Coming from the background of a failed acquisition of Ghafla Kenya by Ringier two years ago, Majani comes out as optimistic of the future of his business. There was a lot for him to learn, that is after he was done with the regrets.
The publishing market is challenging in 2018 with a lot of moving variables like competition, ad blockers and social media which may work for or against media businesses. We still have a growing media landscape as Kenya edges closer to 100 percent internet connectivity. We are close there, but may never reach it.
Samuel Majani, Ghafla Founder and CEO sees opportunity in the future and beyond the Kenyan borders. Ghafla has since expanded to 5 more countries outside of Kenya, making a total of six countries with varying levels of success. Kenya is still the leading market for Ghafla with Tanzania coming quite close. He calls Tanzania an entertainment media country, while also being optimistic of South Africa and Nigeria’s future for their market size. Majani also plans to scale Ghafla across English speaking Africa, then French speaking Africa and onto Arabic in the mid to long term.
“..the failed exit gave me a second chance….I saw the potential that I wasn’t seeing before”
Scaling across countries is one of the things he learnt he could do without the fear of the unknown slowing him down. “The failure of the exit gave me a second wind to try and do something with this thing, while at Ringier I saw the potential that I wasn’t seeing in the company,” says Majani. That the company indeed engaged them and saw something in them made him believe in what he was working on even more.
Majani also learnt that he could take on much bigger things, including lack of an office which came about as result of the fall-out with Ringier, they just moved out without plans for an office. This resulted in them working from home, something he later came to learn wasn’t as bad as he had assumed. Working at home made it easy to think about scaling, since moving to a new country meant just posting a job advert in the local classifieds and interviewing candidates online, and it worked.
“Kenyan tech businesses shouldn’t view scale like Silicon Valley”
Majani opines that Kenyan tech businesses shouldn’t view scale like Silicon Valley does, and should focus more on growing the small businesses to huge businesses as opposed to exits. “To be honest with you I re-examined the way we should be building companies in Kenya, maybe the Silicon Valley model isn’t the best for Kenya, where you start, get investment, build and sell it off,” says Majani.
“Maybe we should build and become the big guys who will be at the top of the ecosystem and be acquiring other companies which come later on, and that’s what I’m trying to do with Ghafla,” he adds.
He also believes that investors looking at Kenya shouldn’t view Kenya as a place to invest and exit, but a place to invest and be part of the next big companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon have been in other countries.
See below the interview.