Sectors that are thriving amidst COVID-19

Almost all Lebanese educational startups and initiatives have also shifted their services online.
by Maysaa Ajjan

6 April 2020 | 16:24

Source: by Annahar

  • by Maysaa Ajjan
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 6 April 2020 | 16:24

Podio Media Inc. team with founder and CEO Stefano Fellaha in the middle. (Podio Media Inc.)

While the whole country is under COVID-19 lockdown, many businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Many others, however, have been thriving due to the nature of the online services that they provide which can be accessed from the comfort of one’s home by the click of a button.

Here they are:

1. Podcasts

Podcasts have grown dramatically in popularity in the MENA region in the last 12 months, according to Media Support platform, and Lebanon is no exception.

Annahar spoke with Podio Media Inc., the region’s leading podcasting platform dedicated to creating, managing and distributing audio podcasts. Located in Beirut, Podio Media Inc. aggregates close to 120,000 podcasts globally in Arabic and in English, as well as helping produce 10 original podcasts in an effort to boost content creation in Arabic.

“We saw an increase of 271% in [demand for podcasts] from the last week of February till now,” Podio founder and CEO Stefano Fallaha said on Sunday. “And we assume that this is mainly due to the fact that we're pushing and creating podcasts [in Arabic] that are related to how people can improve their lives in all aspects while at home in isolation.”

Fallaha added that podcasts that tell good stories in business and entertainment with the aim of keeping people motivated during these difficult times are receiving the most views.

2. Virtual (distant) learning

Schools and universities are not the only ones to have shifted to remote learning. Almost all Lebanese educational startups and initiatives have also shifted their services online. NGO Nawaya’s entrepreneurship and employability programs, which targets underprivileged youth in the country, have moved online “in an effort to continue providing critical knowledge to them,” the NGO said in a statement.

As for their flagship coding bootcamp SE factory, one of Lebanon's most successful tech skills development and employment bootcamps, it has also moved online through private one-on-one coding sessions with the instructors, with each session worth $25. The statement did not clarify how or where the payment will be made. “We currently have 60 students enrolled in Beirut and Tripoli,” Zeina Saab, cofounder of SE Factory told Annahar.

Other educational startups such as Geek Express and The Little Engineer, which both teach coding and STEAM to children and teenagers, have also switched to online learning.

“We have several channels, including an offline and an online academy,” Manal Hakim, CEO and founder of Geek Express, told Annahar. “Our offline academy at Antwork was our core business to be honest. So what we did is that we boosted our online academy and were able to convert 90% of our 150 students from offline to online. And that has made a difference.”

3. Online shopping

Business-to-consumer (B2C) online shopping platforms that are delivering goods and supplies to people’s homes have seen a 20% spike in global business activity, according to Shiphero.com.

Regionally, Souq.com, Mumzworld.com and Bulkwhiz.com have witnessed a dramatic increase in sales, with many essential items out of stock, according to Wamda platform. In Lebanon, the spike in ecommerce mirrors that of the region, as platforms such as Toters and Feel22 have confided in Annahar.

“At first we noticed a small drop in sales because people were confused and worried about the lockdown, but once they adjusted to it, we experienced a jump,” Darine Sabbagh, cofounder and CMO of Feel22, told Annahar.

“The number of visits on the site increased by 60%, and the number of new customers recruited doubled as well,” she said. As for the items most on demand, Sabbagh said they were hygienic categories such as soap, alcohol and razors, “which makes sense because people are at home most of the time, so it’s only natural they would use these products,” she added.

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