Having dappled with entrepreneurship in the form of opening restaurants and importing goods, in 2012 Jamie Pujara decided to turn to online business, and co-founded BuyRentKenya in a bid to facilitate property search in Kenya.
In an interview with Disrupt Africa, Pujara says the shortcomings of property search platforms in Kenya are “very evident”, prompting his confidence that a streamlined online classifieds site tailored to the Kenyan market can make a real difference.
“Ultimately it comes down to the vision that, we as a team believe, we can make property search easier. The difficulties of finding property in an quick and transparent manner are very evident and we were driven by the idea of having all the properties in one site where the end user could compare and easily get in touch with the seller or renter and get as much information possible before making a decision,” Pujara explains.
Conceding that the BuyRentKenya platform is still a work in progress, Pujara says this ideology behind the company is key to its development.
“Of course I’m very aware that there is still a long way to go and that property search in Kenya is still not perfect. But this core vision was and still is the drive and motivation behind BuyRentKenya. If you speak to any of our staff, it’s this fundamental concept of making a difference that inspires and engages us to strive further.”
Despite his modesty, BuyRentKenya has racked up a number of successes recently, securing funding from One Africa Media (OAM) in May this year, and hitting the 20,000 listing milestone – which Pujara lists as one of his favourite moments in the company’s progress so far.
So what impact did the OAM funding have on the company?
“The OAM deal was great on so many levels. Yes of course the money helped move us forward faster, but more importantly we got to work daily with more passionate people in the online classifieds space not only in Kenya but all over Africa. The ability to learn and share experiences with Private Property in Nigeria and South Africa for example has been really important for us. We now have a clearer understanding of the fundamentals that apply to all our property sites as well as appreciating what makes each of our countries unique in both the challenges and ingenuity,” Pujara says.
“Also the chance to work with the Justin Clark and the late Carey Eaton had a huge impact on our team and helped shape our company with the bigger picture of being part of the OAM team.”
For the forseeable future, Pujara says BuyRentKenya is not looking for further investment, but hopes to strengthen its services and market position with the team it currently has.
“At the moment we’re not looking for investors. We’re in a good place for now with really experienced shareholders and a strong team on the ground,” he said.
“I think there is still a lot to do in Kenya. Like I say it’s not lost on me that the site is not perfect. We need to work harder to provide a better user experience and form better partnerships with our agents to be able to provide the public the most comprehensive listings available,” Pujara said.
“After that of course regional expansion is something of great interest but I think it’s important to get to the right level of success here before we branch out.”
Asked how difficult it is to launch a business in Kenya, Pujara suggests the government and regulatory authorities could be doing more to make it easier for startups to launch; although he thinks the environment is largely conducive for investors to get involved, unlike other African countries.
“I think [supporting startups]is probably where the government could do more to help. There is always a lot of red tape when having to start out and a lot of taxes,” he said.
“I think the government should look more closely at this sector and see what can be done to create a more productive environment that encourages startups to flourish. We’ve seen some startups already leave Kenya and set up their base elsewhere, that to me is worrying and I feel government intervention could help prevent more cases like these.”
Pujara ends with some advice for budding entrepreneurs: “keep going”.
“Ultimately have a vision and keep going. The most important thing is to keep believing in yourself when no one else will. When it is easier to give up you need to keep pushing on,” he says.
“In order to do this you need to have a clear goal. I see a lot of startups that either don’t have a 5 year vision or don’t have a realistic one. Manage the expectations of what you can do and set yourself the small steps to reach there.”