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Fatima Moolla – Dynamic leadership producing results for incubator

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Fatima Moolla joined SmartXchange in 2015 as centre manager at the newly established branch in Port Shepstone. This branch was a game-changer for the organisation as its reach was expanded away from an urban area to a small town. 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. 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.

Fatima’s agility ensures that the SmartXchange’s support services are professionally executed by her team, which presents them with many opportunities to interact with aspirant entrepreneurs and innovators. The era of digitisation and the shift toward 4IR technologies has created opportunities for the development of innovative solutions that address challenges and provide solutions that are effective and ‘SMART’. These solutions include all spheres of human activities so that societies can benefit from improved processes, products and services.

Fatima says that working at SmartXchange and being part of the entrepreneurial 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. This is an ecosystem that is constantly evolving, providing opportunities to interact with people and communities and ultimately supporting new developments that will lead to the growth and sustainability of previously marginalised sectors of society.

“I get super excited as I see the growth and development of our startups during our 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 – an optimisation of delivery loads; Eazi Health ID – a 360-degree medical app that manages patients’ records, bookings, referrals etc.; Smart Bee Hive Management – uses technology to manage the ‘well-being’ and harvesting of a beehive and SA Smart Film Art – a platform promoting local film content.

Fatima admits that this job comes with challenges whilst the opportunities encourage her to persevere. The accessibility of cheap, reliable internet connectivity is a major challenge 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.

The incubation of a company that provides internet connectivity to township and rural areas using the concept of Television White Spaces (TVWS) provided much excitement. This technology means that previously disadvantaged and inaccessible communities have an opportunity to digitise their products and services while the democratisation of technology and enabling the transfer of knowledge is contributed to.

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 the KwaMashu Digital Hub.

Fatima says that the Digital Hub in KwaMashu has created a strategic link to the township economy and that 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. They are also addressing problems around domestic and industrial waste, crime and the lack of technology in early childhood centres.

Fatima says that all their cocreation projects are focused on the integration of youth, women and people with physical challenges as the economic empowerment opportunities, within these groups, is miniscule when compared to the demands and expectations of these groupings. These engagements invariably result in measurable outcomes and impactful results within the communities.

An incubator like SmartXchange can be regarded as a repository of resources and information that will enable small business to grow and innovations to develop as we provide the foundation and enabling resources for ideation, development, commercialization and growth. “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 SMMEs often keeps we awake, to enable my dreams of growing both rural and township economies to become a reality,” concluded Fatima.


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