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Carving out her niche

From practising medicine to making animated programmes for little children, Enas Yaqoob has come a long way in following her passion for telling stories. Here’s how she set up media production company Baby Clay in Bahrain.
Enas Yaqoob.

Enas Yaqoob’s adventure in the world of media production is an example in chasing passion. Although a qualified ENT doctor with a specialisation in cochlear implants, Yaqoob’s interest in telling stories drew her towards making a career in media production. She completed her training in medicine, while dabbling in media production on the side during her university years. In her early days, she honed her media production craft by pursuing freelance assignments. Later, she trained in the US to master technical skills for direction and went on to set up Baby Clay Media Production in 2006.

A keen desire to succeed in media production, along with her love for children, led her to start her own venture with all the savings she had. The result is Baby Clay Media Production, an animation, media production and visual effects company, based in Manama, Bahrain.

Yaqoob says: “After completing my studies in Art and Direction from the US and short stints in Abu Dhabi and at MBC Group, I decided to take the entrepreneurial route. It was to inspire children and my keen interest in helping them become confident and happy that compelled me to launch Baby Clay Media Production. I wanted to reach out to the community with messages around the well-being of children, and the media was a great way to enhance my reach.

“We started with producing documentaries. Today, Baby Clay collaborates with clients and offers character animation, visual effects, commercials, mobile apps, virtual reality, augmented reality and special venue projects such as theme park rides and large-scale projection. We have grown from a team of eight to 24.”

The first production on food stories, revolved around showing children healthy recipes and inculcating healthy eating habits. Another show, RIJAL, brought to life religious stories of the Prophet Mohammad. The shows are formulated with clear messages for children, telling them how to succeed in life in a respectable manner. Recent productions like Baby Clay’s Ibn Battuta and Men around the Prophet have proved popular and are broadcast on channels across the Middle East and Africa.

In fact, Baby Clay’s programming line-up for Ramadan 2018 received a lot of critical acclaim at Arab film festivals. Her series on Ibn Battuta received awards at Cannes MIPCOM. The series also received the Cairo Mondial award for best soundtrack and the ASBU Golden Award.
Offering an exclusive insight into the 2019 Ramadan programming line-up, Yaqoob says: “For Ramadan, we are working on projects – Bismik Allah Humma Ramadan, Ibn Battuta Part 2 and around 40 short stories. I hope these shows will boost the morale of children and inspire them to give their best in what they are doing.”

Yaqoob derives her inspiration from life: “My education, industry skills and nuanced approach to culture set me apart from other content producers. I am driven to be the best, and that is reflected in my work and my work style. In the last 21 years, I have been inspired by life’s teachings and have learned a lot. Life teaches new lessons every day.”

Inspired by Queen Noor Al Hussein, Queen Dowager of Jordan, Yaqoob wants to follow in her footsteps in contributing to the fields of education, art, cultural awareness, environmental protection, social welfare, preservation of architectural heritage, child care and the development of women in society.

A positive mindset and a desire to succeed and deliver her message saw her through the initial years. “Every success has its own battles, and my story is no different. My journey began amidst difficult situations, but I always looked at the glass half-full. I remember being very nervous initially, but my vision and mission helped quell any doubts. In hindsight, I can say that it is positive thoughts that let you overcome your obstacles.”

Yaqoob believes that digital is the future. “We live in uncertain times of financial insecurity, but that should not be a deterrent to growth plans. Professional production is showing promise, and with the advent of newer technology and digitisation, the industry will only benefit.”

“I remember being very nervous initially, but my vision and mission helped quell any doubts. In hindsight, I can say that it is positive thoughts that let you overcome your obstacles”

A creative interpretation of culture, history and religious stories drives the production team at Baby Clay, whose programming tugs at the hearts of children and teaches them about culture and science with an aim to improve their cognitive foundations. Highlighting the production process, Yaqoob emphasises the “quality of the message” as the most important factor in telling a story. Every project goes into production after several workshops, where the team discusses the message, storylines, aesthetics and animation designs. Most productions use 3D technology and contain inspirational messages for children.

Yaqoob attributes her success to her husband and is working to create her legacy in the storytelling space. She says she owes some of her success to Bahrain for offering an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs. “I am thankful to my country for providing support to women who choose challenging careers. I feel a strong responsibility to properly represent my country and the Arab world through my work. My dream is to leave a legacy behind. I want the community to admire me for my work and remember me long after I’m gone.”

The biggest change Yaqoob is looking for is in the discourse on gender. “I don’t endorse gender-based discrimination. We need to show empathy towards the needs of women and mothers. The industry needs to step up and not let women feel guilty for managing home and work. It needs to offer equal growth opportunities and must work towards closing the gender gap, especially in animation. There is a huge dearth of women in animation. Not many names come to mind in this part of the world.”

To women planning a career in content production, Yaqoob says: “Educate yourselves and know your culture and history. If you are well-trained, nothing can interrupt your path to success. Have faith in your abilities and dare to dream, and tackle any obstacles with knowledge and passion. Managing work and home is simple – you only need to be well-organised.”