Sam Majani, the founder and CEO said,”Just three months ago I was sitting in the office with only one writer after all my editorial staff were poached! Today we have nearly doubled or traffic since, to become the first blog in Kenya to clock 2 million readers!”
Ghafla would have closed shop when all its writers were poached to Radio Africa outfit but Majani moved door to door until he hired a whole new team which he says has been intrumental for this growth. He also remembers the dear move from a lyrics site to gossip publishing, a move he had rejected several times until his investors added the push.
“Well initially Ghafla started off as a lyrics site. I thought lyrics was a big unfilled gap in local content online. We did lyrics for four months till about February. The whole time, my investors had been begging me to switch to news. I was adamant about lyrics, and it was only when Nikolai Barnwell from 88mph came to our Nailab office and staged a sit in protest that I buckled. He said he wasn’t going to leave my desk till I created a news section! By the way he was red in the face when telling me this! ”
So the Ghafla we know today was born out of the slight pivot. And the readers came pouring in with every new gossip story going live. The professional look had to die, but it wasn’t an easy death.
“I had taken on investors at a 10 million shilling valuation. From my basic knowledge of fiduciary duty, I knew that they’d make a good return on investment if I grew the company to 100 million valuation. That meant Ghafla needed to go big, no, go HUGE, or go home.
And Majani says its the readers who wanted gossip and they would ask him everytime if the site had latest scoops on Kenyan celebrities and it grew.
“And I did it with a slightly heavy heart, for that was not exactly what I had dreamt I would build, but the people had spoken. The market expectation of an entertainment news site is to not just report on entertainment, but to actually BE the entertainment, through gossip.” said Majani. “And at least underneath it all, I’d be working in two areas that I loved: software and entertainment.”
So in October 2012, he went all-out with Kaz’s nude photo‘s then Vera Sidika‘s identity in the You Guy Video and then came the millions of readers.
“Soon we had the erection shaped usage graph coveted by all startups. And thus my biggest lesson in business was learned: In business you get nowhere trying to ram your personal preferences down other people’s throats. In its simplest form, all business boils down to the basic equation of supply and demand. People want what they want and only by being the supply to the demand is when you get paid. Which demands are right and which demands are wrong? That is a tricky question to answer, as one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Some may see socialites as the scum of the earth. Others may see socialites as leaders in the push to get plump ladies accepted as beautiful in the fashion industry,” Majani said.
And the numbers are good for his business too as online advertisers want HUGE numbers, especially given the prevalence of multinationals like Google and Facebook. If he had stuck to professional content he would have 100,000 readers even if they were quality readers. This to advertisers doesn’t make sense.
Apart from the 2 million readers, Majani also says Ghafla has eight figures in the bank, seven figures in receivables, eight figures in annual revenues(in mandatory VAT bracket), three serious acquisition offers by the biggest media houses in Kenya, 50 million total of venture capital offered by different funds, all giving close to 100 million valuation, but declined and 20 jobs created.
Though he sounds like he is boating, other bloggers in the gossip scene are not doing as big. Niaje, one Ghafla’s competitors went offline for sometime due to financial issues. Niaje has also decided to do the same Ghafla content to stay afloat.
With all this cash, Ghafla can do better with its own Radio station something like Ghafla Radio but Majani says his forte is new media not Radio.