If you are one of those people who venture online to search for property, whether it is for rental or buying, I am sure you have bumped into BuyRentKenya.com. This is because it appears as the first results of Google search for anyone who is looking for houses online in Kenya.
This is the brainchild of Jamie Pujara, the current President of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Kenya.
Jamie Pujara is the co-founder of BuyRentKenya, a property platform that connects agents and developers with buyers and renters conveniently online.
It is one of the largest online real estate community of buyers, sellers, renters, brokers, and developers, providing visitors with comprehensive search facilities covering residential and commercial properties.
Founded in 2012, BuyRentKenya has grown to become the number one trusted property platform attracting over 5 million visitors and partnered with over 500 agencies. The site has served over $10 billion worth of property in sales and rentals and listed over 50,000 properties online becoming the largest player in the market. In 2014, BuyRentKenya was recognized as the best Internet Marketing Portal in East Africa by the East African Property Awards among other recognitions.
In 2017, BuyRentKenya was fully acquired by Ringier One Africa Media for an undisclosed sum.
A graduate of University of Warwick Business School, Jamie Pujara has not only been selected by Business Daily Africa as one of the Top 40 Men Under 40 in 2014 but has also been selected by Forbes as one the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa two years in row – 2016 & 2017.
Here is our one on one interview with Jamie to find out how he started and built one of the largest online platforms for properties in East Africa.
Tell us more about your background, family, and education,
I was in born in Nairobi; my parents who were both born in Mombasa are of Chinese and Indian descent. I studied here until High School, and then I left to the UK where I attended the University of Warwick. After university, I worked for a couple of years in Tokyo and New York before coming back to Kenya in 2008.
You have built the top leading online property from ground to exit, what inspired and how did you start BuyRentKenya
It was totally by accident. There are two key moments that come to mind. The first being that when I moved from NYC to Kenya, I moved in with my parents and when I started looking for my own place, I realized how frustrating it was. This was around 2008 and so it was very different, everything was in magazines or newspapers and you had to call someone to explain to them what you want, meet them, pay them and most of the time they would show you things that were not relevant to your search. The second point was in 2011, my friend and co-founder Nicolas Adamjee was visiting Kenya and he was interested in the Real Estate space and again there was a lack of information. We had a coffee at Art Caffe and pretty much decided we were going to start the website.
So in 2012, we launched BuyRentKenya in 2012 with a capital of about $20,000 and at our highest point, we had a team of 30.
What factors have influenced your growth over the years you have been active?
Time and Trust are the main ones. When I started using the internet to do things, I was still very new. People were very sceptical about buying things online. Fast forward to today and it’s a very different outlook people are much more comfortable in the online process.
What really informed your decision to sell the business?
I think it was the right moment to give the company the best opportunity to grow to the next level. We are pleased that BRK will be fully integrated into ROAM. We believe with their leadership, expertise, and experience, they will take a giant stride forward in realizing our vision of making property search and listing easier and more transparent in Kenya.
In addition to the Presidency of EO, what are your future plans?
The EO Presidency is only for one term. EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) is an organization that I’m extremely passionate about and has helped me grow as an individual in both my personal and professional capacity. I’m currently consulting for early-stage startups while I look forward to starting my next venture.
What general and leadership advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneur’s especially young people who are venturing into entrepreneurship?
First, I would say, be clear and stay focused on the problem you are solving. I see, and I have been myself guilty of in the past, of trying to do too much. Being clear and focused on the problem you are solving is invaluable. Secondly, treat your team like family, and always look to hire people who are smarter than you.
Lastly, I use a lot of lists. As an entrepreneur, you, have many sleepless nights where your mind is always racing. I always keep a pen and paper near me so I can write down things that are on my mind.
Do you wisely consume your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?
One of the things I do is I make sure I make time for things outside of work. I try to keep that balance in my life between work, self, and family. It’s easy to get consumed by work and forget about those closest around you or to sacrifice your own health so I try really hard to keep that part of my life balanced.
Do you think being an entrepreneur has turned you into a better person? How?
I don’t know if I would say better, but for sure it’s made me grow. I look around and see if there are problems I can solve. I am more self-aware and I know my strengths and weaknesses better than I did before.