Starting all over again, again
- It doesn’t matter how old your business is, you should always be prepared to reinvent it if needed.
- You may think your people-facing services can’t be replicated digitally but the pandemic has taught us anything is possible.
- Digital transformation can open your business up to new customers and new markets.
- Be prepared to learn digital skills yourself if you don’t have the budget to recruit someone. Organisations such as Digital Enterprise hold regular training to give you the skills you need.
After being faced with COVID-19 decimating his business, Munir Mamujee set about reinventing his company for the second time in its 20-year history. Here, he talks about his confidence in the future of m2r Education after harnessing the power of digital to transform it into a fast-growing online global venture.
The past 12 months have felt like ten years and ten minutes, all at the same time.”
Munir Mamujee’s reflection of the turbulence caused by COVID-19 is something that resonates with most businesses - and after a transformational 12 months, with many successes and challenges along the way, he has much to reflect on.
Faced with the loss of his business when global travel all but ended in early 2020 as the pandemic swept the world, m2r Education has transitioned from a successful international recruitment business into a global online education resource and provider, launching three new online learning services since last summer.
Already an award-winning exporter – retaining its Export Champion status from the Department for International Trade in 2020 – and with two decades of recruitment experience, m2r Education has taken its core business of teacher and edtech recruitment online, expanding into delivering online English lessons and digital courses, alongside private tutoring for children, along the way.
Its first teaching service was launched in August, its second a month later, with its online lessons coming on stream in late 2020, backed by the creation of an app, making a comprehensive range of education resources accessible around the world.
From a standing start, m2r Education is now working with a number of the world’s leading online English teaching businesses. From processing 150 teacher submissions a month pre-pandemic, it is now doing 3,000, with teachers and students able to operate from home, wherever ‘home’ is in the world, all via the medium of technology. It has also helped over 500 people find jobs in the UK, including redeploying key workers who could not work on the front line.
From its Wakefield base, it has embraced digital to supply teachers worldwide, from Sudan to Venezuela, from Dubai to Russia and Sierra Leone. It is even tutoring senior members of a Middle Eastern royal family.
To pivot so successfully in less than a year is something Munir still reflects on with some amazement.
“We’ve built up a brand-new client base, created new revenue streams and opportunities,” he says. “Some days I’m attending a conference in Africa in the morning and then South America in the afternoon, all from home, which has become our international hub of activity.”
Munir continues: “To think of how it’s all happened is madness. There have been some horrendous days along the way. I don’t want to say it’s all been great. But we’ve responded in the right way and have gone out and got those opportunities.”
Munir realised the need to find these opportunities when he was in Abu Dhabi in February last year for a teaching conference. Due to the pandemic’s developing severity, the event he had travelled over 4,000 miles to attend was cancelled after his arrival, and he was quarantined to his hotel.
“That was the moment it dawned on me we needed to do something about this,” recalls Munir.
“At that point, 99% of our work involved people physically moving around the world, we relied on global mobilisation and people wanting and having the ability to travel.
“It was terrifying, to be honest, as without that, we didn’t have a business. If we didn’t do something, none of us would have jobs.”
But as an entrepreneur who had revolutionised his business once before, Munir was about to do it again. While m2r marks its 20th anniversary in 2021, the birth of its rebranded m2r Education was in 2015, when overnight it moved from general recruitment into education-specific recruitment.
“I suppose you could say we’ve started all over again, again,” says Munir.
“Our digital transformation has been a new lease of life for us as a business,” he continues.
Digital Enterprise played a pivotal role in this transformation with Munir attending more than 60 of its webinars since March 2020, covering everything from how to build your own website to developing a deeper understanding of SEO and using this to drive more traffic and sales. In addition, the company benefited from Digital Growth Voucher funding, which it used to invest in hardware to allow the team to work remotely more effectively.
“We didn’t have the cash to pay anyone to build a website for us, so I attended the webinars and created new sites and e-commerce platforms as a result,” Munir explains.
“We went on a massive new business drive using the knowledge gained from Digital Enterprise, and the rise in the numbers of submissions we were processing showed the huge demand there was for working from home.
“The training and funding we received from Digital Enterprise gave us the confidence to use MS Teams and MS Forms and we won new recruitment business in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Schools and language centres were crying out for staff, but the challenge, of course, was the supply.
“People were approaching us asking did we do online teaching, did we offer tutoring? I have children and I knew how much they were suffering. I realised the need to connect kids who needed support with teachers who could help them.
“But while we were launching these new platforms in a new sector, we were building on 20 years of experience and trust, which we’ve worked hard for. We take great pride in our professional and ethical approach.
“People are coming to us now who used us for general recruitment 15 years ago, asking us to tutor their children online, and that comes from years of doing a great job for clients.
“It was undeniably hard but we had to persevere. It’s a very saturated market, but I think our track record and the fact we’ve got the Department for International Trade logo did help us to get slightly higher in the pecking order.
“It’s been hard work, that’s for sure, but I don’t know of any other online tutoring or education companies set up in September who are doing as well. From starting from scratch in those areas, we can be confident about the future.”
The outcomes m2r Education is delivering to clients are what ensures they can return time and again.
“There are so many lovely little stories that make it all worthwhile, particularly when we’re talking about child wellbeing,” Munir reflects.
“I heard just the other day that a little boy we’ve been tutoring in Bahrain, so he could get into a school in London, had got a place.
“Another is a child from Sudan who had moved from a French to English-speaking school and he really struggled with that. After working with us, his confidence levels have gone up so much and he’s coping so much better.”
After a hugely eventful 2020, m2r Education’s ability to reinvent its business through harnessing the power of technology has won recognition through inclusion in the Digital Enterprise Top 100.
“It’s a huge endorsement for us and shows the team that our hard work has been recognised,” says Munir.
“I’m sure we all agree that this has been the toughest year ever, but to still be here, fighting and growing, developing new markets and services, is a testament to my team’s hard work and diligence, and their faith in me as a business owner.”
This profile interview features as part of the Digital Enterprise Top 100 special report, which showcases the most digitally transformational, resilient and innovative businesses in the Leeds City Region. Read the full report here.