(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) If you ever hear about a mother making Arabic language development a mission for her three kids and eventually rolling out the same for school-going children in the UAE, be sure that the reference is to Lamia Tabbaa, co-founder of Little Thinking Mind (LTM).
"It started when my co-founder and I came together in 2006 to create what we felt was sorely lacking engaging Arabic content for our then toddlers. Given our shared background in creative production, we decided to utilise our professional backgrounds to create original Arabic DVDs and activity books for early-grade learners. Rama Kayyali Jardaneh, co-founder of Little Thinking Mind, oversaw video animation and distribution while I consulted with education specialists and wrote scripts. Over the next five years, LTM gained traction online and at local mega-store chains, but distribution, piracy and permit challenges ultimately forced us to rethink our strategy," said Lamia.
"Realising LTM's original model didn't work, we participated in a Jordan accelerator, Oasis 500. We used the seed money to restructure LTM and turn it into a digital content company. We started creating early literacy apps and licensing their video content to various digital resellers. As we gained deeper understanding of the educational market in the region, we decided to start providing much-needed Arabic online solutions and portals for schools. The first product released in 2016 was a digital library, I Read Arabic (IRA), with the help of freelance engineers and award-winning regional publishers. Ireadarabic is used in 224-plus schools, reaching 64,487 students in 11 countries across the Mena region, GCC, USA, Canada and Australia."
In 2018, LTM will release two more products into the market, one of them is a product to help non-native speakers learn Arabic and second is the launch of a B to C campaign to push the Ireadarabic app to reach all potential Arabic readers globally. The LTM has a presence in Amman, Jordan - where all the creative work is done - and a sales office in Dubai. The company has 26 people and a team of freelance writers, illustrators and script writers.
Before co-founding LTM, Lamia was a content manager at Maktoob.com, where she also managed and bought content and aggregated user-generated content. Lamia started her career in Jordan television as a reporter, editor and anchor and this is what sparked her interest in media and production. She went on to do her Masters in Media Studies at the New School for Social Research in New York. She also worked briefly at the British Broadcast Corporation, working as a freelance producer. Lamia's undergraduate was in social psychology and sociology from the London School of Economics and this continues to be her first love.
As a platform that encourages reading in Arabic for children, she has found that a change in attitude and behaviour is required in the child, the parent and the teacher. As a result, she has managed to merge her two passions of psychology and media/content together.
Lamia advises her peers to stay on course when they start a venture. "Listen to your gut and when you make a decision for your start-up, whether it's changing the way you monetise or re-branding, stay the course until you see your new strategy through before you decide whether it's failed or not. Also always have a co-founder. It makes the whole experience much less lonely and more fun overall."
Lamia lends strong support to women employment and empowerment and said that almost 70 per cent of her employees are women because "they feel the customer pain as much as we do and hence have an emotional connection with the product".
"I have also found that with women founders and employees that their work ethic is stupendous. They have to often work twice as hard to get to the same position as men do and are always trying hard to prove themselves. They juggle multiple things because they usually also have families for whom they are accountable. I think we empower women simply by being two co-founders that are leaders in education technology in this country and the rest of the Arab world. Also, most of the teachers we train are women and by training them on Arabic ICT solutions, you are already raising their standard of teaching and thereby empowering them."
Lamia is also part of an angel group, the Women's Angel Investment Network, that invests in women-led start-ups and they have many successful investments. "I am always so impressed by the calibre of women who pitch their ideas to me because women tend to found companies that solve problems, often social problems," she concludes.
Sandhya D'Mello Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.
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