Westford Education Group began its journey in a tiny office with three staff members. Though the company was small, it had a lofty vision. Westford faced struggles in its first three years - the reason being that people found it difficult to accept, believe in and invest in the company's services. Despite the tough challenges it faced, it did not dilute the quality of education and ensured a continuous investment in technology. It invested in an excellent student support ecosystem, which became a key differentiator in its journey. Slowly, Westford succeeded in winning the confidence of its learners and the community, a result of its steadfast commitment to students' welfare and their success stories.
Firoz Thairinil, Founder and CEO of Westford Education Group, had been a banker for more than a decade, but he knew that his ambition was to be an entrepreneur. "While I was pursuing an MBA at the University of Wales, I was exposed to the UK education system, which I felt was interesting and pragmatic. I wanted to make this education more accessible. I decided to venture into the field of education and Westford Education Group was born," said Thairnil.
Currently, Westford has three prominent higher education brands, Westford University College, Exeed College and Eaton Business School, with courses ranging from the undergraduate level to the doctorate level.
Cutting through the clutter
What sets Westford apart is its investment in technology, which substantially improves the overall experience of the learner's journey. Learners get very flexible options to study based on each individual's needs. Westford leveraged technology to disrupt the existing models of education, making it more accessible and affordable. The latest technology, combined with partnerships with prestigious universities characterised by rich legacies of hundreds of years, made the company unique in the saturated higher education sector.
Response to the pandemic
Thanks to its timely investment in technology, Westford had all the necessary tools, systems, experience and resources handy to move all classes online overnight without any hurdles. Retention of its existing students was first priority, so Westford implemented a policy to provide request-based financial assistance to students and saw to it that its counsellors kept in touch with them to ensure their wellbeing.Â Westford followed the rule 'Obonato' - 'I exist because we exist'. New admissions increased by almost 100 per cent in 2020 as its high-quality education was affordable and accessible from anywhere in the world.
Over time, Westford has bagged many awards and gained recognition as evidenced by its commitment to quality and community development. Some of these are 'Forbes Higher Education Award - 2019', 'Great Place to Work in the GCC' and 'Great Place for Women to Work in the UAE' in 2020. The most significant milestone was crossing 1,200 MBA enrolments in the midst of a challenging 2020.
The road ahead
Currently, Westford's courses are dominated by management disciplines although it ventured into Psychology, Arts, Computing, Fashion and Sport last year. Thairinil said that it will soon add courses in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Engineering and Architecture. It plans to utilise the capabilities of AI and Blockchain to enhance the student experience and efficiency of its operations.
Message to budding entrepreneurs
With the experience gained with setting up Westford Education Group, Thairinil says that there is no good or bad time to start a business.Â
"Develop an original idea, believe in it and commit yourself, have the passion and optimism and you can change the world. Do not be afraid of failure, it will help you grow. Surround yourself with people who believe in your vision. Put your ego aside, and just focus on delivering," he advises.