Author: Althea Chokwe
The smartphone is a symbol of the modern generation’s preference for speed and immediacy. Usually stocked with dozens of apps and various memos, this type of phone, essential for an overwhelming majority of mobile users, either threatens or helps one’s productivity. Some people, however, take the plunge by throwing out gadgets in the name of focusing on their work or craft. For Muhammad Al Andalusi, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, shunning technology for a minimal lifestyle and long hours of reading led to the establishment of his six-figure education startup, the Andalus Institute. Al Andalusi’s story is intriguing and explains his current operational strategy for the company.
While Al Andalusi was studying Arabic in Egypt, he once achieved just over half a decade of studying in under two years. Since he already had understood the basic rules of this Middle Eastern language, Al Andalusi wanted to reach a level in his knowledge to where he could engage in conversation with the most elite of scholars and eloquent writers. Thus, formulating a game plan to maximize efficiency and time management was of order. Al Andalusi bought a small mobile phone that came straight from the pre-iPhone era, a model with a keypad and a small screen. The inability to store gigabytes of information forced him to put his attention elsewhere, particularly in the stacks of books before him. Al Andalusi would then spend hours upon hours perfecting his Arabic, determined to speak it as if it were his mother tongue. For context, Al Andalusi hails from Barcelona, Spain, but spent subsequent years in France and the United Kingdom. He learned to speak Spanish, French, and English in that order right before he relocated to North Africa, an impressive résumé considering his youth and past decision to drop out of traditional school at 16.
Substantial research concludes that frequency and attentiveness to texting and social media pose a greater threat of interfering in studying, with factors like smartphone ownership and the number of Facebook friends as the strongest determinants of such distraction. While Al Andalusi was strong enough to set himself back years on the technology timeline, most phone users still struggle with self-discipline. Balancing an obsolete way of life with taking a subject like Arabic is an even more difficult task to accomplish for some. It perhaps is not exactly fair to compare the entrepreneur with his lesser-skilled students, but Muhammad’s life story could hold the answer to these millennial and Gen-Z problems.
Without a high school degree, Al Andalusi’s learning trajectory rested primarily in his hands. He met his goal and now is a premier Arabic teacher online, respected among Muslim and business circles alike. Al Andalusi’s experimentation with study habits and lifestyles now contributes to a deeper insight into how his own students will gain fluency in Arabic in the shortest time span possible. The Andalus Institute offers a program titled Arabic Like An Arab, a resource that has gained traction for its fast results and vocabulary-first methodology. Each new client that enrolls must sit through a lecture on how to compose a mission frame, speak affirmations, and cultivate a healthy diet, lifestyle, and mindset. Al Andalusi’s battle is directed at the temptations of mindless scrolling, hours-long gaming, and aberrant engagement.
It is a worthy fight, but the program material itself must be worth the overhaul. The scaffolding of Arabic Like An Arab is meant to accommodate full-time jobs, demanding families, and other run-of-the-mill responsibilities. The part-time aspect widens Al Andalusi’s consumer base, but he must avoid making the mind fall asleep. With the aforementioned psychological trends not seen before the new millennium, Al Andalusi needs to cater to his clients. Now, there are two parts to this strategy: one is instituting an online community within the school, and the other is using social media as a business messaging and profile-boosting tool.
Arabic Like An Arab program members enjoy joint conversation sessions and a Facebook group to post questions, lesson responses, and general inquiries. Socializing with one another creates a vibe of a close-knit student body, reminiscent of formal, in-person schools. Considering that students come from different countries scattered across the globe, capitalizing on their common ground through discussion is another method of boosting engagement. Learners are more likely to stay alert while working with colleagues and when they can relate to the class material. In addition, Al Andalusi’s youthful age is disarming enough to remove any intimidation and maximize individual contribution to the sessions.
Participation matters. Authorities in the education industry hail class participation to be closely correlated with academic achievement and cognitive skills. The estimated length of 15 months makes more sense upon realizing the immense gains from practicing with a group in which one is comfortable with communicating and opining out loud.
On Instagram, the stage is set for Al Andalusi to produce informative Reels on Arabic vocabulary and grammar conventions. Imagine that a student is scrolling through their feed and stumbles upon a new post from @muhammad.andalusi. At that moment, without snatching a book or leaving their couch, the person gleans valuable information pertinent to their current learning goal. The convenience of being educated at any hour of the day is what Al Andalusi wants his followers to experience.
It is ironic that the smartphone, once Al Andalusi’s enemy, is now one of his greatest assets. Muhammad, just as an influencer does, utilizes aesthetics, catchy captions, and graphics to pique the viewer’s interest. Now, the quality of these mini-productions is growing, which means more and more time is invested into the institute’s social media marketing plan. Al Andalusi is styling himself as the digital resource he did not have when he was still studying. Everything he does stems from personal experience, a realistic way to make sure whatever the 27-year-old does is a viable business move.
Putting yourself in the minds of your clientele is arguably the simplest ruse to increase sales. Andalus Institute attendees and graduates enrolled because, in their own words, they had no other option that would yield quick and satisfactory results. But are they satisfied? In terms of numbers, the institute rakes in $20K to $50K each month. This is quite the milestone for a startup that was just founded in 2019. A rapid rise as this could also be facilitated by the coronavirus pandemic and government-imposed quarantine, yet Muhammad Al Andalusi is adamant that his sales were neither helped nor hurt by the health crisis.
What is it then? One can only conclude that the Andalus Institute resonates with language learners because the course itself is manageable and fast-paced, two characteristics that aptly describe the devices they use every day. Conditioned to expect high-quality products at lightning speed, this generation could be the most difficult bunch of consumers in market history. Regardless, Al Andalusi relies on them to grow the success of his online school and has no choice but to juggle teaching, marketing, and entertaining all at once. And with the reigning status of technology and social media in every industry and sector, there is no other alternative good enough to compare.
You can connect with the author on LinkedIn here.
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