Mr. Kumar saw an opportunity to provide assistance in his booming hometown of Jaipur to middle-class parents who want to get their children into college and post-graduate programs in Britain, the United States, Australia and Canada. Hundreds have sought his counsel.
“Actually, we are a real estate company, but I thought this might be a good business also. Many want to study in Canada,” the RIAS founder says.
Mr. Kumar’s advertisement hangs prominently in one of India’s many shiny new shopping malls, in a space over a Subway, the U.S. sandwich chain that has nearly 200 branches in the subcontinent. In so many ways, the new India is highly aspirational, with a taste for the international.
As the country’s economy continues its impressive economic growth and competition to get into elite colleges increases, more and more Indian parents who can afford it are exploring the option of sending children abroad to study.
Two years ago, 160,000 Indian students – most heading to Britain – spent $4 billion (U.S.) on their education away from home. Only 2,500 were enrolled in Canada. Today that number has approximately doubled.
Canada welcomed 178,000 international students last year, according to government statistics, and contributed more than $6 billion (Canadian) to the economy.
With a large English-speaking population and a culture that prizes educational achievement, India has become a target for Canadian college and university recruiters, who see it as a potentially lucrative market.
Last fall, an official delegation travelled to key Indian cities to network and explore how to attract more of the country’s best and brightest to Canadian schools.
“Studying in Canada is so costly,” Mr. Kumar says, “but people want to go because everyone wants to try schools in other countries and parents want their children to have success in life.”
In India, foreign college and graduate degrees are considered prestigious. Companies have sprouted all over the country, pitching the kind of services Mr. Kumar offers. In the case of RIAS, its founder says students don’t pay him, the firm collects money from recruiting schools for every applicant.
At many other agencies, the student shoulders the costs. Fees range from a few hundred dollars for basic help with forms and visas, to the thousands of dollars for assistance that includes preparation for tests, school applications and immigration guidance.
Though he has employees, Mr. Kumar has long been familiar with the process of finding and settling into a school in Canada. His daughter, who is in her 20s, got into acting school in Vancouver.
Alexandra A. Seno has written about economics and business trends in Asia since 1994. She is a regular contributor to Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune and The Wall Street Journal Asia. She lives in Hong Kong.