Centre Manager SmartXchange Port Shepstone
Fatima Moolla is one of the KZN South Coast’s leading businesswomen. She has completed a B. Com (Accounting and Economics), PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education), an MBA, as well as a certificate in Incubation Governance and Management.
As a child growing up in a business-oriented family, Fatima developed her astute business sense from a very young age by observing and working alongside her parents in their family-owned businesses. Their mentorship and guidance provided the platform for her to pursue her dreams to succeed in business.
Before joining the business world, Fatima was a teacher at Port Shepstone Secondary for eight years. However, the desire to take up a new challenge and a sense of a ‘calling’ saw her joining SmartXchange in 2015 as centre manager at the newly established branch in Port Shepstone. Fatima’s dynamic leadership produced amazing results as the Port Shepstone incubator grew beyond expectations and exceeded its three-year targets within the first year. This success, says Fatima, was ‘awesome’ as she was concerned that they would not be able to get the type of incubates and businesses that SmartXchange was looking for in a small town.
The incubator has received local recognition by winning the Port Shepstone Mayoral Award twice since inception and contributed to the overall recognition of SmartXchange as a provincial and national leader in the incubation ecosystem. The success at Port Shepstone served as a stimulus to establish a township Digital Hub in KwaMashu with further replication plans on expanding into rural areas.
Rewarding beyond expectation
Fatima says that working at SmartXchange and being part of the entrepreneurial and innovative journey, supporting and contributing towards the success of a small business or the development of an innovation has rewards that are far beyond any expectation.
“I get super excited to see the growth and development of our start-ups during our coaching, mentoring and business development sessions. I am proud to announce that four innovations, which are currently being commercialised, were developed at Port Shepstone.” Innovate Logistics is an optimisation of delivery loads; Eazi Health ID is a 360-degree medical app that manages patients’ records, bookings, referrals etc., Smart Beehive Management uses technology to manage the harvesting and well-being of a beehive and SA Smart Film Art is a platform promoting and linking local producers, scriptwriters, actors and aspirant filmmakers.
Fatima admits that while this job comes with its fair share of challenges, the opportunities encourage her to persevere and draw on her own strengths. “I prefer to look at myself as someone who stands alone, who believes in what she does and who goes out there and does it.” She adds that she does not have the space for the male/female argument or agenda in her life. Fatima prefers to see projects as team directed rather than focusing on individual differences.
Building prosperous communities
In reflecting on the general challenges her ecosystem faces, Fatima says, “The accessibility of cheap, reliable internet connectivity is still one of our major challenges in township and rural areas as we strive to build communities and societies that can prosper through fair and equitable access to information, data and resources. It was exciting for our team when we onboarded a company that provides internet connectivity to township and rural areas using the concept of Television White Spaces (TVWS). The roll out of this technology means that previously disadvantaged and inaccessible communities now have an opportunity to digitise their products and services enabling the democratisation of technology and transfer of knowledge.”
With her experience in setting up the Port Shepstone SmartXchange Incubator, Fatima was given the opportunity to lead the establishment of the Living Labs, funded by the National Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), in KwaMashu. This project presented the opportunity of incorporating the Living Labs within the SmartXchange KwaMashu Digital Hub. One of her current goals is to see the KwaMashu centre completely functional.
The Digital Hub in KwaMashu has created a strategic link to the township economy and her team is now working on co-creation projects with their stakeholders and township communities to address the challenges faced by a lack of digitisation of local businesses and also problems around domestic and industrial waste, crime and the lack of technology in early childhood centres. All the co-creation projects are focused on the integration of youth, women, and people with physical challenges as the economic empowerment opportunities within these groups is miniscule.
Fatima says, “I am blessed to be part of an organisation that is constantly evolving. My opportunities to learn and grow have increased exponentially as we embrace the 4IR and my passion to explore new opportunities for our SMME’s often keeps me awake, feeding my dreams of growing both rural and township economies to become a reality.”
Creating positive change
In the future, Fatima would like to use her knowledge in the education space to develop innovations and systems that would allow our education system to function better to be meaningful and impactful. “We need to develop our young people to meet the needs of their generation and of the future, to create positive change,” she says.
In advising other women, Fatima says, “Firstly, I would like women to educate themselves holistically to develop as innovators, leaders and globally recognised persona. The spectrum of education is infinite and there is so much you can learn at different levels. Once you have the empowerment of education, follow your passions and chase your dreams. It is your life, and you have to write your own story.”
In her personal capacity Fatima serves on the executive of an organisation called Sisters for Humanity (S4H). Their core focus is providing relief to impoverished societies wherever they may be. This is achieved through intensive fundraising within our networks and communities. “The impacts achieved give us joy, and adds meaning to life as well,” concludes Fatima.