Dubai: Meet the 9-year-old Indian girl who got an e-mail from Apple CEO for developing an app

She had initially written to him claiming to be the youngest iOS developer and her parents say his reply indicates that there is merit to her claim


Nasreen Abdulla

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Sat 24 Sep 2022, 3:49 PM

Last updated: Sat 24 Sep 2022, 9:13 PM

A Dubai-based Indian youngster has gained worldwide recognition after an app she created receiving appreciation from none other than Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

Hana was sleeping when her father Mohammed Rafeeq first read the email. “I woke her up and conveyed the news to her,” he said. “She immediately sat up and ran to the washroom. Usually, it takes several minutes to wake her up.”

“I felt like a magnet was pulling me up,” an excited Hana told Khaleej Times. The youngster who developed Hanas app when she was eight, is one of the youngest app developers in the world. She had initially written to Tim Cook claiming to be the youngest iOS app developer and her parents say his reply indicates that there is merit to her claim.

In his email, Tim Cook wrote to her “Congratulations on all of your impressive achievements at such a young age. Keep at it and you will do amazing things in the future.”

To develop the storytelling app, which allows parents to record stories in their own voices for their kids, Hana handwrote more than 10,000 lines of code. She said she hit upon the idea to create the app on watching a documentary about the importance of parent-child relationship. “In case parents are busy with work, they can record stories so that children can listen to it before going to sleep,” explained Hana. “This will help build the bond between parents and their children.”

Family and beginning

Hana, now 9, and her 10-year-old sister Leena are both self-taught coders who got inspired from their parents. “I had a fintech startup that focused on edutech in 2018,” said Mohammed Rafique. “For the purpose of that startup, I asked my wife to learn coding. Leena was about 6 at the time. She got very interested in what my wife was doing and asked to learn as well. She was too young, and we weren’t really confident giving her an Apple device, so I gave her a smaller laptop and she began to do HTML and CSS for website development.”

An entrepreneur, Muhammad Rafeeq wanted to revolutionise traditional education system with his startup company. Unfortunately, due to the funding limitations it has not yet taken off. Instead, he chose to apply that his research and methodologies to his own kids and instead of telling his children ‘what to learn’ he focused on teaching them ‘how to learn’.

Leena developed a website titled Lehanas that introduced words, colours and animals to kids like her. At the time, when floods hit Kerala, Leena wanted to do her bit and included a link to the Chief Minister’s fund on her website. This was the first instance when Rafique and his wife realized that the girls had an innate ability to code. “However, we found that schools were not supportive of their skills, so we decided to homeschool them,” said Rafique.

The couple focus on teaching their children languages like Spanish, German, Arabic, Hindi, English and their mother tongue of Malayalam in addition to computer languages. The sisters also spend a lot of time watching documentaries and other informative movies.

Dreams & hopes

The girls have big hopes and dreams for their future. “I hope that I am able to someday work for Tim Cook,” said Hana. Meanwhile Leena hopes of going to the US for her future studies. “I think there are better opportunities there.”

Above all, the girls want to give back to the society. “We love coding because of the thrill it gives us to solve problems and seeing how our codes come to life,” said Leena. “But ultimately we want to contribute to our society and make people happy.”

“I think all children, especially girls should learn coding,” chimed in Hana. “It is important for women to be financially stable and make their own money. I watched a documentary about how lack of flexibility in workplaces is forcing women to choose between their jobs and families. Being good in coding gives women flexibility and they can choose where to work from.”


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