Armed with dozens of pairs of sunglasses stashed in every possible compartment, Raymond Nazloomian, 30, moved from his native Sydney to New York City three years ago to conquer the digital landscape. Little did he know he would also be connecting Armenians through the English language. Raymond, who in his day job advises Citi on global digital strategy has been closely involved in the Armenian community since his relocation to NYC—from being a regular at ABGU YP events, and actively participating in the AGBU mentorship program to partnering with AGBU in establishing Ani—a simple platform for Armenians in the diaspora to help students in Armenia learn English over Skype.
ANI has the potential to radically transform opportunities for our brothers and sisters in Armenia and build relationships on a more personal level.
How did you come up with the idea to establish Ani? What is its significance for the Armenians at large? I’ve been very lucky and pretty successful in life—a great education, a fantastic job, opportunities galore. I wanted to give back and try and give Armenians in Armenia similar opportunities. So I set about creating a way for people like me who want to directly give back to Armenians in Armenia while fitting it into their busy work/study lives to do just that. A month or so later we had Ani! Our vision is that by 2020, 100% of Armenian students can speak fluent English. If we could raise English proficiency levels from 4% to 100% by 2020 imagine the opportunities that would open up for Armenia!
How did the establishment of Ani help you grow personally and professionally? Creating Ani has been a fantastic rollercoaster ride full of thrills, excitement and new surprises around every corner. I love talking to all of our new Ani coaches and hearing about the amazing people they are (top notch doctors literally saving lives on a daily basis, high powered investment bankers working on multi-billion dollar deals, policy makers at the World Bank tackling climate change, programmers working on developing a low cost 3D printed prosthetic for the poor, to just name a few) Young Armenians are so talented! I also love talking to all of our Ani students and seeing the ambition and dreams of 10-year-old Armenian boys and girls who want to be doctors, business people, teachers, scientists, programmers. They’re so young, yet so determined, and all of them see English as critical to their future. And thirdly, it’s been fantastic working with the vast variety of Armenian NGOs and organizations, including AGBU, who has been an amazing support. It’s great to see Armenians coming together to support a great cause!
Why was the establishment of Ani important for you? I’ve been involved in start-ups before and I’ve spent my professional career advising some of the world’s largest companies on innovation and digital strategy. But, creating Ani and seeing it grow holds a special place in my heart. I’m not just doing something that will help me grow personally or professionally, or help one of my corporate clients enter a new market or improve their profitability. Ani has the potential to radically transform opportunities for our brothers and sisters in Armenia and is creating a new way for the next generation of Armenians across the homeland and diaspora to connect and build relationships on a more personal level.
What is next for you and your initiative, Ani? We just celebrated our first 12 months of Ani and what a 12 months it’s been! From a simple concept in my mind just 12 months ago, we’ve now presented Ani at 10 schools across Armenia, helped over 150 Armenian 10-15-year-olds improve their English, and recruited dozens of amazing coaches from 13 countries across North America, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. In the next 12 months we want to continue the momentum and scale. I don’t see why this time next year we can’t have over 1,000 students and coaches doing Ani every week. And in two years time wouldn’t it be great if that number were 10,000, then 100,000 in three years time?
Banner illustration by Luis Tinoco