It is a classic immigrant story for Sanchari Sen and her husband, Abhay Rai as they converted an opportunity into a business. Abhay was pursuing his Ph.D. in Space Engineering when his wife, Sanchari joined him in Toronto in 2010. Despite having over 13 years of experience in Customer Service, she found it extremely difficult to get a job.
In 2010 while Abhay was pursuing his studies as a student, the couple received numerous queries from their friends, former colleagues & acquaintances on how to initiate the education application process for Canadian colleges and universities. Back then they were helping students by forwarding those queries to other legitimate consultants but continuously receiving unsatisfactory feedback. One of the reasons being, at that point no one was working exclusively as education consultants but was mainly working as immigration consultants who had the option of doing student visa.
They both started with jobs in their respective careers. However, the number of inquiries for Canadian education process kept pouring in. While continuing their respective jobs, they thought of converting this social service into a full-fledged business venture. They, then started collating the list of prospective students and finalized the list of educational institutions in Canada and started the cumbersome process of approaching them for a legitimate contract to recruit international students.
As expected, nobody was ready to trust a beginner. Sanchari quoted, “You do not get your first client until you have an existing client base. It’s a vicious cycle. It was a long chase. Three years of persistence, patience and passion got us our first client, “Laurentian University”. The international admissions manager offered the contract to us only on one condition that we would stop chasing her. On a serious note, she appreciated the persistence, the passion and the future prospect of number of students we were forecasting from different countries. We got the contract for one year to fill in the number of seats for three semesters. We knew it was our moment to put heart and soul in.”
In 2011, the couple incorporated their business by the name of Education Consultants Canada (ECC) Inc. They were able to meet 70% threshold for the number of students required to be admitted in the first semester. However, they broke industry stereotype by ensuring that there would be quality over quantity which means least number to no drop-out students. Only serious students who are committed to study and make a career were counselled and admitted by Education Consultants Canada (ECC) Inc.
Sanchari said “With the taste of little success, we were motivated to scale up. One contract opened the doors for us. With a decent number of students getting recruited along with testimonial from students and recommendation from clients, we started approaching different colleges and universities in Canada, US, UK, and Australia. We started out by setting up a home office, both of us working as employer and employee. Parallel to that, we set up our first office in South East Asia in 2011 which forms the largest market for international students.”
The couple continued with persistence and got further contracts from different institutions. Alongside, conducted marketing campaigns, held educational seminars, spot assessments and workshops, attended B2B networking events and services for the international education sector in Europe, and North America. This got them exposure with different international consultants, agents and businesses in various countries that increased their database.
This hard work continued for another five years until they were able to setup their own offices additionally in two different locations across Indian subcontinent and eventually move out from their home based basement office in Toronto in 2017 with three staff,( all international students and fresh graduates) to an office in a commercial building in 2018.
ECC recruits over 1500 students annually for colleges and universities across Canada. Until now they have admitted over 15,000 students for over 50 educational institutes. The company recently expanded its operations to countries like Mexico and Columbia; alongside opened additional offices in Philippines in 2019. Furthermore, setup another office in a three-tier city in India to cater those students who are not based out of metros or larger cities.
Sanchari explained “Our key to success is our firsthand information and absolute engagement in the business. We need to be astute and stay current of any development in a Student’s application and visa process for all institutions we deal with. We carefully pass on the same unadulterated information to our offices across the globe. Most education consultants have agents in other countries which leads to a gap in communication. We have averted this by setting up our own offices and run operations to avoid any misinformation. Also, we do not treat our business as transactional, we make it more relationship based. We engage with students if they wish to even after they are in the institution and provide with any type of assistance required including connecting them with the community, accommodation, job prospects, internship etc. We have also recruited some of the students once they have graduated.”
Sanchari is a mentor with TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council) and believes in giving back to the community. She was recently the winner of 2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ under the BMO Women Entrepreneur Award category. She also completed her Immigration consulting course in 2019 from Humber College to scale up ECC into a one stop shop for international students who can have uncomplicated access to international education.