Joshua Mutua is Co-founder CEO , KejaHunt and KejaMove. They are working to make finding and moving houses within Nairobi effortless, at least on the customer’s part. We sat down for a chat on the ever common con agent, the always challenging space rental sector in the city and what it takes to run a business like that.
I saw you moved focus beyond just finding rental houses.
KejaHunt helps you find spaces on a need basis; campsites, wedding grounds, furnished apartments. We moved to that from just finding apartments about two months ago. It was a quiet move. We formally announced the changes about a month ago.
We realized that once we find you a house, the next time you will come to us is when you need to move again. Which is a huge gap in terms of frequency of engagement . Whereas most people were coming back when, say, they were having a wedding and they wanted us to find wedding grounds for them. But it was not a service we offered at that point, so, we served a couple of clients just to see how that worked. Once we straightened that out, we made the announcement that we offer that as well.
Guys were asking if we could help them find office spaces. We moved into that as well. So, any kind of space you are looking for right now , we can help you find that.
You’ve actually found wedding grounds for some people?
In that one month, we have done about twenty wedding grounds. Furnished apartments and office spaces have been the most requested though.
Have you ever seen those handwritten posters those guys post all over Nairobi for nice apartments at really low prices? But, you never meet them face to face. That guy is a con man right?
That guy is a conman, yes.
What do you think of that?
At some point also, way before we started using KejaHunt, we tried using that guy. His prices are way off. Like he can tell you he can find you a one bedroom in Kilimani for about Ksh. 12000. If you live here, you know that is totally impossible. But then, once you start a conversation, they ask you to send some money so that you can meet at some point. We have never sent that guy some money but we have sent some other guys some money and then that is the last time we saw them.
Or, you send money, and you are basically not going to get a good house or a refund. It helped shape our service because right now, if we do not offer you a good service, we offer you a refund.
I am asking because I imagine it pays , because the guy is still doing that, there are guys who fall for it.
Yes, because when people are house hunting they are really desperate. Finding a house in Nairobi is hard. We get most of customers on the last week of the month. That tells you that people like the last minute rush and that is what the conmen capitalize on.
So, being gullible comes from the fact that people are desperate?
That is a good pointer Because I was about to ask to comment on the house hunting/moving behaviour of Nairobians.
People always wait till the last minute. At KejaMove and KejaHunt, we always get more customers towards the end of the month. That becomes a logistical challenge, but we are working around that by telling people to start looking for a house at least a month before you want to move. At least that way, you can also get the best spaces.
Which is the most outrageous or unbelievable con story you ever heard?
I heard it from one of our customers, actually last month. They had been shown a vacant house in Kileleshwa by those agents who work around estates. They were told to pay rent and two months deposit. The house was going for Ksh. 70 000. Plus rent, that totaled to Ksh. 210, 000. They were given an account number and they paid. When they went there the next day, they found it occupied. A new family who knew nothing about that particular agent had already moved in.
They had parked their stuff. We were moving them. We had gotten that business first through KejaMove. We had to find them a house the same day. Basically, with their stuff in the truck, we moved around and found another place for them.
That happens because the con agents could be working in cahoots with the security guards, right?
Most of them. I mean, the watchman knows the owner of the house. But they’ll never probably give you the contacts of the owners of the house, they will give you the contacts of the agent. Most agents want to keep the houses vacant because they keep earning money showing that house. Because once it is taken, then that is a lost revenue source for them.
What we’ve been doing is getting the really good agents and seeing if we can work with them and opening for them markets beyond what they have. Because normally, say there are 200 houses in their neighbourhood, that is what they work with. So, they try as much as possible to keep these houses vacant. But then we show that they can find someone a house on the side of Nairobi. We open up their horizons.
What is your exact policy on deposits if, let’s say, you do not find someone a house?
If we move around, look for a house for you and find absolutely nothing of what we had promised, we do a full refund. But if we find a couple of houses that you’ll probably like but for your own reasons you are not able to move, then we deduct the cost for our search and refund the rest. That is a promise we make. And that is a promise we keep. We make the refunds twice every month, 15th and 30th.
Tell me about KejaMove.
KejaMove is a home relocation company that helps our customers move houses without, of course, breaking or losing their stuff. If you have moved around Nairobi, you realize that, in almost every move that you make, you’ll either end up breaking stuff, or spending the whole day or sometimes part of the night moving. Or even losing stuff.
We noticed that problem because once we found people houses using KejaHunt, they’d have a problem when moving. When making the follow up call ,they’d tell us they moved yes, they love the new house, but they lost/broke something. We decided to solve that.
Do you insure the move?
What we do is connect them to insurance companies so that they insure the move, or we do that on their behalf. It is really cheap about Ksh. 1000 or Ksh. 2000.
Do you still do house listing?
We do not. We realized that you list a house today then it gets taken, then what will happen to somebody who has seen it and wants it as well? What we do is house hunt for you. You describe what you want, we go find that for you. If you look at the other property listing platforms, you find that they have a lot of stale content.
You have also listed house cleaning as the other type of service you offer. Is it currently on offer?
We offer that in a partnership with a company called hiredhelp.
When you started, a big part of your focus was on low cost housing. Do you still focus on that? And what has the experience been so far?
We started with a focus on low cost housing but then we realized that a big number of our users wanted high end housing. While our focus hasn’t shifted so much, we have moved up to any type of housing.
What is your plan for the future?
We see ourselves getting into adjacent markets as well. We got into housing, then into moving. I don’t know what our customers will tell us the next problem they experience after settling in the house is, but we see ourselves as providing solutions for lifestyle challenges across the board.
How has your experience been, raising capital?
We have not raised much money ourselves. Our policy has always been that we want to remain a customer funded business. I think those are best types of businesses; where you grow your revenue as you grow your customers. But yes, we have raised a bit of money here and there. We have raised a convertible note. We have raised an equity round, and we will probably do a small convertible going forward.
What do you think your advantage is over your competitors?
For KejaHunt, our advantage is that they have a lot of stale content. No stale content on our platform. For KejaMove, our competitors focus on the high end market. While we serve the high end market as well, our focus is the middle income segment.
Once every week, we sit down with a young person who has founded, or runs a business for a chat over breakfast. If you know someone, or are that someone, drop us a line at email@example.com and we shall get back to you.