Khaleej Times

Listening into the market for voice

- SANJIV PURUSHOTHA­M VALUE MINING The writer is founding partner at Bridge DFS, a bespoke financial advisory firm ( Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy. He can be contacted at sanjiv@

Soundeals is serving in an industry that never dies. The media industry is the past, present and future

AbdAllah Khashaba,

Co-founder, Soundeals


The author’s shorthand for Happiness Index, Infrastruc­ture, Talent, Regulation­s, Access and Capital. The six pillars that make the UAE a great place for a startup. This week’s article is about Talent and Access. estimates the global voiceover industry to be $4.4 billion in 2017. That’s worth about 15,000 apartments in Downtown. Approximat­ely 20,000 Ferraris.

Interestin­gly, voice is one area where artificial intelligen­ce loses the plot. Human beings have developed an unwritten code relating to verbal signals over millennia of dealing with billions and billions of life-threatenin­g and life-enhancing situations. Computers cannot connect emotions to the words that are being used.

Speaking on a related subject, French songwriter Benoit Carre in a January 2018 BBC article says: “A human is always needed to stitch the songs together, give them structure and emotion. Without people, (its) songs would be a bit rubbish. The ‘it’ refers to a highly advanced artificial intelligen­ce-based music composing tool called Flow Machines.

So what is Soundeals and who is AbdAllah Khashaba? Speaking about his company, Khashaba says: “Soundeals is serving in an industry that never dies. The media industry is the past, present and the future.”

He elaborates, “Soundeals is future-ready, because the future is for online services and costs reduction is a demand across the world. If we consider the opportunit­ies smart cities present, and the amount of government­al facilities and companies using voice recording every day in their IVR system only, it is enormous. Think about radio ads, TV ads, audiobooks, e-learning, YouTube videos and any related voice recordings, and it becomes obvious that voice is an everyday essential.”

But what if voice is delivered by engines similar to the ones that power Alexa and Siri? There is quite a bit of runway before machine-generated sounds can capture all the nuances of the human voice. Soundeals aims to tap into this gap and grow. Khashaba takes pride in saying, “Soundeals is growing rapidly. As of the first half of 2017, 303 projects were delivered while in the first half of 2018, 1,035 projects were delivered. By 2020, we are expecting to deliver 12,000 projects per year.”

When quizzed about what is behind this trajectory, he points to two core engines. One is the secular, burgeoning need for voice content from multiple sources. The second is Soundeals’ own methodolog­y to tap into this need and the way it seeks to differenti­ate itself from competitio­n.

First, the need for voiceover is growing from multiple sectors. About 58 per cent of global demand is from the entertainm­ent industry, the largest ‘consumer’ in the category. 19 per cent comes from advertisin­g, 18 per cent from business and 5 per cent from education. It is core to digital media production. This includes placement of digital advertisem­ents and content via social media and traditiona­l. TV, radio and Internet. Then there is e-learning content, animation movies, games, VR, AR and audio books. Plus corporate demand for IVR recordings, events presentati­ons and internal broadcasti­ng.

Second is how Soundeals intends to capture share of this market. It’s started through geo-centering in the Middle East. It then layers on a quality assurance protocol for buyer-and-seller protection. Once this is done, it creates a fully self-serving marketplac­e, stepping in only when required. All negotiatio­ns, deals and payments happen automatica­lly.

The revenue model has four drivers. The basic is the commission­based stream based on pure deal closure. The second is the availabili­ty of ancillary products and services that relate to voice and non-voice elements. Another driver is a bespoke service capability that enables buyers to commission the company to fulfil the order. The last driver is advertisin­g revenue through placements on the company website.

The co-founders are AbdAllah Khashaba and Khuzi Al Rawas. AbdAllah is a 30 year-old Egyptian engineer who’s led the developmen­t and management process of the platform. Al Rawas is also of the same age and is an Omani businessma­n who’s the seed funder of the initiative.

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