BEIRUT: Unemployment has reached a high rate in Lebanon, and several initiatives have come forward with the aim of alleviating this crisis. These include groups on social media, radio and TV talk shows, and, more recently, a matchmaker mobile app that connects “gig” seekers with people willing to hire them. This app is called Ashghali.
“Ashghali is a marketplace that links professionals with clients,” 22-year-old Marc Ibrahim, a recent AUB graduate and co-founder and CEO of Ashghali startup, told Annahar.
“If you’re looking for verified professionals who possess certain skills, such as photographers, writers, DJs, cleaners, personal trainers and others, our job is to connect you to them and show you the most highly-rated professionals on our app,” he added.
Ashghali launched in April this year and has since amassed more than 5000 unique users eager to get employed for gigs (small quick tasks that are uploaded on the platform) or to hire people for them. Its aim is to fight unemployment in Lebanon.
Ashghali works by breaking down job titles that the user is looking for into smaller, more specialized tasks. For example, it breaks down the task of writing into “translator,” “blog writers,” “resumes writing,” and “editing/proofreading,” It’s available on both iOS and Android.
The gig economy
Ashghali started as the final year project of Ibrahim and his co-founder and CTO Joseph Hajjar. They ended up winning the $5000 cash prize of the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) competition.
“Joseph and I just graduated, and unlike other students, we chose not to leave the country, because we think that despite the difficult economic crisis that the country is facing, there is hope in the youth of Lebanon—specifically when it comes to the gig economy,” Ibrahim said.
A report published by Deloitte earlier in 2017 about the future of work and the workforce states that the gig economy, defined as “a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements,” is on the rise globally. This has led major professional players like Ernst &Young to dip their toes in the Middle East and launch their own online talent recruitment platform there.
“Unemployment is on the rise and people are turning to freelance jobs,” Ibrahim explains in a matter-of-fact tone. “The main problem freelancers face is finding and locating clients, so we help them do that,” he added.
"The main difference between us and other major players in the field (Freelancer.com or Upwork) is that we’re local,” Ibrahim pointed out.
Perhaps what also distinguishes Ashghali is that they use a referral reward system, whereby users receive $0.2 if they invite a friend to sign up for the platform, and $1.5 if this friend posts a task on Ashghali. They can cash out when their account reaches $20. This, explains Ibrahim, is a huge incentive for users.
Ashghali now has around 20-25 tasks posted weekly on its platform and is currently located in the AUB Innovation Park in Beirut Digital District (BDD).
They’re also in talks with investors to raise their first round. “We plan to expand our reach to new users in Lebanon and to spend more on marketing,” Ibrahim told Annahar.
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