have taken land from TDIC in Saadiyat Island. It will be our first purpose-built nursery. Redwood is in a villa. TDIC is building the core and the shell, and we are taking it for 25 years. So there will be another Redwood on Saadiyat. It will open in September 2014. Saadiyat is an upcoming island that would require its own facilities. [It] is known for luxurious and sophisticated facilities and Redwood and its positioning and image fits in very well with Saadiyat.
Will Kids First Group diversify?
Nurseries will be the backbone of the group. But we will have other pillars such as teacher education and training, children's health, children's events, and children enrichment programme in the coming year or two. Currently we are focusing only on nurseries. Organic growth of the company was 25 per cent in revenues and the number of children.