Author: Althea Chokwe
Digitalizing every facet of society has been mandatory in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Sectors such as commerce and academics were forced to eliminate in-person interaction, turning to various software to preserve endangered business models. Technology became the standard by which businesses would measure profitability and potential, desperate for a formidable backbone to survive the past year.
For companies already operating 100% online, the pandemic would fail to make a dent in their apparatus. There would be no weak links, like face-to-face meetings or offices that could facilitate a Covid-19 outbreak. Rather, quarantine would be an opportunity for Internet establishments to widen their consumer base. A new cohort of entrepreneurs is now constructing viable projects amidst this new norm, balancing creativity with safety.
Meet Muhammad Al Andalusi, 27. He is the founder of the Andalus Institute, an online school offering a course on mastering the Arabic language. Just as a traditional module would, the class adheres to a particular curriculum and requires specific books to read from. The package includes pre-recorded vocabulary lessons, a Facebook study group, and PDF materials detailing all pertinent rules and conventions in Arabic grammar. The vision was to make Arabic education widely accessible and the key to doing so lay in keeping the school model convenient and catered to the student’s interests.
Beginning the institute was, according to Al Andalusi, quite effortless and straightforward. Kajabi, a platform that aids teachers and coaches in setting up online courses, allowed him to spend just a few hundred dollars throughout the whole process. An absence of investors speaks to the changing landscape of business creation. Al Andalusi feels lucky enough to live in a world where the Internet has leveled the playing field, where creativity and discipline are suddenly more important than connections and inheritance.
Al Andalusi’s personal story is interesting and unique. The young entrepreneur dropped out of school at the age of 16, reasoning that Islamic education would be more beneficial than the West’s conventional system. He recalls that living in different countries gave him a burning curiosity for the real world. Al Andalusi was born in Spain but moved to France during his high school years and would eventually find his way to Egypt, Britain, and Mauritania before settling down in Saudi Arabia. Acquiring polyglotism was also a direct result of these travels: Al Andalusi speaks Catalan, Spanish, French, English, and Arabic fluently. Al Andalusi says that this experience in learning languages directly translated to him creating an efficient methodology that guarantees fluency in a little over a year.
But making money did not come as easily as it does now. After studying Arabic for six years in Cairo, Al Andalusi set up a shop in England, working as a food delivery driver and unsuccessfully venturing into different Amazon FBA pursuits, all the while burdened by a $9,000 debt. He was already married with children at the time, further multiplying the stress of the whole situation. But Al Andalusi slowly realized that incorporating his passion for Arabic with familiarity in online selling would be a winning formula.
A telling factor for the Andalus Institute’s accomplishments is its affordability and flexibility. The 15-month program christened Arabic Like An Arab to convey the high expectations set is designed to accommodate full-time students, professionals, parents, and the like. No one is meant to have issues with juggling Arabic studies with other responsibilities, ensuring that there are no potential barriers to accessing a larger consumer base. The $2,000 price tag (currently lowered to a discount of $997) is on par with that of one American college course, except that there is lifetime access to all materials provided by the school. Coupled with many employers’ preference for hiring polyglots, a picky customer would perhaps have fewer concerns when registering.
The internal structuring of the program is tailored for the student to absorb enough relevant information in a quick amount of time. In addition to the books, videos, and PDF files stored in the student portal, each teacher is available 24/7, a decision that considers the time differences among the student body. The Andalus Institute uses the immersion effect, meaning that most of the lessons are taught in Arabic, and a Facebook group is additionally provided for Arabic conversation purely. Al Andalusi also lives in the Middle East to add authenticity to his whole business model and public branding. He believes that the school’s mission relates to, not just language, but understanding culture and society as well.
Social media is the forum where Andalus Institute learners conversate and gain deeper insight into who Al Andalusi is. Instagram is the medium of choice for Al Andalusi to post Reels and Stories on random vocabulary tips, videos of his intercontinental travels, or just tidbits of golden life advice. His profile is an amalgam of advertising, communal discussion, and travel vlogging, one that keeps viewers interested, enraptured, and constantly learning. YouTube is another platform Al Andalusi is using to connect with current and potential customers. Now at 12,000 subscribers, the channel is another way to solidify his reputation as a respected scholar and entrepreneur. Mass opinion deems social media to be the most effective mode of advertising in this Digital Age, providing affordable access to billions of users worldwide.
Daily habits are also integral to keeping Al Andalusi on his feet. Juggling a family, a growing business, and his educational advancement would render Al Andalusi immobile if not for consistently keeping himself in check. Living simply, eating healthy, and centering a workday around Islamic prayer times are a few notable methods he employs to maximize his productivity. The Spanish businessman is cognizant of the fact that self-restraint is difficult to master, but the benefits are multitudinous.
Al Andalusi’s brain project trajectory runs far, and he sees no reason for the institute not to sustain six-figure sales. Al Andalusi is currently musing over the idea of adding a Qur’an memorization course to his institution but, for now, is primarily focused on honing his strategy to produce a world-class education. In an evolving academic climate, with platforms like Coursera and Grow With Google, scores of Internet users are substituting formal university courses for independent programs. While the pandemic has resurrected conversation over wealth inequality and financial independence among the middle and lower classes, this generation has a better chance than the last in gaining more knowledge at a lower cost.
Al Andalusi is reaping an unprecedented amount of sales, which he aims to continue through thinking outside the box. Creativity is well-paid, an attribute highly required in the volatile economy of today. The Andalus Institute offers a practical and advantageous product in the long term, with limits on neither age nor proficiency. There surely will be more to see from Muhammad Al Andalusi in the years to come.
You can connect with the author on LinkedIn here.