Nader Sabry, a space tech entrepreneur and mentor, is the creator of the world's first physiological prayer mat. His online retail company, TIMEZ5, is focused on using space technology to tend to the health and wellness needs of the Muslim/Islamic lifestyle, an economy globally valued at over $2 trillion. Sabry's prayer mat works in three ways: it reduces pain, improves posture support, and increases energy when praying or meditating. It has a five layer system, which works to achieve those three benefits. Arab News interviewed Sabry to learn more about his work, his views on Saudi innovators and why he wants to be a part of the Saudi Vision 2030.
Your online retail company, TIMEZ5, tends to the health and wellness needs of Muslims' lifestyle. Why did you feel the need to create a ‘Muslim' brand in the lifestyle sector? Why do mainstream brands miss the point?
They simply don't care. They see the commercial incentive that is for sure, but there is more than just making a buck. You need to have heart and be genuine in providing the right service for your customers regardless of who they are. This is our philosophy and this is why we exist. Muslim consumers are not getting innovative and high quality products to deal with their challenges. We see counterfeit products trying to scam Muslim consumers, which makes me uncomfortable that this still continues.
Tell us how you created the prayer mat and what lead you to do so?
My inspiration was very simple. One day I saw an old man praying. He was in his 80's and was praying in absolute pain. His devotion caught my attention and I observed him. I turned to my wife and said, after 1400 years of evolution and technology why should he pray in pain. It didn't make sense to me, and no one cared about pain while praying frankly. So I started my journey. I was very lucky as my friend who is an ex-NASA scientist kicked-off the research and development with me, and the rest is history.
TIMEZ5 has been certified by NASA as a space technology company. What exactly is ‘space technology'?
Space technology means, technology that has been used in some form whether in part or in whole in an official space program. This means anything from ground related infrastructure to space exploration. Much of the greatest technologies we use today one of which is GPS comes from space technology. Space technology spans a wide range of breakthroughs in our daily lives and has always been a positive impact on society. We have used several forms of space technology, the most notable which is certified is our chromogenics technology, which is an antimicrobial. This was originally used in NASA astronaut suits to keep them safe and clean. We also use high performance laying materials originally used to deal with pressure resistance, heat transfer and g-force.
As an expert on Islamic consumer sector, what do you think are the new trends in this sector?
There are several great trends that are taking place right now. One of the overarching drivers is innovation and the usage of technology with spirituality. Another major driver is Muslim consumer awareness of brand alignment with their values. Many of the larger brands have been tackling this problem for decades and only recently will you see that you're starting to crack through. Muslim consumers are voting with their spending and they are aligning their spending with brands that advocate with their values. The big trends I see are:
- Innovation and spirituality in the form of technology in our daily lives cutting across a diverse set of demographics.
-Social media advancing the blend of traditional and new age culture for Muslim consumers.
- Conservatism has become cooler and more hyper in nature driven by a youthful demographics bringing modern living grounded in traditional values.
Tell us about your educational and family background.
My family is originally from Egypt, they migrated to Canada in the 60's. My father was an earth scientist and mother a fashion designer. I got the blend of science and design from my parents who quickly invested in my creativity at a very young age. I started as an entrepreneur in the 90's, was very lucky to build, and then sell my business. Although I had built several smaller businesses before this, this experience is what helped galvanize my skills and love for innovation and entrepreneurship. I moved on to building several more companies, became a policy maker, a consultant and finally back to my roots as an entrepreneur.
Apart from the prayer mat, what are the other products of the TIMEZ5 company? Any that you are working on right now?
Just a few weeks back we launched “Muslim Physiology” an online digital experience built directly from our R&D. It started three years back as a physical course educating our customers about their biomechanics, physiology and ergonomics. It was successful and we had demand across the 37 markets we serve but were not able to physically handle this surge in demand. So we went digital and this is the first version of the product. In our first week, we got 2,500 subscribers.
You may visit http://www.muslimphysiology.com
Aside from this, we have several other products, services and groundbreaking experiences we are working on.
What do you think about the state of innovators in the Middle East?
Well, it is getting better. As far as I am concerned it isn't good enough and a lot more has to be developed. I see several advocates working quietly right now who I support and I wish that strong IP regimes helped support innovation in the region. I know several policy makers are working on it but it is not fast enough or intensive enough. I travel to about 12–14 new places a year and I get a privileged opportunity to see the core of innovation in several places. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
The price of the prayer mat is $300. Can we in the future expect to see cheaper, more affordable versions of the prayer mat?
We have several upgrades and other innovations in the process and different offering formats for our customers in the near future.
How can people in Saudi Arabia buy the mat?
In Saudi Arabia, they can go to www.timez5.com/buy and they will get the product directly. We have our own hub for logistics support, which makes the experience for customers even better.
How can non-Muslims benefit from your brand?
They already do in many ways. Yoga communities, other faiths, and even those who have their own meditation styles use our products.
What is your advice to aspiring innovators in Saudi Arabia? How can they work with you?
Get started now. There is no tomorrow. Don't be afraid to think big but keep execution at the heart of your ideas. I see too many great ideas falling on the back of poor execution. Sometimes smaller ideas that are well executed are grander than a big idea. Be brave, be bold and be quick….
I have been in the kingdom last year on several occasions working on the ground with innovators and loved the experience. Saudi Arabia has amazing young minds and I always love working with them and helping wherever I can. I would be happy to interact with the Saudi innovators and entrepreneurs community, and I am open to any kind of knowledge and expertise exchanges.
On social media, they can contact me via my twitter account @Naddd
Finally, I am inspired by Prince Mohammed bin Salman's new bold Vision 2030 and hope to be part of it. It is a new era for the kingdom and it will bring great things to the region.
Originally published at www.arabnews.com on July 1, 2016.