The PIE: How did you get into the industry?
Mauricio Espinosa Moncada: I started more than 12 years ago with a small organisation in Mexico that was sending students to the University of Salamanca in Spain. Then I completely changed my career for a time, before returning to work in the industry with EF. I started as a country project manager, then they offered me the role of country director of Peru. After three years, Kaplan asked me to come back to Mexico and open the whole operation for Kaplan in Mexico.
Due to problems with Venezuela, China and Russia, Kaplan cut investment in some countries, and Mexico was one of them. So I opened Kaplan and I closed Kaplan. As we were giving really good numbers, they decided to give us an exclusivity contract for Mexico.
So I opened a company – I founded a company together with a partner. And then sadly after two years, the exchange rate completely changed in Mexico and I decided to leave the company. At that time, I used to be the vice president of AMTE, but I decided to quit the education industry and try something new.
“We are growing a lot – in one month we had five new members, and others are interested”
The PIE: So where are you working now?
MEM: I’m working for Mundo Joven Travel Shop. Burlington English, a group from Israel with English schools worldwide, approached me and said, ‘We want to open Mexico. We have been trying to approach the Mexican market for several years’. So I invested.
The headquarters and the first school opened in January. It’s a local school and we compete with companies like Berlitz. The plan is to create two very best schools in the next four years in Mexico, and aiming to have a hundred in the next 10 years. So it’s a big plan.
We are going to open something very disruptive. Students can go whatever days they want – it’s included in the price – and because students are not going to go five days per week, we can put more students in the school than our competitors.
So we can actually start with a price that is killer – less than a 1000 pesos – around US$50 per month. Other major schools in Mexico are around $150-400 per month. So we can have English courses for a very large population in Mexico that can’t afford an expensive English course.
The PIE: Can you tell me more about AMTE and its membership?
MEM: AMTE is an association for agencies, but we’re open to providers, embassies and schools. We are running more events and ICEF is going to join AMTE. We are growing a lot – in one month we had five new members, and others are interested. And just one year ago we used to be around 20, so we’re aiming to double.
We figured out that we were perceived as very commercial, so we are working with partners to try to become more academic in a certain way. We also decided to put money in the digital media promoting AMTE to students. So we’re telling the student, ‘if you want to travel abroad, you must be sure that you’re travelling with a secure AMTE agency, school or provider’.
We want to be very inclusive, to share best practices and show examples of innovation in the industry because I really believe that the industry hasn’t changed that much in the last 20 years. It’s very important for us to really change fast right away because I’m sure that groups like Booking.com or Expedia at some point are going to watch our industry and say, ‘you know what? There is a market there’.
“We can have English courses for a large population in Mexico that can’t afford an expensive English course”
For major markets, Mexico included, the market is pure language. A very simple product. The students now are trying to research more about the school on the internet. So we believe that there is a market in Mexico that is really ready to buy through e-commerce.
We have to prepare, really invest in technology, innovation, platforms. In our market, 40% is languages at least – that can be purchased through e-commerce. When I was working with EF, they were really experts with this. And that’s one of their advantages; they really know the market.
The PIE: What are a couple of examples of innovative work in the industry?
MEM: Booking platform for agents and education providers Book & Learn is run by young professionals and they think in a disruptive way. I’d say that Book & Learn and Edvisor own probably 80% of the agencies in the world together just because they invented an easy way for the sales process and software that can make life easier.
Agencies tend to approach young people in a very formal way. We need to approach them in a different language. And this language probably is technology. We sell experiences. When you talk with a student, they talk about the experience – not the brand, not the English course, not how good at academics we are. We need to rethink how we approach students. We need to talk to them like young people.
“Agencies tend to approach young people in a very formal way”
If you just jump to YouTube and watch most of the videos of schools, you would see that those videos are very boring. But then there are also very good examples of people who are approaching it in the right way. EF, for example, did an amazing video. I believe that we really need to rethink our marketing both online as well as offline to attract more people.
The PIE: Should that approach depend on which market you work in? Say if you’re working in Turkey and you’re trying to reach Turkish students, is that going to be different than if you’re in Mexico trying to reach Mexican students?
MEM: Of course, the cultural factor is very important. But at the end of the day, the basics are the same. We must focus on the basis of this market, the young people and try to approach with a cultural touch.
What really concerns me is that the world is changing fast, and we are not noticing many of these changes. We could lose [students] if we don’t adapt as fast as possible. Now that you talk around the world. We talk with many associations around the world – with associations in Germany, Ireland, Colombia.
I really believe that we have to act like a block. We have to prepare many things – just a few countries have good statistics about education.
The PIE: Coming back to Mexico. What are the trends for Mexican students?
MEM: Junior camps are growing a lot in Mexico. Of course, it was a very challenging year because of the economy. I would say that will continue because of likely recessions in the next year in many countries. However, the numbers are still growing.
The PIE: What is the new Mexican president’s approach to Mexicans going abroad?
MEM: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is really focused on making the inside economy stronger. And I really believe that he’s not going to give scholarships in the next coming years.
“We could lose [students] if we don’t adapt as fast as possible”
We’re trying to change the Ministry of Education’s mind because we believe that government support is super important in order to keep the market growing. There are many poor people in Mexico. They are not even going to be close to having these kinds of experiences travelling abroad. But as well, there are many people that can do it, but still, need a scholarship, and they deserve a scholarship. They have brilliant minds.
So actually, we’re trying to support them through the private industry as the government is not supporting them. But as well we’re trying to approach the government and try to change this idea.
One of my life missions is to try to make an impact in terms of experiences and internationalisation – everything that means travelling abroad and coming back to your country with an open mind. That’s why I’m so happy to be in AMTE.