Dr Sana Farid is a pioneer AR/VR Strategist in MENA, started her career as a startup and became a successful entrepreneur within a short span of time. An avid researcher determined to use future tech solutions for societal well-being. A qualified surgeon and a distinguished ambassador to women empowerment programs in the region, Sana is predominantly supporting a government and non-governmental initiatives leading them to envision, strategize and streamline Ai/AR/VR based programs in various sectors including healthcare, aviation, education and public services.
Her ongoing research seeking to counter malnutrition and neonatal diseases with NGOs working in 3rd world countries assisting them to develop awareness through technology aided learning & development programs. A native Arab speaker and author travelling worldwide making her contributions to improve learning experience using Ai based AR/VR programs. Sana has played a vital role to highlight needs of AR/VR adaptation in MENA. She is the board member for various forums, A Co-Founder & serving as an Executive in a leading AR/VR Education Consultancy consortium -Munfarid Consulting- based in the Middle East.
Tell us the idea behind Munfarid Consulting and how did you come up with it?
Entering the realm of the working life in medicine, I realized that this field requires extensive training, a lot of practice, and interaction with patients. I was a surgeon in training and soon apprehended that we, as the society on a whole need to go further than implementing what is already known. The medical profession is life changing where we welcome our patients and devote our energies to create a healthier society. I wished to uncover some amusing things that seemed promising in improving the training and development and Virtual Reality was a technology that interested me instantly.
I learnt how VR could improve the retention rates, give better engagement, more chances to practice several times while ensuring safety. As a medical intern or fresh graduate in other subjects as well, VR also increases the confidence working in the virtual field with virtual tools. I kept asking more questions, interrogating the scope of VR. Turned out, it could reduce the nervousness of confronting real-life situations, though that’s an inevitable phase of the training. I wanted to enhance the training system, education, and practices in VR. That’s how Munfarid Consulting came country in the ICT field in the Middle East and ranked one of the best destination for expatriates. My efforts and steps are all aligned with the vision of Bahrain and region on the whole. Ed-tech awareness activities in schools, mergers, events, and conferences are all lined up to contribute to the region’s success and prosperity.
How did this concept derive?
The Middle East region is propelled by vigorous steps to boost the economy through innovation and Munfarid is determined to contribute to this. Vibrant technologies like AR, VR, and Ai provide an uplifting platform to hone the skills of citizens and fuel the developmental spirit. These amazing technologies open up doors to innovation and lead to big breakthroughs. There are statistics that prove the reach of the technology. The total number of virtual reality users is expected to reach 171 million by 2018. The AR/VR market is predicted to grow more than $162 billion by 2020.
Munfarid very well understands this trend and is taking the best steps to build a productive and fulfilling future for our fellow citizens. Our global workforce will be greatly benefited from the quality employment and appropriate skills supported by the technology backed programs that we offer. The concept was initially driven to reality with the conceptualization and creation of the prototype of our Virtual Reality program – the VRXOne.
What have been the initial challenges and how did you overcome them?
The VR industry has progressed at an incredible speed while providing valuable services. More exhaustive and encompassing developments are happening to make VR more feasible and accessible for all. The technology is still new for many people and spreading awareness about the benefits it offers is challenging at times. Collective efforts from the market leaders and influencers are bringing to light the value of VR. We are overcoming these challenges by consistently spreading awareness through conduction of exhibitions, events, demos to corporates, schools, industries, governments, etc. The highlight of each event is the application of VR in that field, be it healthcare, education, corporate training, marketing, architecture, R & D, or others.
Spreading awareness about VR in education, Munfarid has started the region’s biggest ever edtech program, the Virtual Reality Go-To-School Program where we are fervently aiming to show 1 million expeditions in the ME schools. The program that kicked off from local schools has gathered immense appreciation and accolades from teachers and school authorities who are marvelled by the full immersion in the digital world. We’re on the cusp of a new era brimming with possibilities and advanced learning solutions. The expeditions have demonstrated the efficacy of Virtual Reality learning and students have given a tremendous response. The program is successfully highlighting the impressive into conceptualisation and we started our operations in 2016. The vision is to explore and implement VR for the benefit and relief of humans.
When did it start and do you have other members assisting you in your project?
In every industry, the support of driven and passionate co-workers can take the business to the apex of success. We started operations in 2016 and our family is flourishing since then. We are comprised of active and motivated members who share a common vision of our brand. We’re a dynamic team where some people are young and some have years of experience. Rather than giving importance to personal preferences, the team has always been enthusiastic about accepting strategies that accentuate experiences. Also, we have received tremendous support from our partners and the government. All the teammates are always in close contact with me and each other, however, we refrain from micromanagement. Setting clear goals helps us all be on the same page.
Tell us briefly about yourself and your educational and professional background.
I am a medical surgeon by profession and am significantly intrigued by the uses of technology in the field. As a practitioner, I enjoy supporting my peers, co-workers, and juniors as inspiring others gives me immense satisfaction and instant gratification.
