Sunday, August 12, 2012

Young Billionaire Launches Mara.com, Africa’s First Online Mentorship Network

 
Ashish.Thakkar Ugandan billionaire and CEO of Mara Group, Ashish J. Thakkar has launched Mara.com, Africa’s first multi-lingual online portal for youth mentorship and entrepreneurship.

The mentorship network is an offshoot project of the Mara Foundation, one of Africa’s largest non-profit social enterprises.  The foundation lends support to emerging African entrepreneurs at the forefront of their journey.
Mara Online will be the continent’s first online mentorship network, and will connect young African entrepreneurs to established enterprises and businessmen.  According to Thakkar, Mara.com will be a transformational project and will nurture an ecosystem for African entrepreneurs and youth while improving skills and emerging talent.
“The idea for the Mara Mentors site started as an offline venture by Mara Foundation. We mentored 120 companies but felt we could have more impact and reach more people across Africa and other emerging markets. Through this initiative we want to share knowledge and expertise with the next generation of business leaders in Africa. The mentees will be given guidance by some of the brightest and best minds in the industry who have already volunteered to be mentors,” he added.

The Mara.com platform will have three dimensions to it: Mentorship, Jobs and Dating.
Mara Mentors will put young African users in touch with established and successful entrepreneurs across Africa. These mentors will offer insight, expertise and experience into a wide spectrum of industries. They also provide mentees on the network with access to networks and will transfer knowledge and experience to up comers in order to help them transform ideas into sustainable enterprises. At their own discretion, the mentors can at some point opt to meet physically with the mentees and provide support with funding and infrastructure.

Mara Jobs on the other hand will provide a user-friendly platform for employers and prospective employees across Africa to post jobs and resumes, promoting careers and employment opportunities across all industries.

Commenting on the Mara Jobs platform, Thakkar said: “With more than 5,000 people employed across Mara Groups companies, we understand the difficulties of the hiring process in Africa today. We want to use the knowledge we have gained and give the employers and the job seekers a better user experience”

The third platform, Mara Dating will help young Africans find love and companionship. However, according to the Mara.com team, access to Mara Dating will only be possible after registering with Mara Mentors or Mara Jobs, thus attracting a wide spectrum of youth and inspiring a next generation of African entrepreneurship.

Mara.com is being developed by designers and programmers in Silicon Valley, Bangalore, London, Dubai and a few cities in Africa. The network  will be  free to all users, but its complementary jobs and dating sites will  be monetized using  third party advertising and other revenue generating models to support the platform.

In addition, revenue generated from Mara.com will be channelledtowards financing the group’s other social enterprise initiatives such as the Mara Launchpad (a group of business incubation centers across Africa), Mara Launch Funds (which provides small startup funding for small businesses and startups across Africa), which were launched last month, and the Mara Entrepreneurship Academy.
According to Thakkar, Mara.com will kickstart innovative activities. Considering Africa’s transit from personal computers to smart phones, Mara.com will be based on mobile and feature phones to fully get adopted by its target audience.

“With Mara.com, I want to ensure that other successful African business leaders have a platform to groom and support young African leaders,” Ashish added.

Mara.com is currently launching in Nigeria, but the platform set to go live globally in December.
Source:VA