By Eddie Taylor
One UAE-based entrepreneur is seeking to develop a more knowledgable world with a three-pronged approach - the last of which has just been launched
Access to education has perhaps never been in sharper relief. School closures were the first tangible manifestation of Covid-19’s impact on the region, and for both parents and children the lockdown served to transform the daily routine of the classroom – and all of the social interaction it contains – into an unimaginable, under-appreciated privilege.
Of course, Zoom classes, video tutorials and other online tools have helped to bridge the gap somewhat, but it serves as a useful reminder that the opportunity to learn in a structured environment with high-quality resources shouldn’t be taken lightly.
One UAE-based start-up understood this well before Covid-19 struck. Knowledge E was founded by Kamran R Kardan to provide support, resources and technology to educational institutions – including the recent launch of digital library solution, Zendy. Its mission is simple: to develop “a more knowledgeable world”.
Talk us through Knowledge E – what it does and where the idea came from?
The idea was to help unlock the region’s higher education and research potential by proving added-value services, content and expertise. Knowledge E has three core offerings, what we call the three “D”s: discover, develop and disseminate.
So, our clients can “discover” the latest research literature through our Zendy digital library solution and tailored content packages; they can “develop” skills and build capacity within academia through KnE training programmes and consulting projects, which help universities on their mission to become world-class; and they can “disseminate” or share their findings in the form of journals and conference proceedings through our open access publishing platform.
Who then is the customer here? Is it educational institutions, governments, NGOs or individual students?
You can say all of the above. We work closely with more than 100 clients worldwide and they include educational institutions and government entities within the research and education sector, and we help to support their continued innovation and development. In terms of individuals, there’s Zendy, a massive online library created to provide individuals from whatever background with affordable access to journals, books, magazines and other content media.
Now seems to be the perfect moment for this project. Was the pandemic the spark or an opportunity to quickly scale?
I think the need has always been there. The pandemic has only facilitated the understanding that learning and reading are moving digitally to a large extent. Ideally, a blended approach is the optimum solution. But we need to be prepared. Having the right infrastructure and tools has made the difference in how we have navigated these turbulent times.
How are you funded?
The company started off with a small loan to set up shop. I was very fortunate to have the support and trust of clients and partners who immediately collaborated with Knowledge E and helped it lift off the ground without the need for big funding.
What’s the revenue model?
The B2B services follow a typical revenue model. However, Zendy depends on monthly or annual subscriptions to unlock unlimited access to content – much like Netflix or Amazon Prime but for research literature. Revenues are then shared with content providers on a usage-based sharing model.
We are also working on adding a “freemium” model where we can provide free access to some of the content globally. That would be a dream come true. Eventually, it would be great to get support from larger players in the market so that we can expand the user-experience to new heights and explore innovative ways of learning and engaging with literature.
And what other services can you offer or develop in the future?
Currently, Zendy is working on launching in more countries and adding more publishers to the mix. Since its launch in October 2019 in Jordan, Zendy is now available in five countries: Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. We are also working towards adding magazines and summaries, and making content more accessible and applicable to a wider audience to trigger further use. Eventually, we would also like to move our training programmes into the digital world and make them accessible to individuals. There is a lot planned in the pipeline and we have an extensive road map in hand.
Talk about the philanthropic arm, which helps build schools around the world. Why was that added?
The Knowledge E Foundation was created with the aim of directly impacting people’s lives with a focus on improving the conditions for research and education. The company contributes a fixed proportion of its profits to worthwhile causes where it can make a difference, whether it is building physical schools in places like Africa, offering educational support or providing disaster relief. The foundation idea was actually the first objective written for the company from the onset and has remained an invaluable part of our entity and what we stand for.
On a personal level, why does education – and access to education – matter to you?
Access to education and life-long learning is at the core of what we stand for. Zendy strives to build a world where individuals can take evidence-based steps towards building a better tomorrow. The need for a discoverable, reliable, and trustworthy source of content is crucial to learning and research – and ultimately a better quality of life. Moving towards “a more knowledgeable world” has been our vision from the onset and we hope we continue to make contributions, small and large, to this vision.