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.
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.