Akogwu Obekpa is an Integration Developer and Founder of Direct Access to International Students (DAIS) Education UK
Please tell us about yourself
I am currently consulting for Capita PLC as an Integration Developer within automotive company. In 2013, after completing my undergraduate degree in Information System from the American University of Nigeria, I had worked in a financial institution for two years before deciding to move to the UK in pursuit of a new challenge. I’m passionate about everything digital and enjoy spending time with family and friends, working out and traveling to new places.
Can you tell us more about DAIS Education UK and the inspiration behind it?
Direct Access to International Student (DAIS) Education UK was founded on the premise of my experience as an international student and working professionally with other international students from different parts of the world. My business initiative was driven by the imminent need to make a real change by challenging the norm adopted by international student agencies from Nigeria and in the UK. Research shows that International students do not get the most pleasant experience in transiting and settling down into life in the UK, which is mostly due to the lack of innovative ideas in the sector. DAIS Education UK has been playing its role in bridging this gap by offering a more reliable and dedicated three tier support to international students seeking to advance their studies in the UK. Our key services include placing students at their choice of institutions while providing post-arrival support such as airport pickup and securing the right accommodation within close proximity to their colleges or universities.
There are quite a number of educational consultancies both in the UK and in Nigeria dedicated to Nigerian international students, what makes DAIS Education UK different?
I was an international student who has gained years of experience living, studying and working in the UK therefore, I am able to empathise and professionally serve the needs of other international students seeking to advance their studies in the UK. Our focus is to give these individuals a real representation of life in the UK, guiding them in making the right decision in pursuit of their academic advancement. We aim to achieve our objectives by conducting seminars, participating in open days, and maintaining real-time social interaction with our followers on all social media platforms.
What challenges have you faced since its development and how have you overcome them?
My foremost challenge was coming to the realisation that my days of being a serial entrepreneur were over and I needed to pool all my resources to actualise my goal. It was a challenging experience approaching universities and colleges for partnership, with the aim of representing them as an agency in the sector. Managing my time effectively to meet the needs of my clients and employer was also difficult. I was able to overcome these challenges by attending start-up events in my local community, adhering to the advice of my mentors and leveraging on my relationships with other small businesses.
Where would you like to see DAIS education in the next 5 years?
I would like to see Dais Education UK as the vanguard of revolutionising the international student recruitment industry, by introducing the use of technologies to facilitate and improve the international students’ experience. Finally, I will like to reach my target of extending the “Dais Experience” to over 10,000 students within the next five years.
What three tips would you give someone aspiring to start a business?
To be honest, in this modern age and time, anyone with access to the internet has what it takes to start a business. I believe the true test of starting a business is met after the business becomes a brand. However, I will urge aspiring business leaders to consider the following tips when starting up a business;
- Do a self-evaluation – Evaluating yourself will help you tap into your “why factor” or hunger which I am confident will serve as your lifeline when things are not working out as expected in your business
- Know a little about everything and everything about something – The most successful leaders in business are not always the most skilled or talented persons in the room. They rely on their broad knowledge of different things and are blessed with the power to bring out the best in others. Also, knowing a little about everything can help you as an aspiring business leader to minimise operational cost at the early stage of your business.
- Finally, be consistent and resolute – one of my business mentors always told me that “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” (I thought he coined the quote until I google’d it…haha). Decide on what to commit yourself into getting it done, evaluate your success or failure and repeat all over again.
There is a rising surge of young Nigerians in diaspora who have started to become more connected with the country. What are your thoughts on this?
I’m actually glad Nigerians in the diaspora are becoming more connected and to be honest we are well placed to grow significantly. Needless to say, our major rivalry is the negative image of us created by a few. I believe that the NNC and a host of other organisations have created platforms which will help build up our reputation and showcase the talents of the many who are willing to make positive change in the world.
Do you think it’s important for young Nigerians abroad to be connected and what benefit do you think this will produce?
The value Nigerians abroad gain from staying connected cannot be overstated. Based on research findings, the success of Nigerian businesses in the UK has been driven by our ability to stay connected with each other. Nigerian churches, restaurants, grocery shops, and fashion designers just to mention few have seen over 90% customer patronage from fellow Nigerians within their local community. Staying connected in the diaspora helps us to appreciate the values of our culture and heritage. In preserving our culture, we, as a community are bound together and are able to extend our values to the subsequent generations of young Nigerians and as result prevent appropriation of the culture in our new-found host country.
What more do you think needs to be done to connect the young Nigerian community in diaspora?
Nigerians in the diaspora have become more connected through the apparent surge in digital technology. Social media firms have records of our personal information in effect, they are able to recommend friends to us based on numerous factors such as our race, ethnicity, travel history and location. The key is to increase our level of interaction online in order to drive community events on-ground. In addition, organisers of Nigerian events need to collaborate more with other ethnicities targeting not just Nigerians but Black and Minority Ethnicities (BME) in the UK.
What’s next for you and DAIS education?
DAIS Education UK aims to start providing employment opportunities for international students studying in the UK. This will form part of our post-arrival support service and it will further increase the employability skills of young Nigerians prior to graduation.
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