Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector making up a vast majority of the businesses and job opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa, ensuring their survival is crucial to the continent’s economic recovery and growth post Covid-19.
Locally the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are suffering loss of revenue and trying to weather the Covid-19 pandemic. Financial experts argue that this is a huge financial blow that will be worse than 2007-2008 global recession. Many SMEs have, or will close down and not come back after the pandemic ends or stabilizes. Among those affected by pandemic impact is a real estate Start-Up-Jirani Home Limited .We spoke to Kelvin Njuguna co-founder of the company and what plans they have during this Covid-19 era.
How was business before Covid-19 pandemic in terms of revenue and clients?
The beginning of the 2020 was a great start for us since we had quite a good number of clients who were processing facilities like mortgages, others had ready finances to take up our various projects. I can say that we were looking at a great year by February but when the first case of Covid-19 was announced we started receiving cancellations from clients. As you know cash flow is the bloodline of any business and with the numerous client’s cancellations and business disruption brought by the virus, we are still monitoring the situation.
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Most businesses have cut cost in order to stay afloat, what have you done as an SME?
It’s obvious that for any business to stay afloat cash flow has to be constant and steady but with the current business environment brought by the Covid-19 as an SME we will require interest-free loans and other cash buffers to pay workers, rents and other statutory bills. As per now, we did have to carry out cost-cutting measures to stay afloat. We have minimized on office operations as well, employees work from home and this has helped us cut minimal but recurring costs like tea, internet, and office cleaning.
The pandemic has rewritten the way businesses are conducted from now on, what plans have you put in place to ensure that you seal through these tough times?
Most SMEs will require interest-free loans and a few cash to enable them to pay their workers, rents, and other statutory bills.
As a young start-up, we are still making baby steps and trying to learn from the best as we seek to plan and have necessary precautions that will even cater to our employees during such periods.
We are weighing the option of going for long term loans that will help us expand strategically without making losses. As for the employees we have advised them to join micro-financial institutions such as Saccos as a way of saving to have access to cheap loans that can boost their income.
Technology is the way to go, as a player within the real estate sector how are you embracing this new aspect?
In the 21st century technology and the internet of things or IoT is the new business trend. If you cannot adapt to the changes then you will be out of business, gone are the days when we will send proposals via the post office and wait for months for a reply, today I am in my office in Nairobi and I am talking to a client in Dubai, we are transacting business and within an hour we have closed the deal.
For us our business marketing model is purely digital-centric, people are consuming so much of digital content that as a business we cannot help but align ourselves.
We don’t just advertise we link our products to native advertising and leverage on the power of social media.
Your business model seems to target low-income earners, how are you ensuring that this category becomes homeowners?
For a very long time, a notion has been spread that homeowners are rich people but in reality, anyone with a stable income can own a home. At Jirani Homes we have a package whereby our customers can be able to own a home through our Jenga pole pole product that enables them to start the project and put the funds in use.
Bearing in mind that we purchase building materials in bulk from the manufacturers at a lower rate hence we pass the advantage to our clients.
The other thing we offer is that we handle projects from design, facilitate approvals, and construct the house for our client. After that, we also connect water, electricity, and land scalping.