Cheki began humbly but is growing into a mammoth business on the continent, and even bigger!
Carey Eaton is Co-Founder, One Africa Media and CEO of Cheki Africa Media. Cheki Africa media runs several online and mobile startups. Eaton today speaks how Cheki Africa Media will take over the continent’s classified market. The recent merge with PrivateProperty Holdings and Tiger Global Management is one of the fuel towards the firm’s move revolutionalise the African online classified’s scene.
Some History & Future
Carey Eaton says, “In the past, the biggest audience a car seller could reach was their neighbours, their friends, the people in their neighborhood but now a car seller in Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria can reach a huge population without having to travel there.”
Eaton says Cheki reflects the real market and allows all players to reach each other instantly in space and time.
He adds that there should be no car or car seller in the real market not on Cheki, there should be no car on Cheki not in the real market, and similarly for buyers even from the diaspora.
Cheki online classifieds are helping masses of people allover. He adds that the firm gets amazing stories from time to time of people from remote areas who sell their cars in a snap on Cheki but after trying to sell them for months without success.
Cheki is also serious on security. According to Eaton, 95 percent of the adverts on Cheki are posted by fully trained Cheki employees.
The online auto-classified does not use agents, or crowdsourced data and cars that people post directly, are never directly published but go to a moderation pool then posted after cross checking and receiving payments via M-Pesa, the Cheki staff post them.
Eaton ventured into the internet marketplace space since the late 1990’s, and as a 3rd generation Kenyan with close connectivity to home he kept a very close eye on things internet back home and when he knew fibre cables were coming back in 2008, he knew the timing was right.
He says, “I did a bit of work on what was going to be the easiest to execute and chose cars. Since it was easiest to get the ad volume, and there were a range of structural changes happening in the market that meant it was attractive. At the time I was working with SEEK which is the biggest jobs player globally, so did not go into jobs as that would have been a conflict of interest. Later once that conflict was no longer there, I had the opportunity to get involved in the jobs businesses, and being somewhat of a jobs expert, it would have been crazy not to get involved.”
Challenges Along The Way
But the walk is not as easy.
Eaton says in e-commerce, there are significant barriers in logistics and payments that make it hard -it is so hard for clients to turn from their mobile phone as they browse to log in into M-Pesa to pay for a good as they have to leave the site they are on to complete the transaction.
He says job boards are also not easy to run as the number of job seekers far outweighs the number of job ads and charging people for job ads doesn’t make sense as they can get them for free.
BrighterMonday and Jobberman charge employers not for the ads, but for the rapid filtering of candidates; the firms charge job seekers a low membership fee. But generally job boards are not as easy and BrighterMonday is set to launch a program to highlight job seekers at a fee in a few days.
Quitters Never Win
And though the going was tough, and instead of quitting Eaton got tougher.
Eaton says, “What I’ve loved about it is the chance to return home, the chance to really build a local product that solves local problems, competing against big international players that have tried to import foreign products that solve foreign problems.”
He adds that its still very early here in these markets and there are big challenges of educating car buyers and sellers, job seekers and employers about how powerful these marketplaces are for their businesses or the future of people’s lives and there are local peculiarities too, that require constant day to day problem solving and he quips how hard it is to run an internet marketplace where 40% of his customers have no electricity but he has kept going.
The Power Of Branding
Eaton adds that the Cheki car branding really works and has been their business driver.
The branding has helped the firm get to where it is now, with over 5000 cars on site and what he says scaring traffic to the website.Cheki has painted green the huge wall at Likoni Ferry, is active Facebook and the internet a lot. Has great alliances with firms like Standard, Home, Safaricom, Airtel and others and is also branding physical signs and online badges with links in partnership with its dealers.
Cheki also goes to every single Kenyan car dealer every week, remove sold cars and get up several others and the business is growing.
KSh 5 Billion Worth of Sold Cars Monthly
He says, “We know we’re removing about KShs5 billion worth of sold cars per month – about 5,000 cars a month being added to these streets of ours”
The billions are not as shocking as the survey figures.
Cheki in April 2012 began to survey car buyers in the country and found that 62 percent bought their car from their site and 88 percent of those who intend to buy a car in the next 6 months say they’ll use Cheki and though it is still a private consumer to consumer market, car dealers are also making money though Eaton laments lack of real wholesalers in the market and he adds that corporate car buying is also very limited – less than 5% of the market in cars.
And if you are into trucks like us, Eaton says Cheki is starting to make headway in that space.
Eaton is also happy that roads are being build in the country and across Across Africa and the 8 year limit on imported cars in Kenya is helping buyers get cars in good condition. The limit also ‘keeps the price and quality high for tax, and enables the government to have a fighting chance to keep pace with roads infrastructure.”
Cheki can be found mobile devices via its mobile site and on basic Ovi and Android apps which are owned by the majority in their markets in Nigeria and East Africa.
Word For Upstarters
To be successful in any business Eaton says one ” needs attention to detail so as people trust you as the car business is not that transparent a business, where there is risk for buyers and sellers,” but the firm has invested in security, application firewalls, and a whole bunch of other mechanisms to eliminate marketplace risk for our customers.
At just Ksh 750/- per ad for private sellers and dealers at Ksh 20,000/- a month for unlimited ads and service with volume discounts and Ksh 5,000/- for upcoming dealers, Cheki is establishing itself as a reputable car classified portal for Africa, with operations in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Eaton says the site sells about 5,000 cars a month and 300-400 a week and even higher during December.
Cheki also sells car insurance and car finance leads www.cheki.co.ke/insurance and have a Top of the List product, where one can feature their ad at the top of the list for all searches on a particular make and model (eg Toyota Premio) for KShs 3,000/- a week among others.
A Half A Billion Market
According to him the African market is massive, with over 400 million people compared to Australia’s 20 million where a team he admires, CarSales.com.au have built a $1 billion from scratch.
Eaton adds that though car ownership and affordability are totally different, Cheki is intending to be Africa’s largest online business. There is no magic, Eaton says, ” We ‘re very focused on building a strong consumer brand. Our strategy is to be visible everywhere people are looking to buy cars. I think the most innovative things we’ve done is the Cheki cars themselves which people love.