Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. It is inspiring and eye-opening, with a good dose of fun thrown in. Getting there, however, is a road riddled with obstacles: funding, visas, accommodation, living costs and so forth. This is why Ajesh Raj and Basil Ali from Kerala, graduates from De Montfort University in the UK, launched Edumpus.
Think of it as an Amazon-like platform for university applicants. Addressing challenges such as the costly fees and waiting time of dealing with uni consultants, Raj and Ali designed the application process to make it as seamless as shopping from Amazon.
How it works is by linking available courses to let students make informed and clear decisions. Below we talk to these De Montfort University graduates about Edumpus, their tips for applicants, and their time in the UK.
Tell us more about your career trajectories since graduating.
Ali: Before I travelled abroad for higher education, I worked as a project coordinator at Cochin Refinery Expansion Project in India. While the job was exciting, I had a feeling that I wanted to do more than just a nine to five.
Growing up, I always had an inclination to study abroad, especially in the UK with its cosmopolitan culture and deep-rooted history. Eventually, I got through at De Montfort University where I pursued a master’s in mechanical engineering.
After I interned at ADI Automotive, an industrial design company in Birmingham. From there, I got the chance to work at PetroServe International in the UAE as a procurement engineer. My time there helped me gain an understanding of the nuances of running a large business.
The entrepreneurship bug soon bit me because I was ready for a new challenge. I had met Raj during my De Montfort University days and we were always keen on starting a new venture together. When I returned to India in 2019, we finally decided to take the leap and found Edumpus.
Raj: Even before Edumpus, I had always been a part of the overseas education industry which I knew inside out. In 2018, I enrolled in De Montfort University to pursue an MBA in Global Studies where Ali and I met and became good friends.
So, when Ali approached me with the idea of starting a venture together, I was pretty clear on what business we would be in.
How do you guys use the knowledge and skills gained at De Montfort University in your current roles?
Ali: At De Montfort University, I had the option to choose an elective course on management with my usual course curriculum. That, I think, has been one of the best decisions of my academic life.
The management classes were very practical and taught me the fundamentals of managing a team, handling projects, and running a business. In my current role as COO, I look after day-to-day business operations and skills such as effective communication and strategic thinking. I learned this during uni and it’s made it easier to perform my role efficiently at Edumpus.
Raj: The curriculum at De Montfort University really helped me shape my managerial skills. The projects and the modules I took helped me learn how to lead a team, develop company strategies, build negotiation tactics, and master conflict resolution.
I also learned about crisis management and much more. Like Ali, these lessons have helped me prepare for my role as CEO of the company and ensured I keep an eye on the horizon while I steer the company forward.
What key things have you guys noticed with the lack of transparency for international students abroad and what more should be done? How does Edumpus come in here?
Ali: To be honest, when I was preparing to study abroad, my journey was anything but smooth. I had to spend hours upon hours researching what course to take, which uni to apply to, and I was getting limited guidance.
Traditional education consultants themselves did not have access to information about unis beyond the usual suspects. This experience was stuck in my head and I always felt that this system needed a drastic change.
It needed to become more student-friendly. Raj’s experience was no different, which is how Edumpus ended up being a result of common suffering!
Raj: My experience in the traditional consultancy environment helped here. Having seen the power of digitisation in other sectors, I felt that the student recruitment industry stood to benefit the most from a shift to a digital-first business model.
However, the internet penetration in India was quite limited up until a few years ago which made it quite difficult for us to execute our plans. In most cases, our research told us that students found it tiring to find appropriate and unbiased information about their preferred courses.
More often than not, they ended up choosing the best option available rather than the best option as per their aptitude. At Edumpus, our mission is to democratise access to higher education by aggregating unis and ranking them collectively as well as on an individual course basis.
This helps the student read everything about the course and find the best institute for their desired specialisation. It’s a transparent and easy process for students to follow and helps them take ownership of their journey.
What do you guys wish you had learned more during your time at De Montfort University?
Ali: While I did eventually become an engineer, I wish I would have pursued more management courses. This would have helped me gain more understanding of how to run a business.
A course in marketing and fundamentals in finance would have been really helpful too. Nevertheless, learning on the job is an entirely different but beneficial experience in itself.
Raj: Even though I studied people management and attended entrepreneurship workshops, I still feel I have a lot to learn in these aspects. These are ever-changing fields — human nature is the most difficult to understand.
The business environment is ever-changing. I’m very interested in these two areas and hence wish I had more exposure to them during my uni days.
Do you guys have any advice for students looking to enrol in the same courses as you?
Ali: The pandemic has had long-lasting effects on the education industry. We are entering a new world where traditional degrees are slowly giving way to or are being complemented with new-age courses that address current industry needs.
While conventional courses like the MBA help students develop a big-picture mentality, in the era of automation, they should also consider new-age courses. This is to help build exposure to fields such as AI, machine learning, and blockchain.
Raj: Being an entrepreneur myself, I would recommend students to take entrepreneurship workshops along with traditional courses. Such workshops need not be restricted to students who want to become entrepreneurs.
The unique way of problem-solving you learn in these workshops can be of great help in their professional careers as well.
In 10 years, where do you guys envision yourself?
Ali: After being exposed to the inefficiencies in this industry, my plan is to live in India and help strengthen the Indian education system. The National Education Policy in 2020 has been a positive step on that note but a lot more needs to be done.
More new-age and disruptive solutions are needed from our vibrant Indian startup ecosystem that can solve uniquely Indian problems. In the next 10 years, I would like to be working towards making India an ideal destination for higher education, which would be appealing enough for international students as well.
Raj: Ten years is a long time and a lot can be achieved by then. There is a steady movement across the globe enabled by the power of the Internet to make higher education seamless for students devoid of geographic or demographic limitations.
In the next 10 years, I plan to stay in India as well and want to make a significant impact on the recruiting style in the Indian higher education sector. Right to education is a fundamental right and through Edumpus, our goal is to empower students to make an informed choice on their uni and course, wherever they may be.