Ala Suleiman, Cofounder of Masmoo3

Telling Stories

Through Masmoo3, Ala Suleiman seeks to build an audience for Arabic audio books.

By Camilla Caraccio

After spotting a gap in the Middle East’s publishing market for listening to stories on-the-go, Ala Suleiman joined his sister in founding Masmoo3, the region’s first producer of Arabic audio books.

There are currently around 230 titles in Masmoo3’s library, covering everything from children’s stories and poetry, to self help and classic literature. Suleiman hopes to have 2,000 titles on offer by 2020.

What is your target market?

Currently, the majority of listeners of Arabic audiobooks are educated young Arabs who spend a long time in busy traffic. We target Arabs between the ages of 18 and 38 who use mobile phones to access the Internet for knowledge transfer, students who are listening to audiobooks to improve their Arabic listening skills, and Arabs who are visually impaired.

What is the major challenge facing your company and the industry of audiobooks as a whole?

People in our region are not spending enough on education other than the traditional way. Also, the number of audiobooks already produced with high quality content is not sufficient enough, and very few publishers are investing in the production of new titles given the high costs which that entails. Finally, investing in books and publishing is not as fast rewarding and attractive as investing in e-commerce, construction, and entertainment.

Tens of millions of people in the region still struggle to read and write. What can Masmoo3 do for them?

For those Arabs who don’t read or can’t read, audiobooks is a great solution because it represents a different media to access knowledge and entertainment. Educating illiterates should start with teaching reading and writing, which might take years to accomplish. However, with audiobooks we can pass on knowledge, laws, information, instructions, and experiences in a cheap yet simple way. Also, audiobooks can be considered an alternative educational method that improve imagination and listening skills, teach language pronunciation, engage groups, and help students to optimize time while doing other activities.

You started your business with your own sister. What are the advantages and disadvantages that come with working with a sibling?

My sister is a sound engineer and I am an IT project manager. A few years ago we decided to combine our experiences and start Masmoo3 to produce and publish audiobooks in Arabic. Our experiences have given us the perfect formula to start, and our relationship as siblings has given us the base to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. During hard times, we shared income to maintain the family needs, and of course being siblings helped in mutual sacrifices and acceptance. On the other hand, it was hard to handle some issues with pure “business is business” logic. Although we rarely disagree, sometimes our family gets involved in resolving business related conflicts between us.