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My world: Randa Ayoubi on Arabic TV for kids

Randa Ayoubi is CEO and founder of Rubicon Group Holding, a digital media production company in Jordan

Randa Ayoubi
Image Credit: Christopher List/ANM
Randa Ayoubi's company has grown from 27 employees to more than 300 since it was formed in 2004.
Friday

I have always believed that technology has the potential to revolutionise the education system. This is what prompted me to start Rubicon. I wanted it to become a means to amalgamate technology and education. Initially we made CD-Roms for schoolchildren and preschoolers and gradually branched out and began producing edutainment content and movies for television.

Way back in 1994, the idea of learning with the aid of computers seemed far-fetched simply because it was a new concept. Introducing something that's non-conventional is always challenging but the drive to make a difference kept me going. Slowly but steadily we have moved forward.

Like most children in the Middle East my exposure to cartoons was from the imported series like Tom and Jerry and The Flintstones. My education and a stint in Harvard not only equipped me with the know-how to work in the corporate world but also gave me a great deal of exposure to work in a multicultural environment and eventually to step out as an entrepreneur.

The launch of the children's series Ben and Izzy was a groundbreaking event for my company and a very heartening experience for me personally.

When we launched Ben and Izzy in the US in 2007 the initial reaction from the market was one of pleasant surprise at the animation skill level and its production quality, mainly because the series came from relatively unknown quarters in the world of cartoons. They were surprised when they learnt it didn't come from a big production house but was produced by a little-known Jordanian media company in Amman.

Ben and Izzy is one of the few shows to have been set and made in the Middle East, yet it has global appeal in terms of storyline, production quality, entertainment and adventure. The storylines are based on the culture and historical context of the respective countries that Ben and Izzy explore.

Ben, the American, and Izzy, the Jordanian, both 11, are as different as can be. They work together and eventually appreciate each other for who they are. This is also the underlying message of the series, which drives home the point that differences enrich the social fabric, hence the show's tag line, ultimately we don't need to be alike to get along. 

Edutainment for kids as a concept is very close to my heart and the reason for developing a series was to provide quality content that's entertaining as well as educational.

Since it was founded in 2004 the Rubicon Group has been dedicated to the creation of responsible entertainment and we have always remained true to this principle.

The company has grown from 27 employees to more than 300, with four branches in different parts of the world and a net worth of tens of millions of dollars. We have also teamed up with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc (MGM) to produce an animated special starring the much-loved Pink Panther character. This is on the heels of the huge success of the Pink Panther and Pals that was produced by Rubicon and broadcast on the Cartoon Network and featured a young version of the Pink Panther.

This, I feel, is just the beginning and we still have a long way to go. There is a huge demand for content in the region, especially in children's entertainment. The challenge is to produce more programmes so in the future children in Europe, the US or Asia might grow up watching Arabic shows dubbed in English, rather than the other way round. 

Rubicon will be developing a themed entertainment resort outside Amman, at an estimated cost of $1 billion.

We have also developed an educational application for young children that is based on a popular Arabic cartoon - Tareq wa Shireen. This has been made into a series of applications for the iPad and Android to aid in the education and development of three to eight year olds.

Quick questions

How do you want your company to be known?
I want it to be mentioned in books when they talk about the Arab renaissance. 

Why edutainment?
Edutainment has tremendous potential, not only in terms of business, but also as a tool for reaching out to young minds. It is crucial to use it to mould young minds and guide them in the right direction.

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