Anish Shivdasani on South African unemployment, UBI and dystopian tech
Human Resources

Anish Shivdasani on South African unemployment, UBI and dystopian tech

If there is a ‘top companies to watch in Africa’ list going, South African mobile recruitment service Giraffe, is usually to be found on there. Launched in 2014, this aims to make it easier for medium-skilled job seekers across the country to find employment.

We spoke to co-founder and CEO, Anish Shivdasani, about unemployment in South Africa, Universal Basic Income and the dystopian future of tech. The lightly edited Q&A can be found below.


How does Giraffe work?

Giraffe is a fully automated recruitment service that enables businesses to hire medium-skilled staff 10x faster and 10x cheaper than any other way, and connects jobseekers with opportunities for free.

Giraffe’s free mobile app - which works on any cell phone - enables medium-skilled jobseekers to create a CV on their cell phone for free. Employers can submit a simple staff request on Giraffe’s website and Giraffe’s intelligent matching algorithm automatically identifies suitable candidates and sends them an SMS with details of the job opportunity. Giraffe then automatically schedules interviews for the employer as soon as 48 hours after receiving the request.


As one of the few South African tech startups to receive backing from Silicon Valley, how easy was it to get funding?

It is never easy to get funding. I think we were able to do it because we focused on getting the business up and running very quickly, and getting positive results and market validation in a relatively short time. Also, we won the Seedstars World award for best South African startup just three months after launching, which raised our profile amongst the investor community and attracted interest.


What are your short, medium and long-term ambitions for Giraffe?

In the short term, we are focusing on maintaining rapid growth in South Africa and evolving our technology. In the medium term we want to reach scale in South Africa and become the largest platform for medium-skilled recruitment. In the long term, we want to expand to multiple emerging markets.


How many jobseekers are registered on the platform and how many people have found employment via the site since you launched in 2014?

We have over 300,000 jobseekers registered. Within the last 12 months we have invited over 80,000 of them for interview.


What kind of return rate have you found amongst companies and job seekers?

At present, over 50% of our revenues are from repeat customers, so we’ve found that the businesses who use us find great value in the service and continue using us. For jobseekers, we found that a large proportion of our growth is coming from word of mouth referrals, suggesting that jobseekers strongly recommend our service.


Can a platform like this really make a difference to the 27% unemployment rate in South Africa?

We don’t think Giraffe is the only solution, but it can certainly be part of the solution. One of the major problems in South Africa is access to and visibility of job opportunities. Hence many jobseekers don’t know what opportunities are available to them, and many employers don’t know which candidates are suitable for them or how to find them. Giraffe is effectively a marketplace that automatically matches the right candidate with the right job and can do so at scale. Specifically, Giraffe focuses on medium-skilled jobs, which constitute the majority of the workforce and jobseekers. Solving the access problem could play a key role in addressing the unemployment rate, but other structural and policy changes are needed in tandem to really move the dial on the unemployment rate.


How have you found the South African tech scene compared to other markets you’ve worked in?

The South African tech scene is still embryonic relative to more mature markets like US and Europe. However, there are a number of characteristics that are starting to enable the tech ecosystem in South Africa, specifically a strong telecoms infrastructure, a large financial services industry that is becoming more tech-savvy and a growing number of tech incubators, accelerators and investors.


What other South African mobile startups have you been particularly impressed by?

Luno is an interesting one. It’s a Bitcoin exchange app, started in South Africa but now multinational with credible backers. They have a good product and managed to grow quite rapidly. LifeQ is another interesting one - they make algorithms for wearables. They stayed out of the hardware game and focused on software and analytics, and have also gone international.


In the wider tech sphere what do you think the most interesting trends at the moment are?

I could regurgitate all the usual stuff - Artificial Intelligence, Virtual/Augmented reality, Internet of Things, cryptocurrencies, solar/clean energy, the gig economy, brain-computer interface etc. These are all very cool but typically address the high-class problems of the developed world. I’m more interested in the tech that addresses the most pressing issues in emerging markets that affect the majority of the world’s poor - such as financial inclusion, low-cost healthcare and education technology.


Is Universal Basic Income the answer to a post-automation world?

Hard to say, and really depends on the extent to which automation occurs. Even if automation did occur to a large extent, a key question is who would fund UBI? Governments or tech companies? If the former, they would need to solve the tax avoidance issue. If the latter, which shareholders would be comfortable with this? I think one of the major challenges of our age is the effective redistribution of wealth that is acceptable to the owners of capital and doesn’t constitute a disincentive for innovation. Ultimately, I don’t think capitalism in its current form is sustainable.

Technology is likely to have an increased impact on the future of society – do you think any aspects of this are dystopian?

Definitely. We can already see how smartphones and the obsession with social media are negatively impacting relationships (having thousands of friends on social media but very few real ones, dating apps giving people infinite choice so they never settle), democracy (spreading of fake news and misinformation, fuelling of echo chambers) and the acquisition of knowledge (people read fewer books, preferring short-form, superficial content on social media).

Whilst technology has immense power to make our lives easier and create positive socio-economic impact, we need to be mindful of the fact that we are human - in need of real, meaningful relationships that require patience and commitment. This runs in stark contrast to the immediate satisfaction, on-demand mentality that technology fuels. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a significant increase in narcissism, social isolation, mental illness and the collapse of social structures due to technology.


«C-suite talk fav tech: Chris McCullough, RotaGeek


Why is Red Hat partnering with the Tate Modern museum?»

Our Case Studies

IDG Connect delivers full creative solutions to meet all your demand generatlon needs. These cover the full scope of options, from customized content and lead delivery through to fully integrated campaigns.


Our Marketing Research

Our in-house analyst and editorial team create a range of insights for the global marketing community. These look at IT buying preferences, the latest soclal media trends and other zeitgeist topics.



Should the government regulate Artificial Intelligence?