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Stellenbosch Entrepreneur of the Month (May 2021)

By 6th May 2021June 29th, 2021Entrepreneur of the Month
MTalks Marvelous Matlou

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Marvelous Matlou isn’t just connecting businesses with communities – he’s also giving residents meaningful employment.

To many, South Africa’s enduring struggle with widespread unemployment seems insurmountable – but not to Marvelous Matlou. As the founder and CEO of MTalks, he’s a man on a mission to create work opportunities for people living in communities that are worst afflicted.

Officially launched in 2019, MTalks creates jobs for people in rural and informal communities by helping businesses access new markets and the consumers within them.

“To give you the elevator pitch, businesses come to us for help when they want to expand into a new area or community, especially those located in rural and informal areas. We guide them by collecting data and information from the community. This data is then used to ensure that their product or service is able to best reach the consumer,” explains Marvelous.

“Our aim is to make it easier to engage with people in traditionally hard-to-reach areas. So, for businesses selling products, we help them reach new consumers in underserved communities. And for consumers in these communities, we help them secure employment opportunities from these same businesses.”

MTalks makes it easier to engage with people in traditionally hard-to-reach areas.

Connecting the dots

Marvelous explains that, by drawing on the knowledge and networks held by residents, they’re able to imbue their data with necessary context.

“Locals have unique insight into and understanding of their community; this means that they’re able to share nuances which outsiders might not pick up on. We recognise this advantage – but rather than simply exploit it, we see it as an opportunity to reinvest into the community by giving the people from these areas a chance to find work, expand their knowledge, hone their skills, and earn an income from it all.”

He says that, when approached by a client, he and the team break down the job requirements into various tasks. These are then allocated to several workgroups made up of locals, who are assigned tasks based on their skills and the needs of the client.

“Every task has a cost attached to it. Once a team completes a task, they get paid. This way, we simultaneously ensure that our clients get good service, and that our workers are reimbursed in an ongoing and timely manner.”

Undoing unemployment

By hiring people from rural and informal communities, MTalks has become a vital means of counteracting unemployment in areas where opportunities are limited and interventions slim. For Marvelous, the need to provide both is a desire born out of faith and experience.

“I’m a strong believer in Jesus Christ, and I feel that this is what really made me more attentive to people’s needs. I first began exploring ways of really helping people when I was at university, starting with a business that tried to extend Wi-Fi coverage to areas with limited connectivity. Students who lived in these communities were still expected to complete work that required access to the internet, but without any of the infrastructure or support afforded to students in more affluent areas.”

After university, Marvelous continued pursuing his passion for uplifting communities by first partnering with Remonne Modisakeng (from Teambix) to develop an Uber platform for minibus taxis, and then working alongside Dale Simons (from MiDO Technologies), where he helped educate people about technology. And it’s from here that MTalks evolved.

“At the time, we were working with the City of Cape Town to teach people about the use of minibus taxis and the commuting industry. But as things progressed and as our programmes started to expand, I realised that there was an opportunity to combine the training and service delivery aspects into one company; one that could provide training for people looking for work, and real-world insights into specific challenges for businesses.”

Expansion across South Africa

Since then, Marvelous has worked tirelessly to grow the company to a national level but says that changes in the economy and the impact of COVID-19 have complicated matters.

Marvelous Matlou, founder and CEO of MTalks, with Masa Ntsondo, in front of the inaugural Digital Hub based in a communal space in Kayamandi. Masa helps to run the Kayamandi Digital Hub. Marvelous and the team are currently looking for funders to help them expand their operations into other parts of the country. (Photos by: Lizelle Lotter)

“We’re now looking at establishing MTalks Hubs in rural and township communities across South Africa. These are spaces where people can learn more about technology and use the skills they acquire to cater to clients in the larger world. At the same time, these spaces will become key community distribution hubs for clients.”

So far, he and the team have launched an inaugural Hub in a communal space in Kayamandi but are looking for funders to help them expand into various parts of the country. By growing their capacity and presence, MTalks aims to develop better skills, engage in more sustainable projects, and provide community talent to bigger clients like Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

“This will be a challenging process, but at the end of the day, we’ll be able to connect more communities with bigger businesses and create ample opportunities for employment for all. This makes it all worthwhile,” concludes Marvelous.

To learn more about Marvelous and the work being done at MTalks, visit their website