Helping Malagasy coders go global
Just to clarify from the outset: we don’t enjoy writing about macroeconomic numbers; they don’t really say a lot about real life. But if you want to found a business in Madagascar and happen to take a look at these large numbers anyway, the picture they paint is not pretty. According to gross national product, Madagascar numbers among the poorest countries in the world and around half the population has to get by on less than 1 US dollar a day. Additionally Madagascar does not rank very well on the “ease of doing business index”: founding a business is really not easy in the least.
Yet almost 1,000 new companies are registered in Madagascar every year! And they all want to grow. Since the domestic economy is not the greatest market, a small start-up has come up with an idea: Why not directly access the large industrial markets? The time difference between Madagascar and Europe is fairly small and the Internet and age of technology have reduced spatial distance to a non-issue. Language, though, is still a problem. And that’s what this start-up is all about.
Drongo Translation Services is headquartered in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital. CEO and founder Andry Ravololonjatovo has an ambitious goal: “to help Madagascar’s local businesses go global.“ Translations from Malagasy into English and French and the reverse, from French and English into Malagasy, give local companies the ability to access global markets. “We prioritize globalization of the local over localization of the global,“ Andry explains, “because we dream of inverting the predominant logic where developing countries would always be followers.“
Drongo’s focus is on promoting IT start-ups. Andry sees great potential in the branch: “We believe that the future of Madagascar lies in new technologies. Malagasy coders are pretty good and have the capacity to compete on the global scene.“ So the Drongo office is in the Habaka innovation hub; a co-working space hosting many of the country’s IT start-ups. Customers from other branches are welcome too, of course.
Creative pricing is what makes Drongo so special: The sliding scale is a clear reflection of the small company’s goals that go well beyond the bottom line. Hatching and growing businesses get considerable rebates, and convincing NGOs can even get translations for free. Large multinational corporations, on the other hand, have to pay full price.
“We seek to revalue the competencies of Malagasy young linguists by creating jobs“, explains founder Andry. “And we want to foster a climate of trust in the field of online jobs. Online jobs have long been disregarded by Malagasy young people as they often get cheated and unpaid, most of the online employers being obscure and illicit offshore companies. Drongo is local, legal, and physically reachable.“
Drongo’s partners include the local organiser of the world-famous TED Conferences, TEDxAntananarivo. Andry would also welcome other partners: “We started small but think big, and we are open to suggestions of partnership.“