Firoz Thairinil, Founder & CEO, Westford Education Group

Entrepreneurs are born and not made. They remain undeterred by challenges and failure. If one door closes, they build a new door that can never shut them out. Firoz Thairinil is one such entrepreneur. The Founder & CEO of Westford Education Group, Firoz, believes that if life throws a curveball at you, you must handle it in the best possible way. His entrepreneurial journey has too witnessed many highs and lows. But it never demoralized him or diminished his entrepreneurial spirit.

Firoz was born and brought up in India, where he had attempted to set up a few businesses. However, his Indian ventures did not pan out well. “After that, I came to the Middle East and worked in the banking sector for the next 15 years,” remarks Firoz. Later, in 2007, while pursuing MBA at the University of Wales, Firoz became fascinated by the UK education system. He found it exciting and pragmatic. At the end of his degree, he realized that he wanted to make education more accessible to a broader community. This was his way of contributing to society. Therefore, along with three colleagues, Hanil Das, Samras Mayimi, and Mashrook Ali who also shared a similar vision, Firoz decided to venture into education. Soon, Westford Education Group was incepted in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

The UAE Opening Doors to New Opportunities

The United Arab Emirates has an excellent ecosystem for businesses to thrive. This global community exposed Firoz to a new world full of opportunities. Hence, when he decided to follow his aspiration to work in the education sector, the UAE business ecosystem gave him a fillip and helped Westford Education Group to prosper.

According to Firoz, the entire process through legal procedures and taxes made it comparatively easy for the founding team of Westford Education Group to set up their business. In addition, there is a vibrant and diverse expat community that takes care of the workforce in their industry. Together, these factors make the UAE one of the best places to set up educational institutions.

How did Westford Education Group start its journey?

In the beginning, Westford had a humble start with a tiny office and a small staff. “It took us about three years to get acceptance from the community, but those three years were like three decades for us,” recounts Firoz. But Firoz and his colleagues had a progressive vision that kept them going. Despite facing several challenges, they ensured that Westford’s quality of education remained undiluted for its students.

“What we did differently from our competitors is that we created an excellent student support ecosystem which became a key differentiator in our journey. Slowly, we succeeded in winning the confidence of our learners and the community, resulting from our steadfast commitment to our students’ welfare and their success stories. The rest of the organization was built upon the students’ trust and confidence in us,” Firoz proudly shares.

Firoz and his team’s technological investment became another critical factor in giving Westford institutions an edge over their competitors. “Technology-enabled us to offer the learners flexible options to study based on individual needs. We leveraged technology to disrupt the existing education models, making it more accessible and affordable. The latest technology combined with our partnership with prestigious universities characterized by a rich legacy of hundreds of years made us unique in the saturated higher education sector. We could cut through the clutter,” asserts Firoz.

Westford Education Group has ten prominent higher education brands: Acacia University, Arizona, US, CIQ, UK, Westford University College, Exeed College, Exeed ECX, TAITO, Eaton Business School, Uniathena, DeMont Institute of Management & Technology, Westford Institute of Film Technology and Westford Sports Management.

Significant Milestones as a Leader

As a dynamic and visionary leader, Firoz’s entrepreneurial journey has been inspiring and rewarding. For him, Westford Education Group’s awards, achievements, and accolades hold a special place in his heart. These achievements include the Forbes Higher Education Award in 2019, Great Places to Work in GCC, Great Place for Women to Work in UAE., BTEC International Institution of the Year 2021 Silver Award. Westford University College was ranked 24th best workplace in Asia 2021 by Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture. “This was a great achievement for us considering the size of our organization, and most importantly, the commitment, dedication, and hard work of our team members, and as a leader, I am proud of it,” states Firoz.

Work is a Pleasure World

At work, Firoz doesn’t follow a fixed routine or schedule. Each day is different for him, as what seems right today might not work tomorrow. “I always ensure that I do not lose sight of my core objectives. So I take action accordingly,” pinpoints Firoz.

When it comes to dealing with stress yet maintaining a calm composure, Firoz says that he doesn’t let pressure adversely affect him and manages to remain calm under all situations. “If there is too much tension, I leave the situation for a while and come back later when I feel I can handle it,” he continues.

For Firoz, work is a pleasure game; it relaxes him and gives him joy. Regularly, thrice a week, he loves to play golf. Firoz also loves spending time with his family and plans biannual vacations as the time permits. This is his way of striking a balance between work and life.

Technology came to the Rescue during Pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak profoundly disrupted the education industry around the globe. Commenting on those turbulent times, Firoz opines, “Like all other educational institutions worldwide, Westford institutions were also somewhat shaken at the beginning. But our investment on the technology front came as a savior for us. Since we had all the necessary tools, systems, and experience resources at our disposal, we moved all our classes online overnight without any hurdles. It was a seamless transition.”

Moreover, Firoz and his team’s primary objective was to retain Westford institutions’ existing students. They implemented a policy that would not let anyone drop out of the class due to financial Firoz reveal, “We provided financial assistance to needy students based on their requests. Our counselors kept in touch with them to ensure that they were doing well. We followed the rule “Obonato,” i.e., I exist because we exist. That worked to our advantage.”

Apart from retaining existing students, Westford’s management team also aggressively spent on marketing which helped them increase new admissions by more than 100% during 2021 compared to the previous year. Quality affordable education was the key feature which they always emphasized on. Most students looked at affordable options due to the pandemic’s economic crisis, and Westford institutions scored well there.

Best tips for an Overseas Career

Firoz advises people to have an overpowering, all-consuming passion for succeeding in the face of obstacles while working abroad. Every country provides opportunities in one way or the other. “The key factor is the intensity of your drive, which will propel you forward. Just be committed to your goal, and don’t let your ego stand in the way of anything,” says Firoz.

Immediate Plans & Future Strategies

Currently, Firoz and his colleagues are actively working on their latest venture named ‘Uniathena,’ an online education platform built on a mission to make education on a schedule that works for you, affordable for everyone and accessible from anywhere. “Another initiative we have recently undertaken is to provide access to education globally through Exeed ECX which gives access to reputed university programs through satellite centers operating in different parts of the world. We have just opened 25 centers in the following countries; UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, China, Egypt, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, Malawi, Botswana and Tanzania.,” enthusiastically adds Firoz.

In the coming years, Firoz plans to expand Westford Education Group’s course portfolio. Its present courses are dominated by disciplines belonging to the management and teacher education stream, with Psychology, Arts, Computing, Fashion, and Sports being introduced in 2020. Firoz reveals, “In the coming years, our aim is to utilize the AI, Blockchain and Information Technology capabilities to enhance the student experience and efficiency of our operations, and we are initiating necessary steps towards implementation of the same.”

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