New look shifts focus to frontline workforces
South African fintech company, SmartWage, known for pioneering the ‘on-demand pay’ model in South Africa has rebranded. The new brand aims to re-establish the company’s commitment to making HR and Payroll easier for companies with deskless employees.
Now called Jem, the organisation helps employees take advances without getting into a payday debt cycle. This comes off the back of accelerated company growth, an evolving product line and a renewal of their ambitious vision.
Simon Ellis, Co-Founder and CEO of Jem said: “We gave ourselves the literal name ‘SmartWage’ when our core focus was on our on-demand pay product, but after listening closely to our customers for the past two years, we realised that there was a need for so many other HR and Payroll products that satisfied the unique needs of companies with frontline employees. So we built those products – like our Payslips system which lets you send payslips to employees over WhatsApp. Our product range and ambitions outgrew the SmartWage brand. We needed a name that could reflect both who we are today and our long term vision.”
Jem was founded in May 2020 by Simon Ellis and Caroline van der Merve. They started out offering financial wellness products to employers, including on-demand pay and financial education, and now give employers the ability to do much more. Over the past 12 months, Jem has cemented its status as the market leader for HR and Payroll Systems for companies with deskless employees. It has grown exponentially, with an eight-times increase in its user base and companies like KFC, Edgars, Defy Appliances, Mukuru, and Twizza are using their systems. This growth is a clear indicator that companies of all sizes with deskless employees are starting to acknowledge that enterprise software built for office-based employees does not suit the needs of their deskless workforces.
Caro van der Merwe, Co-Founder and COO commented: “In the world of HR, most processes are still done manually. Existing software like SAGE, Workday and Oracle are missing the ‘last mile’ of HR: connecting with deskless and distributed workers. What we see is that day-to-day, most large companies that employ deskless workforces haven’t found a way to digitally communicate with their employees, so despite plenty of HR & Payroll software, much of their processes remain paper-based. If we can save employers time and money through digitisation, helping them communicate clearly, efficiently and dynamically with their employees we can add real value to their operations.”
The numbers tell the same story. 90% of deskless employees don’t have or don’t use email, but 97% of formally employed people in South Africa use WhatsApp. In a country where the majority of people have less than five apps on their phone, it makes sense to leverage an existing distribution channel to help employers automate many of their HR processes. This is the fundamental reason why Jem uses WhatsApp to send payslips, process leave requests, manage salary advances and communicate with frontline employees.
Simon explained the origin of the name: “Since announcing the rebrand the most common question has actually been around our name. The oldest form of long-distance communication is through drums. They were used for centuries to connect people in faraway communities. The most well-known ‘talking drum’ of them all is the Djembe. Our name comes from the middle of that word. Connecting the office with its faraway, deskless employees is at the heart of what we do, and our new name is a constant reminder of our purpose.”