Generally speaking, radiology, cooking oil and skyscraper windows aren’t exactly the first images that come to mind when one thinks of franchising. Yet, all three are the central theme of relatively new franchise models, and exemplify franchising’s wider untapped potential.

And there’s plenty more where those come from.

To the uninitiated, franchising might remain largely synonymous with food, retail and a few other ubiquitous sectors; but in reality, virtually every type of business can leverage its methodology. A simple shift in perspective is all that’s needed for investors to open up a world of new possibilities — and that’s regardless of which side of the franchising fence they’d prefer to be on.

Wider themes

UAE has witnessed its own significant growth in franchising over the past two decades, most of which has come from corporate investments. But franchising isn’t meant to be just a corporate domain, and nor is it meant to be monopolised by a few sectors.

With the culture of entrepreneurship getting stronger by the day, there are countless individuals from various backgrounds desiring to carve out their own niche in the business universe. A carefully cultivated awareness of franchising’s true versatility would serve them better than they might realise.

Whereas the recent migration of unconventional franchises from the fringes to centerstage might be partly due to the millennial mindset, it is also the result of circumstance, wherein some sectors are saturated while others are grossly underserved. Here are a few examples of franchising extending beyond its traditional borders:

* Telemedicine: Despite their state-of-the-art equipment, many medical facilities suffer backlogs stretching to days and sometimes weeks when it comes to analysing, interpreting and presenting conclusive findings of complex radiology procedures. Now, franchised services that connect these facilities to highly qualified third-party radiologists can remotely provide those reports in as little as an hour.

* STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education for children: The importance of quality STEM education at a younger age has been emphasised at the highest levels of the UAE Government. The answer comes in the form of multiple initiatives, of which children’s STEM franchises are an integral part. These teach real-world STEM skills to children as young as four years right up to 18 in a fun and nurturing environment.

* Cleaning skyscraper windows: The time and cost aspects of regularly cleaning skyscraper windows pose a major challenge to facility management companies, particularly in the Arabian Gulf. The answer lies in a franchised concept that involves well-equipped, safely secured men suspended from ropes doing the job in fraction of the cost and time of typical cleaning cradle facilities.

* Vending live cooked products: In recent years, some cleverly applied vending technology has enabled food preparation in front of customers from scratch, accompanied by sublime theatrics. As a case in point, a unique pizza vending machine begins by releasing organic flour into a container and then moves to adding water, kneading the dough, rolling the pie, spreading the sauce and cheese — all to the delight of drooling onlookers.

* Supply chain management franchises: With margins in businesses increasingly under pressure, the value of meticulously managing supply chain can’t be overstated. However, this is a skill yet to be mastered by many organisations, which has led to the emergence of supply chain specialists whose singular task is to optimise company supply chains.

* Used cooking oil disposal: Correct and environmentally friendly disposal of used cooking oil is a key responsibility of all commercial and non-commercial food establishments, but all facilities aren’t equipped for this purpose. Specialist oil disposal franchise concepts are now taking care of this job and unburdening food establishments in the process.

Franchising has been around in its present form for about a hundred years and is undoubtedly the business worlds equivalent of inventing the wheel. The ability to package, transfer and seamlessly apply years of learning in any field from one place to the other is loaded with opportunities — many of which haven’t even been explored yet.

With franchising, the imagination truly is the only limit. Entrepreneurs, please take note.

Sanjay Duggal is Vice-President for the Middle East and North Africa Franchise Association.