My perpetual passion for education and training has remarkably shaped my career leading me to explore the wondrous uses of technology as a frontier in these domains. The desire to augment the stature of education and training and the belief that they shape our values and skills keeps me driven to explore the latest trends and innovations. Researching about these, I discovered VR and realized how it can enable a paradigm shift in development. This was the prime motivating factor for me to become an entrepreneur and dedicate my life to research and development. Being completely immersed in the industry, I support many organizations to amplify their impact through the use of technology. The Middle East region and especially the GCC is shifting towards a knowledge based economy. This shift has offered me an opportunity to make a difference and I’m privileged of being a part of many government and private innovation drives. I am ambitious about helping the youth in identifying their strengths and carving out their future. I actively engage myself in programs that focus on imbibing field knowledge and high social values in them. The youth is our future. When I see and work with them, I can clearly envision nation’s development.
With the progress of youth and proactiveness of the citizens, the Kingdom of Bahrain is developing at an unprecedented pace. 2017 proved to be an incredibly prosperous year for the country. It was recognized as the top-performing accomplishments of VR like boosting knowledge retention, concept building, attention capture, etc.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
The previous year has been very rewarding. Munfarid proudly established partnerships with strongest ARVR companies worldwide and in the region who resonate with our vision and have unprecedented growth vision. Munfarid brings immersive lessons and facilitates field trips with the help of partners like Google Expeditions.
VRXone was appreciated by many revered personalities of the tech field who appreciated the potential in its agile technology and sustainability. Through technology, we shall be able to form a cohesive society ready to steer the economy through optimism and hard work. Munfarid has been a pioneer in finding technology solutions proactively and helping the youth in being more stable, secure, and knowledgeable.
The idea nurturing the Go-To School program is ground-breaking and transformational to refine pedagogy. It is the first of its kind awareness drive that targets developing mind frame of the society. With immense far-fetched results, the response has been splendid. Students are able to enjoy their lessons and understand the real world application of concepts. This will eventually help them carve out their future through strong determination and skilled know-how. The happiness and satisfaction of the users have been the biggest achievements of all.
What are your current projects within your company?
Munfarid is a pioneer in exploring VR’s potential through comprehensive strategies and programs used to transform various organizations in different domains. We are working from the grassroots and so, we are setting up innovation centres/ labs. Munfarid is building and designing technology aided learning and development programs in healthcare, aviation, education, and corporate sectors. We nurture a shared spirit of social awareness that empowers us to work in 3rd world countries, assisting the people to develop awareness about education, healthcare, etc.
I and my team profoundly understand the process of laying down a strategy founded on futuristic and sustainable values that goes a long way in nation’s progress. Our latest engagement is exploring the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence in Virtual Reality which is again, a technology that streamlines processes. This year has been very enthralling in achieving bigger milestones and I am elated by the past achievements and persistence of the team. Going forward, we have a bigger onus of making the Middle East Vision 2020 a success.
What are the trends in the AR/VR industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
The palpitating developments have raised the bar of technology so much that our governments now consider it as a leading propeller for boosting the economy and tackle every challenge of the country. Development-oriented countries today encompass huge expenditure research and development, all because of the impact technologies like AR, VR and Ai are creating.
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Intelligent Apps & Analytics are the flag-bearer technologies that every major tech giant and developing start-up is enthralled by. There will be about 171 million Virtual Reality users worldwide by 2018. Two years from now, videos are predicted to get around 80% of the traffic on the web. Artificial Intelligence, now a 2.5 billion dollar potential market, will nearly hold a worth of 60 billion dollars by 2025! There’s also tremendous potential in the IoT and Wearables.
People who upgrade themselves and their skills with these changes are here to progress. The technologies when utilized properly and judiciously will build a collaborative environment where the rightful and consistent hustlers will be rewarded. The competition is huge too but the enterprises who provide extra value will effortlessly shine out. Through ingenuity, the courage to try, and good service, we shall steer the wheel of progress.
What are the biggest tasks of being a female founder and entrepreneur in AR/VR?
My passion for education and training always inspired me to be a visionary. As a female founder, I am aware of the challenges of female entrepreneurship like inequality and resistance sometimes. However, there is also an interesting correlation between the presence of women in corporate leadership and better performance. A gender-inclusive workplace reaps the benefits of diverse thinking.
In my opinion, having women on board makes the office environment more harmonious and professional. Women in technology are embarking their journeys enthusiastically and I am privileged to be one of the early adopters of the leading technologies. Even when there were challenges, my focus was to learn and grow. I’ve learnt that while working, either you will make a profit or you will grow. We don’t have to let anything retard our pace. To learn every day and at every instance is the biggest task. Prepare yourself that there will be critiques but you don’t have to deviate from the path of hard work and optimism. Never let someone else impact your emotions and decisions. I have always overcome tough situations by presenting my knowledge and research-backed strategies. I engage the listener by showing them how this technology helps to overcome the challenges they face and how it’s going to impact them.
My components of strength include self-confidence, positive attitude, and useful information backed by researchers, studies, and proven results. I am elated to have the support of many women organizations who appreciate the contributions of working women and acknowledge their efforts of women empowerment.
What is the most important message you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs?
Starting a business is a brave decision and it is really easy to get stuck and be surrounded by challenges. There might be people who don’t believe in your idea but there will also be some who imbibe unwavering faith in you. Despite everything, you must focus on your dream, be a visionary and take up the role of a change-maker. Be a daring entrepreneur who calculates all the risks and doesn’t fear to make strong yet unusual choices. Amplify your reach and use your resources judiciously for a greater economic and social impact. Inspire the people around you and create a positive ecosystem which makes it easy to grow and prosper. Never let failure or success deviate you from your path. Work persistently and patiently, the world is rewarding to hard workers and hustlers.