By Muhammad Riaz Usman Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "MakookyWorld" is a children's edutainment platform including an interactive app and a Youtube channel with Arabic stories and songs for preschoolers.
It is estimated that more than 420 million people around the world speak Arabic, making it one of the most spoken languages.
But Sarah Abdullah, founder and chief writer of MakookyWorld, realized that Arab children are more attracted to international content rather than their own language.
She feared that exposure to other languages might keep them away from learning proper Arabic, especially in the early age when they need maximum input in their own language.
Her entrepreneurial skills and passion for education led her to launch the MakookyWorld focussing on the requirements of modern world's Arab children.
MakookyWorld is a children's edutainment platform including an interactive app and a Youtube channel with Arabic stories and songs for preschoolers. It offers modern educational content that focuses on imagination and creates a magical world for a child.
"Arab children are attracted to the international content because of its high production quality. The idea was to fill a big gap in the market with stories and songs that speak our language, our ideas, with great quality and most importantly being imaginative without it being imported," Sarah explains.
"The most important point today is the 'type of content' we provide and the ease by which the users can stroll through our app. We offer stories that are inspirational, motivational and educational with the element of entertainment so that kids can stay engaged. We also produce our own content which gives us the ability to always stay true to this one world created by Makooky, our central character," she continues.
Sarah claims that MakookyWorld covers the entire GCC region, Levant and Egypt. "We are receiving positive feedback on the content we offer. Be it songs, stories or eventually games, kids need to read and listen to stories that they like in their own language. As long as we keep the interest of our kids at the heart of Makooky, I believe we can only head in the right direction," she says.
MakookyWorld was officially launched in January 2017. In March, it released an updated app for iOS and Android. After raising Dh1.7 million in collaboration with Allegoria Capital Limited, a Mena-based investment, Makooky plans a complete revamp next month.
"Investing in Makooky is the equivalent of investing in our future generations. With Makooky we will ensure that the Arabic language is enjoyed by our children today and tomorrow," says Mahmoud Shehada, founder and CEO of Allegoria Capital Limited.
"We have always wanted to be a part of the education space and what better way to do so than by combining learning with entertainment," Abdul Rahman Shurrab, COO of Allegoria Capital Limited, says.
Every month MakookyWorld releases two new stories and two new songs. "Not only that, but we also keep improving on both ideas and production with every piece. We are very happy with the reach we have, considering we are very new in the market. Our Youtube channel alone has 3+ million views and close to 10K subscribers," Sarah says.
Sarah says that the gap between the 'written classical Arabic' and the 'spoken Arabic in dialects was the major challenge.
"What we did is offer our stories in a way that allows the users to shift between the classical option and the different dialects (Gulf, Egyptian and Lebanese), this way making sure that kids are able to enjoy the story in their mother tongue and what they're learning in school at the same time," she describe.
"Another challenge was to make the content interactive in a way that provokes engagement from the child, and we also achieved that through animations and text tapping. Finally, was incorporating the educational element without losing the children or making them feel that the content is preachy. This to me was the biggest achievement as we were able to tell stories from the eyes of the child and accept that learning through play, through trial and error and through discovery driven by curiosity is the best way to learn, and that's exactly how we did it," says Sarah, who has a vast experience of TV, radio production, hosting TV shows and advertisement production.
Sarah, who also founded Take One Agency, a print and content production agency back in 2008, urges young entrepreneurs to do their homework carefully.
"Study the market, your audience, identify your USPs, study competition, and run the numbers, after all, you want to minimise the risk taken by making sure that you've at least run through all the different scenarios. And pace your entry to allow for changes that are inevitable along the way. One last advice, surround yourself with the experts and listen to their advice in their field, you might be a concept owner, but it takes a village to raise a child," she advises.
Sarah believes that technology is a chief contributor that opens a lot of possibilities that weren't available previously. "Being able to communicate remotely opens up markets and allows for more affordable set ups since you can get the best talent in any field without having to move them. Not only that, you can reach your audience digitally saving both time and money. With the right tools and the right strategy in place, a startup today has great potential," she argues.
"MakookyWorld couldn't be what it is without technology, and I'm not only referring to the app interface and infrastructure but as well to the data analytics that allows us to better understand our audience, their behavior and their needs," she concludes.