Jamie Pujara is a Kenyan but not your typical African. Born in Nairobi to parents of Chinese and Indian descent who were born in Mombassa, Kenya’s second largest city, he’s always thought out of the box.
After finishing High School in Kenya, Pujara moved to the United Kingdom and enrolled at the University of Warwick Business School. Upon graduating from University, he worked briefly in Tokyo, Japan and New York before returning to Kenya, aged just 24, in 2008.
In the beginning….
Pujara is one of Africa’s most remarkable young entrepreneurs but, like most pioneers, he found his niche by accident.
According to him, two events seemingly unrelated on the surface, inadvertently culminated in the beginning of his path to becoming a business owner.
Firstly, on his return to Kenya, he needed his own accommodation after spending time at his parents’. It was not as easy as he’d envisaged with time, energy and money being needlessly wasted househunting.
“This was around 2008 and 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,” he recalled in an interview with an online publication.
The second event was when his friend (and co-founder) Nicolas Adamjee visited Kenya and inquired about the Real Estate space but there was a lack of quality information.
At that point, Pujara realised, something had to be done and www.RentBuyKenya.com, a property platform that connects agents and developers with buyers and renters online was conceived.
So, in 2012 and over cups of coffee, Pujara and Adamjee decided to start a website and launched the business with a capital of about $20,000. The growth was so phenomenal that, at its highest point, it had a team of 30 employees.
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.
The number one trusted property platform in Kenya, BuyRentKenya attracted 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.
Organizational culture is of paramount importance to him. In setting up BuyRentKenya, Pujara wanted from the start to build an organizational culture where everyone from the management, to the support staff understands and lives the organization’s values. This, he calls, organizational culture which he held dear to his heart. The core value at BuyRentKenya is making property search easier and he made it fundamental that as a workforce all the staff’s beliefs and attitudes are aligned towards this goal.
There was also the challenge of creating an ‘internet market place’ with somewhat new technology and trying to get both potential partners and clients on board with the idea. The concept, being new, meant many hours were spent convincing clients and consumers about why it would work.
In 2014, BuyRentKenya was recognized as the best Internet Marketing Portal in East Africa by the East African Property Awards. Jamie Pujara was selected by Business Daily Africa as one of the Top 40 Men Under 40 in 2014 and has also been selected as one of Forbes’ 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa two years in row – 2016 & 2017.
Jamie is wise beyond his age and he lives by a credo which guides his private and business life. These 10 nuggets, which first appeared in www.growthafrica.com, he’s unselfish enough to share with young entrepreneurs of his generation:
Be a man of habit. He says as a leader, you should develop a habit that adds value to your life, all round.
Fall quickly and fall forward. Failure is part of being a leader, but you should learn from the failures and move forward. The faster you fall and get up, the higher the possibility of becoming an exceptional leader and influencer.
Be the favourite. It is better to have 100 people who completely love you than 1 million people who sort of like you. Seek to be the best even for just as small group of people because this will give you power to influence their behaviour positively. Your customers for example need to think of you as their very best service provider and this way, they won’t go seeking that service elsewhere.
Hire based on values. Jamie Pujara admits that when they first started hiring, they concentrated on experience and academic qualifications. They realised that most people they hired didn’t possess certain values prompting them to shift to value-targeted questions during interviews
Everyone is an individual. Don’t look at your team as a general entity. Seek to learn what unique offering each team member brings to the table. There is beauty in diversity and understanding the different skill sets in your team will assure you of an upward trajectory in your leadership.
Listen. Listen to your stakeholders with the intent to understand not just to respond. Active listening will involve hearing, processing, understanding and then responding
Customer service. Your customers are a great asset. Therefore, ensure that at every point you understand their needs and concerns. Though not easy, customer service is recommended since it gains you credibility with your customers thus cementing your relationship with them
Question why things are done as they are. Don’t just do something based on tradition. Question why things are done in that certain way and not another. The importance of this is that it will allow you to create room for innovation. Don’t be tied to what has always been, evolve!
Clarity of vision. The vision should be a constant reminder of why you do what you do. Loss of vision creates a clear path for distraction and failure to come in. Explain your vision to your team constantly to ensure that they remain on the right track
Time. As a leader, you should ensure that you prioritise on tasks that are urgent and important. You shouldn’t allow some tasks that are urgent but not important or important but not urgent to take up most of your valuable and limited time.
In 2017, BuyRentKenya was fully acquired by Ringier One Africa Media while Pujara had the chance to also lead Entrepreneurs Organization Kenya, a global peer-to-peer network exclusively for entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
Having divested from RentBuyKenya “at the right moment to give the company the best opportunity to grow to the next level,” Pujara is keen to start a new venture soon but is currently consulting for early-stage startups.
This way, he’s helping the next generation to see opportunities before they become obvious.