Anyone who has tried to rent or buy a property in an African country knows the pain and heartache that goes with the process. Ghanaian start-up meQasa.com is working both online and offline with the country’s real estate agents to make things easier. Russell Southwood spoke to meQasa.com’s founder Kelvin Nyame.
Start-up meQasa.com came out of the MEST incubator process (http://www.smartmonkeytv.com/
It started in August 2013 and aims to connect real estate agents with those looking to buy, sell or lease properties, whether houses, flats or offices. It does this both online and through meeting up with both parties offline through phone calls to check that both parties were satisfied with the transaction.
It has a network of 180 real estate agents, 80 developers and a number of individual agents. The site generates between 3-4,000 unique views a month from people looking at its inventory of 3,500 properties. It has real estate agents at both the high and low ends of the market.
It’s not yet available on mobile but there is a beta version of an Android app which will allow people to list properties:”Our priority has not been mobile users as most prospective customers mainly use the web and our site is optimized for the web.”
So who uses the service?:“One category of users is expats looking for accommodation so they can work. They’ve come to a new country and they have no idea how things work. We also have professionals who’ve been promoted and move community so they need to rent or buy a new place. There’s also companies who want to help employees or executives to find properties.”
The initial idea of the business model was to create a fee for promotion listings of properties so that sellers or agents would pay an extra fee to have their listing stand out. But that’s been put on hold for the prospect of what seems to be a more attractive route.
It is working with the Ghana Real Estate Professionals Association and will list members properties on its site but also syndicate them to other media sites. When completed, there will be two products: a marketplace on its site and a multiple listing system. The database will allow other listing sites to pull information online from it. It will also allow agents to interact with each other. For this MIS system, members will pay a monthly fee. Long-term, Nyame believes that there will also be revenues from the analytics they will be able to generate.
He sees the revenues from the MIS system as being key to the company’s eventual profitability. He says that he needs to increase revenues through this route over the next 16-18 months and then he’ll consider looking at additional markets.
And who’s the competition? Rocket Internet backed Lamudi has focused on the online marketplace piece of the chain. There are also online classifieds sites like Tonaton.com (owned by Sweden’s Kinnevik AB) and OLX who have both put significant sums into maketing.
But Nyame believes that two things mark him out against these sites:”We are locals and understand the market and we also offer customer service offline.”