From 2015 to 2017, when Joy Sharma was working in Dubai as a McKinsey consultant, it was difficult to locate reliable translators who could convert documents between Arabic and English. Eventually, he took matters into his own hands and built a tool—as well as a new company—to solve the problem. He called it ArabEasy.
“I saw a clear opportunity in this space. The market was fragmented with a bunch of small players, who were not very professional, and the whole process was manually handled, which was time-consuming,” Sharma told KrASIA.
By mid-2017, while he was still working with the American consultancy firm, he began charting out the product, which he envisioned as an Uber for translation. He poured in USD 500,000 of his own savings to put ArabEasy on its legs, and had a functioning product by September.
For the first few months, ArabEasy was just a marketplace, letting enterprise clients choose the translators they wanted to hire from a roster. But Sharma realized that prospective clients in the UAE were not used to ArabEasy’s format. “I learned that the leap from how things were done to this new tech-led way of working was too large for the industry. So, I had to take a step back,” he said.
All hands on deck
By the end of 2017, Sharma repositioned ArabEasy as a company that handles every layer of the translation process—raw translation, editing, proofreading, and publishing. Now, companies just had to send ArabEasy the documents that needed to be converted from one language to another, and the company would assign a team to do the job.
That means Sharma had to hire editors and proofreaders on top of maintaining a fleet of translators, ensuring that the workflow was compartmentalized. He has managed to identify the specialties among translators, and channels pieces of text to them based on their strengths. “Someone doing a literary translation will be very different from a technical translation of an engineering document. Plus, we realized people who are good at translating weren’t as good with editing or proofreading. The same was true the other way round, so we hired dedicated people for each type of job,” Sharma said.
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More importantly, Sharma’s service guarantees that it can deliver translations faster than competitors. Here’s how it works: Once ArabEasy receives a document, a team of translators, editors, and proofreaders are assigned to work on the copy. They log in to the company’s proprietary collaboration tool, which allows multiple people to process the same document at the same time. This means an editor can make adjustments to portions that have already been translated, and a proofreader can start on his task before the entire text is completed.
“Our technology and the system put in place allows us to work on these processes simultaneously without affecting the quality of the final translation. It saves a lot of time for our clients,” he said. ArabEasy’s in-house software is what separates it from other translation agencies, which, Sharma said, still follow a linear system, where a text is only handled by one person at a time.
According to Sharma, ArabEasy’s collaboration software is different from Google Docs or other similar platforms, as it is specifically built for the translation process. Its interface is divided into two halves: one side has the original document to be translated, the other is for the translator to type out the text in the target language. “It can’t be simulated on Google Docs. It’s a tool created specifically to make collaborative translation easier and streamlined,” he said.
Another feature in ArabEasy’s platform addresses changes in the reading direction, as Arabic is read from right to left. The tool, EZFlip, converts charts, indentation, numbering, and other visual elements to conform to the destination language’s practice.
There are privacy controls built into the platform as well, ensuring that no client documents are leaked. None of the texts can be downloaded or copied.
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Linguistic conversions 24/7
In its three years of operation, ArabEasy has cultivated a network of 1,200 native Arabic speakers who work as translators for the company. They are spread around the world, so the company can process projects around the clock.
“We have this rule of 10-20-30. Within 10 minutes, the client will receive acknowledgment from us. Within 20 minutes, we will identify the people who are going to work on the document. And within 30 minutes, the work starts,” Sharma said.
With a growing roster of professionals moving information from one language to another, ArabEasy has diversified its offerings, and now works with projects that involve German, French, Chinese, Turkish, and Dutch. It has completed tasks for Indian companies that have clients based in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
Most of ArabEasy’s employees are based in India, but the company also has a footprint in Cairo, Muscat, Riyadh, and Sharjah. This helps keep costs low. “The client servicing and operations team sits out of India as it gives access to high quality talent at a reasonable price,” Sharma said.
This year, ArabEasy started to take commissions to produce corporate videos. Sharma expects this to take off quickly. “It is going to be a big source of revenue for the company in the coming years,” he said.
“For us, the year 2020 is about growth. The idea is to broaden the spectrum of services that we’re offering and experiment with other services,” Sharma said.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.