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French Version

Young leaders in perspective : Samih Toukan

In the cyber world where English is the medium used to access information, Samih Toukan decided to go against the tide by establishing the first Arabic e-mail online service now known as

“I established MAKTOOB with my partner Housam Khoury.

Prior to MAKTOOB our partnership was called Business Optimization Consultants (BOC),” commenced Toukan, chief executive officer (CEO) of the full-fledged online service, “As soon as the Internet was introduced to Jordan, we launched MAKTOOB as a project; we wanted to create something in Arabic that will spread and help Arabs around the world to communicate among each other using their own language.”

Toukan obtained a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronics engineering at a UK university in 1990, followed by an MA in Business Administration and Management in 1992. Amman’s MAKTOOB office, headed by Toukan, consists of 31 employees who work in three main categories: E-mail and community services; CashU, which is a safe online prepaid payment card; and MAKTOOB auction services.

“We looked at the most important Internet services and we thought that Arabic e-mail is needed and this was what we focused on at the beginning. Of course in the end it’s a commercial business and we aim to make profits, however, we are also trying to achieve a social goal which is to increase the use of Arabic on the Internet,” explained Toukan. Internet networks, through out the world and Jordan, rely on English, which hinders Arabs not fluent in the language. However, Toukan’s vision of sending e-mails in Arabic to the mailboxes of Arab users throughout the region was his next stop.

“When it spreads through the masses the language becomes very important so that was the idea. We started it as a project at BOC in October 1998 which developed the business by 2000 to an extent that attracted financers to the business,” added Toukan. According to Toukan around 85 to 90 percent of MAKTOOB subscribers use the Arabic interface, whereas, 10 percent use the English one.

“We are an Arab company based in Jordan. Most of our users are in the Gulf, Egypt and North Africa, where there is a huge growth in countries like Libya, Algeria and Morocco. Jordan is a good market but it’s not one of the top five,” added Toukan. With about 3.6 million registered users MAKTOOB is a fully-fledged online service with offices spread throughout the Arab world in countries like Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, where its users are mostly based. “

In the last two years the Information Technology (IT) sector has grown considerably in Jordan. However, we have to be more aggressive and faster as we are competing with countries like Dubai,” divulged Toukan on the IT sector in Jordan, “I am always optimistic but I am always demanding more to achieve better results and to expand the industry even more in Jordan.” Toukan further explained that judging by the information communication industry, a person finds that the telecom and mobile companies have the biggest slice of the market; so more development is needed to enhance the computer software programs and IT industry. “

We consider ourselves the largest Arab online community service site. Alexa.com, an independent survey online site, ranked us number one in the Arab world and number 250 in the world,” stated Toukan, “This is a big achievement for us.” The community business at MAKTOOB offers its local, regional and international clientele advertising and marketing solutions in accordance to specific domain targeting methods aimed at age and gender, in addition to business solutions that consist of webmail, entertainment, chat, e-commerce and discussion forums. “

Today MAKTOOB is a leading Arabic portal but we still have a lot of work to consolidate this good position; we aim to continue improving the quality and content of our services,” said Toukan, “For us it’s only the beginning; we are aiming to reach ‘hopefully’ the level of online services like Yahoo, e-Bay and Google Internet services.”

Mike Derderian
The Star

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