SE: We started as agents in Turkey in the mid 90s. All three of the founders had company names beginning with the letter ‘a’, so we joined force and became A2! In 2001 was the first A2 fair, and then within two to three years we began expanding the operation from Turkey to Bulgaria, then Morocco, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Egypt. The fair business kind of surpassed our agency businesses.
The PIE: What drew you to fairs?
AO: When we laid the foundation of the fairs we realised that there was a big need for students to meet foreign institutions directly. In Turkey at that time there was a lack of this. So the first fair was about 30-35 institutions, quite small, but that helped us to get the word out and that brought more business to our agencies. Also institutions came and learned more about the opportunities in Turkey.
“We realised that there was a big need for students to meet foreign institutions directly”
SE: The institutions participating in A2 fairs are not only participating in the fairs to recruit students. We also have lots of different value added functions and events combined with the fairs. One is our agent workshops. We also organise seminars with locally important people – the minister of education and government people, for example – or organisations such as Fullbright, the British Council and Campus France.
Those institutions are also organising joint events, or back to back events with our fairs. So the schools coming to our fairs also attend these and increase their return.
“We try to add an element of fun. This helps schools and agents to learn about our country, but also to get closer to each other”
The PIE: It sounds like the business has really grown. What makes you stand out?
SE: Currently we are in the emerging markets and the countries who are providing, statistically, more students than others in the region. But we are also doing the fairs in a Turkish way. We do really good business yet we are fun and foreign schools really enjoy attending our events.
AO: We try to create a good dynamic between participants. We create an atmosphere where the institutions share their experiences and expertise. They talk about Turkey, we give them opportunities to network. At some of our events we organise pre-fair information sessions where we share specifics on a country’s local education system and student market.
The PIE: It has been argued that large scale Turkish fairs aren’t focused enough in terms of converting students. Do you agree? [more>>]