Working as a lawyer for an international organisation in Jordan in the early 2000s, Nour Al Hassan had to learn to keep up in a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines for deliverables. But there was one issue that was constantly disrupting the clockwork and causing delays: a lack of high-quality Arabic translation services.
In fact, even beyond the law profession, she saw that there was a gaping absence of language solutions geared for businesses in Jordan and the MENA region. "I decided to take this as an opportunity and launch Tarjama in 2008 in Amman, Jordan.
I started Tarjama with a few female employees working with me remotely," Nour says of the company she founded and where she now serves as CEO. Nour’s aim was to differentiate Tarjama by being the highest-quality translation service with the deepest expertise.
Right away, demand was high, giving her and her team a consistent stream of opportunities to prove the value of their services. "We grew from two employees to more than 130 full-time employees, in addition to a network of vetted freelancers working with us on demand," she says.
Moreover, Tarjama began to expand beyond translation and into a full range of language solutions, such as content creation, transcreation, transcription, subtitling and strategic advisory. The company opened offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh and Cairo, and grew to offer services in more than 55 languages.
These are bolstered by the development of proprietary technologies, such as machine translation, a translation management system, a client portal, an auto-subtitling and auto-transcription tool, and optical character recognition, which draw on a trove of data collected over the past decade, plus the work of linguists and in-house artificial intelligence developers.
"Tarjama’s key differentiator is its tech-powered business model. Our talented, industry-specific linguists are assisted by our proprietary technology, enabling us to work smarter, faster and more efficiently.
This company was founded on the idea that the work of talented women was undervalued, and this idea continues to be at the core of what we do.
Today, we are transforming the way the language industry works in the region, providing customers with secure, efficient and enterprise-quality language solutions," Nour explains.
Smarter, faster business
Running a business as complex as Tarjama – one that experiences ever-growing demand and a need to coordinate operations across the MENA region in order to meet clients’ requirements – is not easy.
Nour says that one of the most challenging aspects of her job as CEO is juggling the needs of clients, investors and her staff simultaneously, while also supervising the development of new products.
However, these challenges do not appear to have got the better of her, and Nour consistently receives positive feedback from satisfied clients. For instance, she is particularly proud of a project Tarjama handled for the e-learning platform Madrasa, where it had to transcreate 5,000 Arabic instructional videos in nine months – an unprecedented feat.
"The client provided us with English videos that needed to be localised and transcreated into Arabic to increase their reach to Arabic-speaking students. Adapting highly technical content into Arabic for a younger audience was a challenge that Tarjama took on successfully. Each video went through a multilayered process to be transcreated including scriptwriting, content localisation, video production, audio engineering, voice-over recording, design adaptation and testing," she shares.
"Our team used its subject-level expertise, accuracy, creativity and speed to deliver an Arabised educational experience for our client’s platform, and the client was able to reach one million students with the transcreated videos within six months of publishing."
Nour hopes to build on successes such as these by launching more verticals – media and entertainment, for example – and expanding to the European market.
"Our main focus is to develop our tech products to reach higher maturity in addition to expanding our product range. We will be heavily investing in our technology, improving our machine learning algorithms and working on identifying new language solutions to enable smarter, faster business workflows and results," she reveals.
As demand for content creation and localisation have risen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as more businesses have been pushed to digitalise and move operations online, Tarjama’s overall business has grown.
"Having our own cloud-based technologies helped us to transition smoothly. Our linguists continued working using our translation management system, which provides a central platform for the end-to-end translation cycle," Nour says.
"The whole team can manage projects, translate, edit and finalise translations on the system with easy, in-platform communication and dashboards." Having survived and even thrived in a tough business environment that has strained other companies to their limits, Nour recalls the early days of Tarjama’s existence, when not everyone believed she had a winning idea.
"I received a lot of pushback from family, friends, customers and society. They didn’t all agree with my decision to leave my reputable job at an international organisation to pursue a risky business opportunity that was outside of my field," she says.
"Nonetheless, I decided to leave my career in law and move forward with my passion. This has taught me what resilience means and how your passion drives you to your success."
Nour also revels in the unique opportunities Tarjama has created for women in the MENA region. In 2017, it launched Ureed.com, an online marketplace for freelance translators and content creators, many of whom can take jobs from the comfort of their own homes.
"Our goal with Ureed.com is to provide young people with opportunities for work. The majority of the current 35,000-plus freelancers on the platform are below the age of 30, and 55% of them are women," she says.
"This company was founded on the idea that the work of talented women was undervalued, and this idea continues to be at the core of what we do."
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