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Johannesburg based company The Convergence Group recently reached the top ten finals of the international “e-biz challenge” hosted by the Dubai Internet City under the auspices of the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum. The project’s aim was to attract the best e-business projects in the world to Dubai in line with its view to becoming the IT hub of the world.

The competition attracted 1385 entries from 35 countries of which 154 were shortlisted and 24 proceeded to the semi-finals.

Convergence Group's board of Directors from left to right :

Nisaar A Pangarker - Director Strategy & Finance, Morris Garda - Director Operations, Hamza Farooqui Group Chairman & CEO, Imtiaz Patel - Director New Media.

The 24 teams were from the UAE, India, USA, Australia, Lebanon, Egypt, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and South Africa. The Convergence Group was the only team from SA to reach the semi-finals and subsequently reached the top ten finals.

The adjudicators were a high-profile team of experts from all over the world, and included investment bankers, IT professionals, CEO’s, and government officials.

The Convergence Group is headed by the 18 year old CEO, Hamza Farooqui from Johannesburg. Hamza started a cricket portal, icricketer.com at the age of 12 with the vision of building a cricket site rich in exclusive content. “Today we have 22 journalists from all over the world feeding exclusive cricketing content onto the site. We rarely use agency feeds. All our content is provided by our exclusive team of journalists who report from wherever the game is played. Right now we have an exclusive feature written by former Pakistani captain Waseem Akram.

Icricketer.com has evolved from being just a cricket site to being a cricket portal now supplying cricketing news and information to other platforms such as television, radio, and other online media. We have also developed our own technology enabling us to provide content to cellphones, electronic billboards, bleepers and other electronic devices says Hamza.

It was a great experience being part of the competition. We met with the team that evaluated our business proposal and had excellent networking sessions with incubators, angel investors, and venture capitalists. Our final presentation to the jury was the climax of the week long programme. We had exactly thirty minutes to present and 15 minutes for questions.

Reaching the semi-finals in itself was a feat, as there were stiff competition from the other teams. Our whole team was elated when our group was announced as one of the ten finalists.

Cape Town based director of the Convergence Group in charge of group strategy and finance, Nisaar Pangarker said that notwithstanding the past, this was evidence that South Africa has the ability to produce world class businesses. On meeting and networking with the other teams in Dubai you realise that the isolation of SA business is over. On a level playing field, if you have the right idea governed by sound business principles and technical skill that the industry demands, the funds will automatically find you.

“At the Convergence Group our mission is to provide quality content to focussed communities on multiple platforms. The global theme in IT is that of convergence, which was evidenced by the recent Time Warner / AOL merger. You can now surf the net off your tv, or watch tv on your pc, and there is greater interactivity. The Convergence Group is positioned to become a serious player in this industry. We aim to own or have significant control over the actual distribution platforms for our content. says Nisaar.

“We now have six years of online experience with icricketer.com and the formula to replicate the success of this model to other genres. In that line we have acquired a significant stake in Channel Islam, the worlds first global Muslim Audio service broadcasting on the WorldSpace satellite service which has the capacity to reach 4,8 billion people worldwide. We have a long standing relationship with WorldSpace and we believe that there are tremendous synergies between our online activity and expertise and this service says Imtiaz Patel, director responsible for new media.

“It will be a pleasure moving the group to Dubai given its proximity to the cricket audiences worldwide. Currently we have approximately 6 million impressions on icricketer.com per month and we foresee this growing threefold after moving the unit to Dubai. Dubai Internet City has a first class telecoms infrastructure which runs off a fibre-optic backbone, needless to say what this does to connections speeds and efficiencies. says Ismail Morris Garda, a National Selector of the SA cricket team and also a director of the group.

It has been a long walk for six years, but Farooqui believes In the search for excellence there is no compromise and finish line.

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