We sat down with the CEO and founder of Eshraq, a website that works to help people through mental and social issues through the advice of seasoned professionals. Ragy Khairy tells us a bit about the background of the company, how the idea came to be, and how other social entrepreneurs might get their ideas up off the ground.
1) Tell us about how you got the idea behind Eshraq.
I got the idea behind Eshraq when I took a look at our society and found that many people are suffering in silence from social, mental and physical problems. Ignorance, cultural barriers and stigma prevented these people from seeking professional help in order to overcome their problems. I thought why not use technology to help solve this social issue. We can use the internet to educate people about these problems and establish a private individual-to-professional relationship online – away from other people judgments. I believed this approach would encourage people to seek the help that they direly need.
As for the social mission of Eshraq, I was inspired by the story of TOMS Shoes. I thought we could implement the same model – use part of our profits to facilitate help for free for people who cannot afford to pay for it. In this way, Eshraq will not only be a for-profit business, it will be a self-sustained Social Enterprise that does not depend on external donations to execute its social mission.
2) How was C3 helped you?
C3 helped me in numerous ways, I consider them a strategic partner to Eshraq. They facilitated consulting and advisory sessions with experienced professionals from top firms and companies who helped me with the strategy, finance, marketing and operations of Eshraq – free of charge. C3 also organize regular events and workshops that educate social entrepreneurs and connect them with industry professionals, investors and the media. In this way I consider them sponsors of the social entrepreneurship community in Dubai.
3) Why do you think C3 is a great platform necessary for the Middle East?
Social entrepreneurship and social enterprises are still relatively new concepts in the Middle East. I believe social entrepreneurs do not only face the normal startup challenges – they also face challenges in disrupting the status quo, in calling for change, in defying cultural obstacles as well as challenges in business setup, legal frameworks and fundraising. With the help and support of C3, the work of social entrepreneurs becomes more realistic and recognizable by organizations as well as markets in Dubai and the region. Without the efforts of C3, I believe we will not have this link and there would be a gap that is too big for social enterprises to cross.
4) What is your primary goal with Eshraq?
My primary goal with Eshraq is to be a destination that helps people overcome their health and social issues so that they can live happier and more fulfilling lives. We employ social and technological innovation to be this unconventional destination that adds to the efforts of other organizations and individuals who target the same goal.
The ultimate goal behind Eshraq is to advocate doing good instead of maximizing profits as the primary objective for businesses. The ultimate goal is to replace the clichéd activities of giving back, volunteering, charities and marketing-based corporate social responsibility with more powerful, more sustainable and especially more impactful social enterprises.
5) Do you have any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I can stress the most important aspect in my entrepreneurial journey – aligning the values and objectives of my startup with my values and life goals. Your startup is not just a good business opportunity, it is an extension of your life. You deliberately choose the goals of your startup and the steps of achieving these goals – these choices should match your own life goals and agree with your values. Otherwise you will give up because the efforts required and resources invested are great.
Other important tips that I can share are; reaching out to mentors and advisors, participating in events and networking because they introduce unforeseen opportunities, accepting opportunities even if you are not ready for them, being fast and practical instead of being a perfectionist, being patient and persistent, and finally listening to your customers and not being rigid with your idea.