What does ToLet.com.ng do?
ToLet.com.ng is Nigeria’s First Online Lettings Agency; we provide a comprehensive property rentals platform that helps Lagosians navigate the stressful, frustrating and unstructured Lagos property rental market.
We provide an easy to use website that allows Lagosians to search through what is unarguably Lagos’ largest real-time inventory of property rentals. Our users upon finding properties they want to view and can arrange a viewing via the site or through our call centre. We send our Area Field Reps to meet up with our users at designated times to conduct the inspections. These Reps are there to show other properties should the initial selection of the user not meet with their expectations. These Reps also help with area knowledge advice, negotiations with landlords and estate-agents and should the user require it, help process rental payments.
Who is ToLet.com.ng aimed at?
ToLet.com.ng is aimed at every Lagosian looking for a property rental, the class of our users ranges from young individuals looking for their first apartment, to Celebrities, High Net worth Individuals and Multi-National Companies.
How does ToLet.com.ng stand out against its competitors?
ToLet.com.ng is the only online lettings agency in Nigeria as of today. Asides from that unique position in the online industry, we have the largest inventory of available lettings in Lagos, we have highly trained are specialists who have been trained not to just get a client to pay at all costs but to ensure our clients get the best deal possible based on their taste and budget.
Our competition on the other hand are offline and comprise many Quack agents with no training, and who go into the property market because of the demand in the housing market. These agents are usually people with little or no education, who are looking for any source of income. Property seekers take a huge risk when using these agents, with a lot of people having it at the back of their minds that they could be swindled their money. Unlike ToLet.com.ng, these agents don’t have any comprehensive inventory of available properties; they also do not have full pictures or adequate information on the listings.
Did you have any concerns when you went to start a business in an emerging economy?
Like anyone going into business anywhere in the world, we had our misgivings, but we focused our thoughts on the positives and prepared ourselves for the challenges ahead. In our case, a look at the Lagos property market made us think little of any concerns we might have had. Lagos has some of the most highly-priced real estate in Africa, with a square metre potentially costing as much as US$1,200 in some cases. The real estate market is characterized by demand far outstripping supply. A current housing stock of about 3 million homes, to a population in excess of 21 million has led to a housing deficit of 5 million houses.
Thus having a comprehensive rental platform that catered for the teeming population of house hunters and the possibilities of growth of such a platform far outweighed our concerns.
Where did the idea for ToLet.com.ng come from?
The idea of ToLet.com.ng was born around the time my fellow cofounders and I had just left university and a lot of our friends were having a hard time getting their first apartments. I called upon the rest of my cofounders to create a web based centralized listings service for properties in Lagos and thus we started what is now ToLet.com.ng.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
I am actually a lawyer by training, I hold a masters degree in International Commercial Law from the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland and my undergrad law degree was from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Nigeria. My interest in start-ups and business in general probably comes from my being born into family of business people, I had my first taste though while as an undergraduate law student I cofounded a computer hardware sales business with one of my current co-founders.
How did you initially raise funding for ToLet.com.ng?
We started the company from our personal savings and funds raised from family and friends. After which we raised funding in 2013 from Spark.ng
What do you think is the difference between growing a business in an emerging economy like Nigeria, compare to growing a business in Europe?
In economies like Nigeria, bureaucracy, lack of skilled manpower, lack of infrastructure, aversion to new ways of doing things can be said to be key differences that stand out. It’s however not all bad news, the positives are the fact that most emerging economies are virgin territory business-wise and thus full of opportunities just waiting to be tapped.
What has been your biggest achievement so far as a startup owner?
In a short space of time, we have achieved quite a lot at ToLet.com.ng, so it would be hard for me to point to one particular achievement. However I would say building the business itself is our biggest achievement, we have gone from just four co-founding staff to 35 staff, we have had over a 107% increase in revenue just over the last 6 months. We have had a monumental increase in our user base. All in all the business as a whole is my big achievement.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a startup owner?
The biggest challenge so far has been the dearth of adequate data in Nigeria, we have had to generate our own database to assist us in making business decisions and that data generation process on an unstructured yet huge market like the Lagos Property Market has been frustrating and a drain on time resources.
Would you ever consider expanding in to Europe or the US, and why?
As far as ToLet.com.ng is concerned, an expansion into Europe or the U.S. is not on the cards right now and this is because we believe there is a far greater opportunity in us expanding our business across the rest of Africa and other emerging economies in the rest of the world.
How long has you’re company been in the making, and who is the team behind the business?
It has taken us over 2 years to get our platform to where we are today.
The co-founding team comprises of:
- Fikayo OGUNDIPE
- Sulaiman BALOGUN
- Oladapo ELUDIRE
- Seyi AYENI
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
We hope to over the next one year, to corner a larger portion of the Lagos Rental Market and to also expand our services to other major rental markets in Nigeria notably the country’s capital city of Abuja and the oil rich city of port-Harcourt.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Understand your market, target market and also understand your competition to make sure you are at least one step ahead always