How this Nigerian startup is providing tech-enabled serviced homes to travellers

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Nigerian startup Gidanka is providing serviced homes of varying orientation in carefully selected neighborhoods to travellers via an entirely automated check-in and check-out process and a tech-enabled management platform.

Launched last July, Gidanka works with local developers and realtors to design and take out long leases on spaces in neighbourhoods determined to be travellers and tourist preferences.

Each of its living spaces, whether a studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, duplex or terrace, are uniquely designed to adapt the vibe of the surrounding neighbourhoods. They are fully-serviced, uniquely furnished and highly functional living spaces, with no two serviced homes the same.

Gidanka then applies tech to ensure smooth running of its homes. Travellers simply visit the website, select their preferred city and space, and make payment. Once a booking is confirmed, they receive an email and SMS notification of their door access code, and exact location of the space. Check-in is therefore automated, and Gidanka also leverages technology during the stay.

Guests simply use WhatsApp to make requests for services like housekeeping, laundry and maintenance, which are fed into its backend system and automatically processed through notifications to third party service providers.

“The idea of Gidanka is to deliver the best of hospitality to travellers in preferred neighborhoods across cityscapes, which means fusing the best of hotel services with the best aspect of personal home experiences,” Olajide Abiola, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Gidanka, told Disrupt Africa.

Abiola said the changing appetite, behaviours and preferences of millennial and Generation Z travellers had created gaps in the short, medium and long term accommodation rentals market. 

“They want the best part of the traditional hotel and the best part of a home as it relates to privacy and functionality. As a regular traveller and user of home sharing and short term home rental services as Airbnb and Booking.com, as both guest and host in a number of countries and continent, the gaps in the short and medium term home rentals became clearer through documented observation, data collection and qualitative and quantitative feedback,” he said. 

“As someone who gets fascinated by interior design and how it intersects with amenities to deliver quality home functions, every time I travel to another city I always return home to experiment with implementing new designs in my home.”

In June 2019, he took out a lease on a space through a friend and associate, who was a realtor. 

“I got it redesigned and fitted out as a studio space, and installed an electronic door lock and solar inverter system for continuous power supply. Within four days of putting the photos up on my WhatsApp status, the place was booked for a 45-day duration,” said Abiola. 

“After two months, one of my staff at my fintech company needed to move. I told her I would volunteer to take her round the city of Abuja in search of good flats. In the course of driving around the city, we came to a neighbourhood where some beautifully-built flats had just been completed. I turned to her immediately in excitement, saying “this will be a well sought after neighbourhood for visitors and travelers”. I approached the developers and informed my friend and associate to negotiate a lease for two of the flats. After over a month, we got a deal. The flats were uniquely decorated, fitted with electronic access and also backup power installed. Within 8 days, it was occupied through a simple listing on Airbnb. It earned me SuperHost status within about 4 months. The average occupancy rate was 90 per cent.”

All of this persuaded Abiola and his friend to formally launch a business, which they named Gidanka, which is a Hausa word for “your home”. It launched in Abuja in July, and now runs 30 uniquely-designed serviced homes in five neighbourhoods across the city. Abiola said he hopes to grow this into 200 spaces within the next nine months, while planning to expand into other cities across Nigeria and Africa within the next two years.

“There has been steady uptake and about 30 per cent month-on-month growth since January, when an additional 28 space units were added. The revenue is steady, ticking up and good. Seventy-five per cent of debt raised has been repaid. That is how viably we have been able to drive the business,” he said.

The COVID-19 crisis and associated travel bans have of course impacted upon the startup’s operations, but Abiola is not too concerned. Gidanka secured US$500,000 in seed funding last August, and has achieved 75 per cent occupancy rates. 

“Interestingly, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, our spaces have seen steady occupancy as a result of the service reputation earned within the short period,” Abiola said.

Revenues are made from nightly, weekly and monthly room rates, with Abiola saying the startup will be cashflow positive before the fourth quarter of the year even in the face of COVID-19.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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