NAIROBI (HAN) June 6.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. BY: Nelly Murungi. Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Neither does Lesus Executive Car Hire, a vehicle hire company in Kenya.
Lesus provides chauffeured cars ranging from luxury sedans, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), stretch limousines, vintage cars, and also chartered helicopters and motorbike escort services to both individual and corporate clients. Dan Njoroge has run the company for the past three years.
In 2011 the journey of firsts began for him. Besides being the year he left the cushion of a promising career in finance at one of the leading banks in Kenya, it was also the start of a search for a more challenging job. Having been in banking for four years, he was confident of finding another opportunity, but to his surprise no doors opened.
By mid-2012, with his savings exhausted, he was forced to sell all his belongings and move out of his apartment while he figured out his next move. During this period he decided to try supplying stationary to corporates. He did so for the next six months earning him an average of just $10 a day, not forgetting the hard labour entailed given he had to at times trek over long distances carrying heavy supplies.
Frustrated and faced with lack of a reliable income, Njoroge decided to try out leasing his friend’s luxury 4×4 as he wasn’t using it. After a few days, someone offered him a job to chauffeur at a wedding followed by subsequent jobs, one which lasted two weeks.
This was a windfall given his meagre earnings at the time. “Getting payment for the two weeks’ job marked my defining moment. I figured I could also run an executive car hire business, add more cars and ultimately earn more. This, coupled with my passion for cars, birthed my business,” he says.
Penetrating the market
The initial market penetration strategy for the company involved catering for weddings, which still comprises 70% of its business. This was mainly driven by referrals as well as online marketing through the website and social media.
The company also offered its vehicles for free to a leading media house during one of their events, which offered Lesus mileage in the form of publicity.
Creating a database of well-maintained luxury cars requires good contacts with high-value individuals as well as other executive car hire companies. Njoroge has managed to grow his network by being a trusted and reliable provider, which in turn made vehicle owners trust him with their cars as well as recommend others to him.
Iconic events catered for
The company was among the service providers for the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which was headlined by US President Barack Obama. More recently, it catered to a Turkish government delegation.
According to Euromonitor International, the demand for car hire in Kenya continues to increase, driven by the growing number of business travellers.
Challenges present new opportunities
In a business largely driven by trust, the huge challenge has been to deliver to clients even when vehicles suppliers let him down.
“I once had a client request for a good number of luxury 4x4s, which I knew were hard to come by – but I let them know well in advance I’ll try my best but the cars were not readily available. However a few anxious hours and multiple calls later, I’d gotten hold of the requested number of vehicles, ready for the event starting the next day. Both my client and I breathed a sigh of relief,” he recalls. Needless to say this opened more opportunities and repeat orders from the same client.
For now, Njoroge is concentrating on growing his brand. In his words: “I dedicate 90% of my time and money to build my brand and leave only 10% to myself. I’m living the concept of delayed gratification, because I know that once my business is able to stand on its own, I can then focus on living the life I’ve always wanted.”