Dr Musstanser Tinauli is a social entrepreneur with an unusual qualification; a PhD in the field of design. He has been a motivational speaker and has conducted several innovation camps. His work is aimed at creating sustainable, smarter and safer cities and communities. For the last year and a half, he has been working on a mobile app. Fori Mazdoori — or instant labour — was launched four months ago and allows labourers to connect with potential employers using social media.

The app was named among the top-15 startups at a startup conference in Istanbul and has won awards at home as well. Dawn spoke to Dr Tinauli and asked him about the app and his plans for its future.

Q: What is the idea behind the Fori Mazdoori app?

A: After my PhD, I worked in Norway for a number of years as an innovation manager. Whenever I would attend conferences on sustainable cities, everyone would always talk about how Asian cities are the future.

That inspired me to come back home to Pakistan and work towards making our cities safer and smarter. Here, I would see labourers sitting on street-corners hoping for someone to hire them and women who did not have any way of informing potential employers that they were looking for work. So I decided to develop this app with which we hope to change how labourers find work in South Asia.

Q: How does Fori Mazdoori work?

A: People search for the app and download it. Labourers are able to register themselves, add their work history and even a video pitch. Potential employees can search for the kind of worker they are looking for such as driver, electrician, plumber or maid and the profiles of workers in the area will show up. These workers will have peer ratings, customer satisfaction reports and friends in the network. After choosing the labourer they wish to hire, a call can be made.

Q: How can unlettered labourers use this app?

A: Registering those who are unable to read or write, is where volunteers come in. When I go to universities, I give talks and ask people to work with us as volunteers. These people then go with us to the field and register potential labourers. I encourage all your readers to also download the app and help register people around them. We are also working to develop an Urdu version of the app.

But in my experience, I have found that we underestimate the technological literacy of the man on the street. Everyone is using mobile phones and even smart phones. I was once in G-6, registering some taxi drivers on the app and a few minutes later, one of them pulled out our Facebook page on his smart phone and said, “Look sir, I found you on Facebook”.

We also are trying to make the app more visual with lots of icons so people can use it without being able to read as well as an SMS-based registration system.

Q: What has the response been so far and how are you planning to further develop this app?

A: So far, 250 calls have been made to labourers found through the app, close to 2,000 workers have been registered and over 1,000 people have downloaded the app. In the future we hope to make the app more user friendly, and smarter to help make the search for the best candidate simpler. We are looking at developing linkages with Nadra, police and the government.

We are currently talking to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, the Planning Commission and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Everyone is appreciating the app because it is a move towards formalising the informal sector. We are also hoping to engage more volunteers and celebrate through social media, those who help register over a hundred people on the app. Helping someone find work is better than charity. —By Shiza Malik

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2015

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