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Learning at your fingertips

Faisal Ibrahim, Founder, Brainciti, speaks to Bindu Gopal Rao about how digital learning is the way forward and the key to unlocking both online and offline opportunities.

In a career spanning just over a decade, Faisal Ibrahim has worked across different business lines and has created a niche for himself in the increasingly competitive space of online learning with ‘Brainciti’, which focuses on gradual transformation in people by inculcating discipline and a growth mindset.

A Decade of Growth

A native of Kerala, Faisal came to Dubai in 2010 after his MBA and started his career in the UAE as a legal consultant with Adam Consulting. Moving to Kerry Group, he gained experience in different departments, including human resources and administration. Harboring dreams of being an entrepreneur someday, he started a coffee shop in 2013 at Abu Dhabi along with a few friends, but it tanked miserably within eight months, costing Faisal a lot of money.

He worked in a job for another four years, opting to finally focus on entrepreneurship with his maiden venture RealiantBiz Consulting, in 2017. “It would take a few years before it started making good money, so in 2018 I launched Sama Hydraulics and another Consulting company in collaboration. Three businesses meant I gained more experience, but there was also intense pressure.” He then co-started Aaffari Corporate Services in 2019, but it was COVID-19 that proved to be the turning point, changing his perspective towards entrepreneurship.

Talk The Walk

Faisal asked himself, “Why not do something I love,” and kickstarted an online community ‘Empowerment Talks’ with his friend, Yash Rawat. “I always wanted to speak and touch people’s lives for which I had joined TGIS Toastmaster Club which laid the foundation for things to come. Despite the progress, I always felt something lacking. But as we started interviewing people online, we got into the heart of the conversation, and things fell into place. These talks gave me a lot of enthusiasm and happiness,” says Faisal.

Around the same time, they started the ‘5 AM Club’ alongside ‘Empowerment Talks’. “We’d invite coaches, business leaders, speakers, and trainers from around the world and do interviews. Speakers in the past include names like Pawan Aggarwal (the famed Mumbai Dabbawalla), Jeeveshu Ahluwalia (Stand-up Comedian), and Kautilya Pandit better known as the ‘Google Boy’. On the 100th episode of Empowerment Talks, we received a special congratulatory message from Mr. Shashi Tharoor appreciating the efforts we are putting in empowering people during covid times. We also started ‘The Bookery Show’ where authors and writers told their stories of how they wrote the book and explored the content of their book,” explains Yash. By then Anil Thomas had joined their team as Head of Operations.

Towards the end of 2020, the team noticed a gap in the market and brainstormed to start an online learning platform making transformational education easily affordable to millions of lives.

They applied at In5 startup incubator and bootstrapped the funds to set up the business in Dubai. This is how ‘Brainciti’ came into being with a vision to impact and inspire people to empower themselves.

From (L to R): Yash Rawat, Anil Thomas, Santosh D’Souza, Nayana Shaiju, Faisal Ibrahim, Stephen Antony, Fahnas Mohamed

Digital Cues

Faisal Ibrahim and his troupe were consummate multitaskers, with the initial core team of five members and 100+ volunteers working on a variety of concepts, flagging off several shows and courses in parallel. Incidentally, the ‘5 AM Club’ is influenced by Robin Sharma’s book by the same name. Yash points out that there were many practices that Sharma mentions in the book that they were putting into practice in the morning show.

He continues, “We created a ‘fear of missing out’ so if a person did not attend, they would feel like they were skipping an opportunity. Soon we started expanding and would do back-to-back events, with over 3500 people have attended so far from India, UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi. All of this was happening free of charge which still continues. These communities are still running strong because there is a sense of purpose.” There are over 100,000 collective minutes of content churned out so far and everyday 200+ people connect to their sessions online. The technological aspect is handled by Stephen Venansious who brings in his expertise as a techie to ensure the smooth functioning of the sessions.

There have been cancer survivors who have volunteered on the platform sharing their stories of hope, such as the power of constructive collaboration. Nayana Shaiju, 5 AM Club and Operations Lead at Brainciti, adds, “5 AM is now like family, and there is a kind of excitement about the lives of other members, for instance, when people share pictures of birthdays being celebrated in their homes. We have people from eight to eighty years of age, and it’s unbelievable the camaraderie we witness every single day.” Keeping the values intact, they forged a community that empowered people and, in turn, created a community of high achievers.

A step further, Entrepreneurs’ Connect was created as a global business referral group to exchange business leads and opportunities for growing business beyond boundaries. Free and open for all to join, members are required to attend the sessions regularly and consistently.

It’s a volume game for us as we want to have more people join, and even with lower dollar values, we can still make some profit.

Matters of Education

In November 2020, the team shifted gears to online education and worked on their mastermind programs and other e-learning courses. The team is clear that they are in the business of discipline building, habit tracking, and action. The Mastermind program, Young Mastermind for children, the 50X Mastermind Mastermind for Senior Citizens, Coach Mastermind, and Entrepreneurs’ Mastermind are the five flagship programs of Brainciti with 400+ graduates to date. The team has ensured that the pricing is competitive and accessible with flexible payment plans. “We have maintained a healthy relationship with our coaches, and we want to build an ecosystem of transformational learning,” says Yash.

He adds, “it’s a volume game for us and even with lower dollar values, we can still make some profit.” To ensure the courses are effective, there is a big focus on goal setting and the use of Google sheets to track progress in the Mastermind groups. While most courses are primarily conducted in the morning, evening batches have started in May 2021 to accommodate people who are not early risers.

Looking ahead, the vision by 2030 is to enable 100,000 coaches and experts to provide transformational learning around specialized skills, mental health, inspiration, motivation, etc., following a COHORT-based peer-to-peer learning education with diversity in students. “Everything we do is live vis-à-vis recorded sessions, so students can clarify doubts immediately, keeping it a two-way conversation, and that involves a lot of operational costs. We are working on developing technologies in this space to create our own AI based training platform, LMS portal and Habit Tracking app” conclude Yash and Faisal quite optimistic about what the future holds. 

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