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Clicking Where Others Failed

Clicking Where Others Failed

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Published by Aamera Jiwaji
Online business Cheki Africa sells cars worth Sh3.4bn in an industry with its fair share of failures. Carey Eaton says it’s about understanding the market better
Online business Cheki Africa sells cars worth Sh3.4bn in an industry with its fair share of failures. Carey Eaton says it’s about understanding the market better

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Published by: Aamera Jiwaji on Mar 05, 2014
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03/05/2014

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Nairobi Business Monthly 
 
 April
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Nairobi Business Monthly 
 
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E-COMMERCE
Clicking  where others  failed
Online business Cheki Africa sells cars worth Sh3.4bn in an industry with its fair share of failures. Carey Eaton says it’s about understanding the market better
BY AAMERA JIWAJI
I
n an industry of sprinters, Carey Eaton is a long distance runner. And this is the secret to Cheki Africa’ success, while his competitors in the e-commerce sector are falling by the wayside.With just under two years in the online car selling business, Cheki in Kenya receives two million page views, sells between 6,000 to 7,000 cars and makes over $40 million (Sh3.4 billion) in car sales in one month.But running a tech business is about more than just the numbers - or the platform for that matter - said the Cheki founder and Managing Director. “I’ve been quoted elsewhere saying a website is not a business and I stand by that. A shop window is not a shop. There a number of players in the market who have come and gone who have focused on building a website and driving tra
 c to it, but that’s not the same thing,” he said. He added that the ICT sector, contrary to perception, was not a quick win industry, and that a successful business, as in any other sector, would have to focus on the core fundamentals.
Clear strategy
Cheki started its Kenyan operations in July 2011 with an initial investment of $30,000 (Sh2.5 million). Mr Eaton was reluctant to disclose how much the company is worth today but indicated that it was in the millions of dollars. And even though in a remarkably short period of time, he has
 
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Nairobi Business Monthly 
 
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achieved numbers and monetisation, he knows that the race is far from over. “The length of time needed to build a consum-er brand and transform a market can’t be done in a year,” he said. “You need time and stamina. We’ve come into this business knowing it’s a long term play and it’ll take five years of invest-ment at least.” And so he has spent a good part of the last two years building the Cheki brand and the business. “Once you’ve got that, profits come out of that. Profits are not our number one objective; market share is, and actual value delivery. Monetisation is an output.”In his opinion, this is the first challenge that e-commerce businesses in Kenya face. “The idea that just because there are people and there’s internet, therefore there’s big internet busi-nesses is far from an equation that’s true. We have to do what everyone else does which is build an actual business from the ground up. Slowly. There’s no quick free easy money.”While other companies have chosen to focus on building websites, Cheki - with its simple layout - has focused on a critical mass for its service through sales and marketing, brand recognition and delivering quality service to customers
A shop and the window
Cheki employs 350 people across Africa, 50 of them in Kenya, and intends to double its workforce locally by the end of the year. The business has a network of sales people on the streets who engage with car dealers on a weekly basis. At a cost of Sh20,000 for a car dealer, and Sh750 per car for a private seller per month, a car can be advertised on
Cheki.co.ke
. Cheki handles all the photography and content preparation. With this simple approach that focuses on building business networks, Cheki is able to deliver between 30,000 to 35,000 car buying leads to dealers every month.“It’s all very well having 20,000 cars on a website. Anybody can do that. It’s quite a di
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erent thing from selling $40 million in cars,” said Mr Eaton. With a turnaround of three days for a popular car,
In an e-commerce business, the website is simply the window to the business.

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