Anish Shivdasani: “Africa is very advanced in terms of mobile telecoms”

Unemployment has been an ongoing, seemingly never-ending issue on the continent. Governments have been defeated in trying to permanently erase it and so it has fallen on the private sector to do so, or at the very least, try. Going south to the country of gold and diamonds, we meet Giraffe, a revolutionary new recruitment app that helps you find the best staff for your business.

Inspire Afrika Magazine: Hi Anish Shivdasani please introduce yourself to the readers.  

Anish Shivdasani: Hi Readers! I am Anish, CEO and co-founder of Giraffe. I’m originally from London, UK but have been working and living in various places over the past 10 years- including the Middle East, South East Asia and, most importantly, Africa. I decided to move to South Africa about 4 years ago because I was intrigued by the place- amazing history, culture, people and most of all- potential. There are three main founders of Giraffe- Shafin Anwarsha, Head of Product; Bradley Cowie, Lead Developer and myself.

IAM: Why the name Giraffe?

AS: We wanted to come up with a memorable name. Startups have to build a brand from scratch so if you choose a bad name you’re basically screwed from the start. We chose Giraffe because first, we are an African startup and the Giraffe is a well-recognized African animal. Second, we help jobseekers find jobs and businesses find staff; the giraffe has a long neck and can search for things easily. Finally, we wanted our brand to project an image of warmth, reliability and trustworthiness. The Giraffe is an amiable, friendly animal and this is very consistent with our brand identity.

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http://www.job.giraffe.co.za/

IAM: When and how was the reason behind the concept? Please tell our readers more about the brand and concept.

AS: Giraffe is a mobile application that helps businesses recruit medium-skilled staff faster and cheaper than any other way, and connects jobseekers with opportunities. Businesses wishing to recruit staff can submit a simple staff request at www.giraffe.co.za. Our intelligent platform then automatically identifies suitable candidates, contacts them by SMS and schedules interviews at a time and place of the employer’s choice. Giraffe can send businesses candidates in as little as 48 hours. Shafin and I used to be strategy consultants in the mobile telecoms/digital space. We realized that Africa is very advanced in terms of mobile telecoms, with most people having a cellphone, yet has significant issues and social malaise worse than many emerging markets. We started thinking about how the ubiquity of cellphones could be used to address some of Africa’s biggest problems, and realized that unemployment was arguably the biggest issue, with recruitment being a major challenge for businesses. That’s what gave us the idea of using the ubiquity of mobile devices to help connect jobseekers with opportunities. Also, we had started becoming bored of our corporate jobs and wanted to do something meaningful. Giraffe is effectively enabling us to do business and making positive social impact at the same time.

IAM: There are several other companies offering the same service of job recruitment, what distinguishes Giraffe?

AS: Yes, there are many companies in recruitment but Giraffe is truly unique. There are many recruitment agencies but they are typically fragmented and very expensive. On the other hand, there are job portals where companies can post vacancies online- but the employer still has to screen CVs, contact candidates and schedule interviews- all of which take time. Giraffe basically offers all the services that a recruitment agent offers but over 10 times cheaper and faster than a recruitment agent.

IAM: How welcoming is the South African culture to your company, especially the youth or first time job applicants? Has it been a struggle at all?

AS: Overall the response has been very positive. In the last 10 months we have invited over 7,000 people for interview- many of whom were struggling to even get an interview. So in that sense I believe we have given people access to opportunities they would not have had. However, there are many more people who are looking for jobs and are very frustrated. Unemployment remains very high in South Africa so to some extent this is inevitable. Also, there are numerous scams operating in South Africa and so some candidates are initially sceptical. But when they try Giraffe and realise that it is completely free and that it works, their scepticism evaporates.

IAM: What major strides have you made with the company? Awards etc.

AS: Giraffe won the Seedstars World award for best South African startup 2015, something we’re very proud of because we beat 15 other startups- many of which were excellent. However, we’re not that concerned with awards. We just want to help as many people as possible to get jobs, and ensure that we give employers the best recruitment experience possible.

IAM: Do the educational backgrounds of the founders have anything to do with the concept?

AS: Not especially. My background is biology and Shafin’s is actuarial science- neither has a direct relevance to the concept. Bradley studied computer science, which is obviously related to programming. However, all of us are very passionate about doing something that has positive social impact, and I think that is what really led us to the concept.

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http://www.job.giraffe.co.za/

IAM: What do you think is the major thing holding many young people back from starting their own businesses and organizations?

AS: I think there are several things holding many young people back from starting tech companies in Africa but one of the main ones is talent and education- Africa needs more developers with a start-up mind-set. There is so much that can be done in Africa but without the critical mass of programming talent, there can never be a truly flourishing start-up ecosystem.

IAM: Any advice for other young people in terms of entrepreneurship?

AS: There’s so much advice we could give to budding entrepreneurs. One key thing is, take risks, but make sure that it’s calculated- before embarking on a startup, make sure you’ve saved enough money to live on for at least a year- over and above the money you need to invest in the business.

IAM: Where do you see Giraffe in the next three years, and especially, what should we expect from you in 2016?

AS: Our focus for 2016 is really to expand across South Africa, boost sales and distribution and evolve our product. In the next three years I hope we will have expanded to at least two more markets and be the go-to recruitment platform for medium-skilled jobseekers.

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