Mobile app aims to make life easier for young parents in Egypt

The Orcas app: helping parents connect with tutors and babysitters. (Supplied photo)
Updated 13 July 2019

Mobile app aims to make life easier for young parents in Egypt

  • Since its launch in 2016, Orcas has been helping parents while also providing students with part-time work
  • The app specializes in providing tutoring, language acquisition coaching, and babysitting

CAIRO: Traditionally, couples in the Middle East feel pressured into having children early in their marriage, but it is a responsibility not many are ready for.

Quite often, parents find themselves making sacrifices, such as quitting fulltime work, in order to take care of a child.

Hossam Taher’s dream is to make life easier for young parents in Egypt through his start-up Orcas. 

Since its launch in 2016, the mobile app has been helping parents, while providing students or new graduates with part-time work.

“We’re basically an online marketplace that acts as a connector between tutors/babysitters and mothers looking for some help,” said Taher, 28, the company’s CEO and cofounder.

Orcas specializes in providing tutoring, language acquisition coaching and babysitting. The user signs up and searches by whichever language or subject they require help with. They get a host of profiles of potential candidates, with images, featuring an About Me section, ratings, reviews, and availability of the tutor, who directly accepts requests.




Hossam Taher, the brains behind the Orcas app. (Supplied photo)

But the service is not just for parents; students can also use it. In fact, Orcas currently has more than 20,000 students on its database.

“We started Orcas because there aren’t many job opportunities for youth in Egypt, and the culture of part-time jobs doesn’t really exist,” said Taher. “We’re sort of providing a part-time job similar to what Uber does, only this one relies more on intellect rather than the user’s own time.”

If someone is good at a subject or knows how to handle kids, and can provide a few hours per week to work as a tutor or babysitter, he or she can work with Orcas.

“We want to provide an easy solution for every father and mother out there who needs help at home with their kids, so they can focus on their careers if they want,” Taher said. 

“Couples around us with young kids might have parents living far away, and they’ll probably both be working, so they don’t really have someone to take care of the kids,” he added. “Plus no one can afford to get a fulltime nanny in this economy, so we’re trying to outsource this service.”

Users should not expect fully qualified teachers on the app; it is more about having hands-on help where playtime can be combined with educational elements.

“We’re a marketplace with a huge variety of options, and they’re all vetted. We conduct background checks and training programs for our tutors to elevate their quality,” said Taher.

“Our tutors are handpicked, and we carefully select those who are good with kids and know how to communicate a message, not to mention really good with the subject at hand.”

With a loyal and growing user base, Orcas now has its sights set beyond Egypt, and investors are taking notice of the app’s potential.

So far, the company — which currently operates in Cairo, Alexandria, El-Gouna and the North Coast — has raised $500,000 in funding, most recently from Algebra Ventures in June 2019.

“We want all young people in Egypt, and later in sub-Saharan Africa and Arab countries with similar demographics, between the ages of 17 and 24 to have gone through Orcas and taught a language or babysat for a family, making an income for themselves,” Taher said.

 

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.

 


Emirati horror movies explore region’s fascination with the supernatural

Updated 12 min 20 sec ago

Emirati horror movies explore region’s fascination with the supernatural

  • Horror films are fast emerging as a notable genre within the UAE's film industry
  • Horror films need neither big budgets nor marquee names to be effective

DUBAI: Whether it’s an audience need for escapism or a way to explore danger safely, horror films are fast emerging as a notable genre within the fledgeling Emirati film industry.

Several recent films have braved cinematic elements in recent years. Tobe Hooper’s “Djinn,” produced by Abu Dhabi production house Image Nation, broke the mold in 2013, and set new records as it explored the region’s fascination with the supernatural.

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja has recently finished “The Shadow,” a teaser for an extended feature believed to be based on actual events.

UAE-based Lebanese producer-director Rami Yasin is working on a vampire family drama, “Three Four Eternity,” for Image Nation.

Meanwhile, director Tariq Al-Kazim has begun pre-production on a sequel to 2017’s “A Tale of Shadows,” an English-language film about a gardener who is deeply disturbed by his experiences at a farm where he works.

The latest installment, “A Tale of Shadows: Illusions,” follows the story of a young girl who appears in a hospital, her body mysteriously drenched in blood. A local detective teams up with a journalist to investigate, and the pair land up at an eerie farm, where they find themselves enveloped in a world of illusion, chaos and madness.

The film is brought to life by an international cast, including Nigerian actor Chuka Ekweogwu, German actress Arzu Neuwirth and Swedish actor Almer Agmyren.

Emirati artist Samar Al-Shamsi, better known for the “Arab Mona Lisa” painting, also makes her screen debut in the film. 

Al-Kazim told Arab News that the film could reach cinemas early next year.

The filmmaker believes that horror movies allow him to reach audiences beyond his home country without breaking the bank.

“Horror is an interesting topic because regardless of where a person is from, when a movie is scary, it engenders fear,” Al-Kazim said.

The 26-year-old Emirati has been drawn to the genre since he was a child and has created a name for himself among regional horror fans.

Last year he released “Until Midnight,” which told the story of a newly married young man who encounters a stranger with evil intentions.

Horror films need neither big budgets or marquee names to be effective. “The Blair Witch Project,” for example, made $248 million on a budget of $60,000.

While this allows rookie filmmakers room to experiment, shoestring budgets cut both ways.

 Swedish actor Almer Agmyren. (Supplied)

“It’s actually tough to make a horror film. You need to be able to do it correctly without any mistakes, even in the split second of a frame,” Al-Kazim said.

“But that’s a challenge I like and one of the reasons I choose to make horror films.”

Although “A Tale of Shadows” was initially planned as a trilogy, positive response to the first instalment, which premiered in Dubai and played across the UAE, brought Al-Kazim back to the story.

The UAE film industry needs more incentives to make an impact internationally, he said, but Emirati filmmakers can reach broader audiences by tackling universal themes.

“I think we’re on the right track. However, more movies need to be developed. Without an increase in the number of movies, there will be fewer celebrities, a smaller market, fewer stories and less interest, so it all starts with having a big push to really build this industry,” he said.

“There are several ways to achieve a broader range of audiences, but it’s all about the story. It needs to be universally relatable.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.