In a country where the official unemployment rate is running at about 26%, finding out about jobs and then working out how to get your head above the crowd of other applicants can seem like an impossible task. If only there was a better way.
Well, now there is: To date more, than 120 000 South Africans have registered on Giraffe, a job-finding app designed and developed by two entrepreneurs who took the frustrations of jobseekers and employers alike to heart.
When social entrepreneurs Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha created a mobile platform on a shoestring budget in 2014, they had two things in common; neither had any experience in HR recruitment and, secondly, neither could have anticipated the excitement and demand that their mobile application would generate.
Their success can be measured by the fact that the service, originally offered only in Gauteng, is now available in Cape Town and Durban where job seekers are already benefiting from the advantages of simple, fast online recruitment.
According to Anish, the use of a giraffe as their company’s logo is significant.
“It emphasises that we are an African company and that, like a giraffe with its long neck searching for the best leaves on a tree, we help people lift themselves to new heights where they can find new opportunities. It also emphasises the qualities of a giraffe; it projects an image that is friendly, warm and reliable – it is all reflective of our brand and what it delivers.”
The idea of Giraffe didn’t come about all of a sudden. Anish and Shafin identified that there was a gap in the market, and that they could use technology to solve one of South African’s biggest challenges – unemployment.
The idea was born and the two took the plunge, cashed up what resources they could and began researching and building the Giraffe application.
It was in Gauteng, the centre of commerce and industry in South Africa, that the Giraffe application underwent development. However, the partners had to address the major challenge of getting Giraffe known and trusted in the market.
Not afraid to get stuck in, and with a limited budget, the two took to the streets, townships, major taxi ranks, supermarkets and cafes to take the message to their audience.
Reaching people meant printing and handing out thousands of leaflets telling them how to access the app and register. Good results from happy Giraffe users and word-of-mouth did the rest.
For employees, the major benefit offered by Giraffe is that they can register and create a simple CV using their cellphone at no cost. Employers are able to submit their vacancies online and the intelligent matching algorithm does the rest, verifying IDs, screening CVs and even scheduling interviews within 48 hours.
Due to the fact that the algorithm has removed the manual process, Giraffe has passed on this cost and time saving to employers, and so delivers candidates at a fraction of the cost and ten times faster than a recruitment agency or employment service.
Since initial development, the Giraffe offering has undergone a number of changes. Customer feedback and requests regarding the service provided most of the input needed for improvements to be made. These included features that allowed interviews to be scheduled online.
“Ultimately, we learned that we should let our customers design our product for us,” comments Anish.
Among the other lessons learned at Giraffe as it adapted its products and built a following, were:
- The value of research. “Most start-ups don’t do enough research. It’s great to have an idea, but it’s research that will tell you whether your idea is valid and if there is a market for your service,” says Anish.
- That focus is essential. Without determination and paying continual attention to detail, things can go wrong.
- You have to be prepared for the long haul. Success does not come overnight and, as it can take some time for a company to achieve critical mass, entrepreneurs should be ready for the inevitable hardships and challenges that can arise.
Anish shares advice to other entrepreneurs, commenting that when you are creating a company from the ground, you have to wear multiple hats.
“You cannot have an ego. The CEO must go from strategic planning, to talking to managers and HR firms, to delivering the mail. Every day is different. When there are only three of you, you all have to get involved,” he said.
Keeping the business on track has meant that both founders have devoted most of their efforts to ensuring that the business remains relevant and up to date. Their persistence has been rewarded by appreciation not only from the public, but also from the broader business world.
Two major events have put Giraffe firmly on the map. The first major achievement was Giraffe’s win of the ultimate accolade for start-ups; taking the Seedstars Global Award for social entrepreneurs in the face of competition from 63 other international competitors. For the two entrepreneurs who left behind the corporate world and the security of good salaries, the prize of US$500 000 (R7.2 million) in equity investment within Giraffe was a dream come true.
The publicity that followed Giraffe’s win at the Seedstars Global Award event enabled them to spread the message further and faster. Subsequent radio and TV interviews had an astounding impact, with a single radio interview generating 3 000 registrations on the Giraffe app in three hours.
The second major milestone was the announcement that the Silicon Valley-based Omidyar Network – whose founder is Pierre Omidyar, the man who started eBay – had closed a venture capital funding deal with Giraffe. Very gratifying results for people whose automated mobile recruitment application has performed a vital social service by bringing businesses and the ‘medium-skilled’ staff they require together.
It is on the subject of funding that Anish is most vocal. For tech start-ups in South Africa, one of the most difficult things to accept is that investment is hard to source.
“Although money and investment is the lifeblood of any company, investors will often be hesitant to part with their money and invest in a start-up. However, they are attracted to success. If you concentrate on getting traction for your business and show what you can do, the investors will come to you,” he says.
This may well be the case, but Giraffe’s most significant testimonial is the thousands of South Africans who have had employers come to them and now, because of a cheap and easy process, are able to support themselves and their families.
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