E-lancing, the practice of taking freelance work through an online platform, has been steadily gaining traction in recent years. The preference of work flexibility by millennials, coupled with developments in technology, has led to the creation of such a concept.
E-lancing was made popular by sites like Fiverr.com, which allow a user to buy the services of a skilled person in exchange for a fee. Conversely, such platforms offer people looking for work a venue to advertise their services, making it easy for young and inexperienced people to get a foot in the market, while simultaneously accruing much-needed experience.
The Middle East has much to gain from such a platform. As such, a multilingual global platform with a main focus on the MENA region rose to the occasion this year: Maharati.
So what exactly is this service, and how can it contribute to the Middle East job market?
AMEinfo spoke to Greg Hucker, CEO and Founder of Maharati, to learn just that, and to find out more about what his company has to offer to customers and freelancers.
1. How different is Maharati from a typical recruitment agency or headhunter? Are we talking about a group of freelancers under one umbrella?
Maharati is a modern online community designed for a modern workforce. It connects microlancers selling their skills to individuals and businesses looking for those skills, all in a self-contained online ecosystem. Maharati is a search marketplace, where buyers select which one of our microlancers they want to complete their specific task. Like Careem or Airbnb, that both don’t “own” inventory, Maharati operates as the community manager rather than the owner. We don’t place people like traditional recruitment agencies or headhunters. We connect independent individuals or businesses on both sides of the skills marketplace, with outcomes delivered digitally, rather than face-to-face, in a traditional office environment.
2. What is a micro-service?
We typically define a micro-service as one that can be delivered digitally within a 30-day period of time, including feedback, revisions and final completion. It may be a single element of a much larger project, or smaller independent services in their own right.
3. What are microlancers?
It’s a term we coined internally, during a mind mashup (meeting). We wanted to create something more personal and not so busy in the digital space that was a truer representation of what we set out trying to achieve.
4. How big a market is this?
30-45% of the world’s working age population is currently unemployed, inactive or underemployed. There are many reasons behind this alarming statistic – Environmental, Cultural, Physical. Cross-border certifications play a huge role, where certifications/qualifications aren’t recognized in a new country of residence, forcing people to adopt a less skilled position.
Have you ever taken an Uber or Careem and found out your driver is a Doctor in their home country?
Gender bias, ageism and now even millennialism (it’s a thing), all contribute to this global issue.
The breathtaking pace of technology, through Automation and Artificial intelligence, continues to drive a skills shortage. It’s hard to teach skills in the classroom that don’t even exist yet!
Maharati was envisioned as a platform that would encourage youth and adults to create and grow an online community workplace – the workplace of the future. If we succeed, and even provide a small fraction of inactive and unemployed people with a few hours of online work a week, it would represent a global workplace opportunity of $1.3 trillion annually by 2020.
a) What percentage of the workforce is on a freelance basis (globally and in the ME/GCC region), and the ($) value of the services they provide?
33% of all workers today, and 50% by 2020 are predicted to be freelancers in the global gig economy. This year, in the U.S. alone, the number of freelancers hit 57.3 million people, collectively earning over $1 trillion dollars.
In terms of the GCC, there’s not so much data available, as it’s a newer regional concept, which is extremely exciting for us to pioneer and become the dominant player in an industry that’s growing globally, double digits every year. The GCC is an untapped region, brimming full of highly skilled, young people looking for ways to build portfolios and learn the soft skills that will differentiate them in an increasingly automated workplace.
Government initiatives like, “One Million Arab Coders,” part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) foundation, highlights the commitment to bridging the skills shortage, encouraging people to follow their dreams and to actively participate in the workforce, goals that Maharati passionately shares.
Maharati is a platform that can close the circuit from these amazing training initiatives, where people can use their new skills to securely earn money online, whether it’s full time or as a side hustle.
We want to empower the next generation of digital nomads.
b) Do companies save with Maharati?
Maharati matches skills to budgets. Our GIGs start at $10 and go up to $10,000, so there can be big savings for our buyers. Companies can use Maharati in an on-demand nature, to bridge skills gaps in their traditional workforce, rather than hiring full-time talent that may not be necessary when a project finishes. We aren’t a platform that advocates cheapness; we firmly believe that our microlancers should be paid what their skills are worth.
5. How did Maharati pool these talents?
Before we launched Maharati in February of this year, we developed a marketing and acquisition strategy for both microlancers and buyers. We use digital services from companies like Google, who have had a hands-on-approach from the outset, offering invaluable insights to converting traffic, particularly in Arabic. We use social advertising as well and have built a really active community that seems to get our brand.
Like any startup, we are learning everyday and have the agility to pivot when we see something that works, even if it’s not coded into our strategy.
a) How long did it take to group freelancers?
We have built a community of over 10,000 microlancers in the last 7 months and we are growing 20%+ month on month.
b) What processes were in place to measure/qualify the level of expertise that these talents claimed they had?
We use a private and public review system based on machine learning that provides buyers with valuable insights about the quality of the microlancers across 4 key metrics. We are developing the platform on a continuous cycle and will introduce additional criteria and measurements over time.
6. Blockchain specialist and ICO web developers were first on your category list of microlancer community. Is this where demand is?
Blockchain and ICO services receive a lot of views on Maharati and we’ve had some genuine interest in coin exchanges and blockchain projects, primarily related to fintech and medtech. A few years ago these skills didn’t exist, so they are great examples of the reskilling process and how Maharati provides an online platform where these skills can be showcased and utilized for real-world scenarios.
7. What are the top 5 skills needed on a microlancer basis that you anticipate local companies in this region will ask for?
Based on our sales data, we are seeing strong interest in graphic design, video animation, translation services, app development, gaming and pretty much anything in the digital space. It will be exciting to see where the regional and global demand shifts, as we grow and technology continues to evolve with automation and AI.
8. Which microlancer categories does this service avail (juniors, seniors, mid-career, gender/males to females, etc..?)
When we founded Maharati, we wanted the platform to be fully inclusive and it’s certainly that! An online platform that protects people from the discrimination and biases that can be present in the traditional workplace. Everyone is equal. We encourage all types of skills as well, from the ultra-professional to the more leisure and lifestyle. We built the platform – you bring the skills!
9. What will your fees be in 2019?
For now, we don’t take any fees from our Microlancers. They work hard and deserve to take home what they earn. If we decide to move into another fee-based model, rest assured, it will be with this in mind.