A few years ago, I would have hardly thought it possible to purchase something as rudimentary as Egusi soup off the Internet but how times have changed. It’s hard to think of a time when shopping for a new phone didn’t mean swiping pages on Jumia or Konga (Does anyone still visit Computer Village, Ikeja these days?), yet just five years ago, neither existed. The job hunt that involved walking several miles with an envelope in hand, hoping to the gods of Olympus that you would get lucky and someone would be interested have been replaced by hours of staring at Jobberman and sending tons of CVs. People now buy things like apples and oranges on their smartphones from the comfort of their homes.
Technology is becoming a bigger part of our daily lives and its influence on how we go about our business is telling. The growing list of Nigerian innovators is as long as it is diverse. Making strides in various sectors including retail, education, job placement & employment, media & entertainment, hospitality, and finance, the tech startup landscape in Nigeria has ever expanding horizons. In the past year alone, the number of tech startups in Africa has more than doubled and an ever increasing percentage Nigerian graduates are looking towards entrepreneurship especially tech solutions as a tool for transforming their country as well as their continent.
Real estate and hospitality are especially sectors were the influence of these startups are most appreciated by me. Less than five years ago, renting a house in Lagos was similar to willingly walking into an unrestrained madhouse. So nerve wracking. I enjoy convenience, maybe a little more than the next guy. I have often been called lazy as a result and I can’t fault that. It’s my mantra, my code – There’s the most convenient, most comfortable way to do anything, your job is to find that way and do that. A lot of Nigerians share similar sentiments (maybe not as strongly as I do) but we truly don’t want to have to jump through the worst hoops just to get what we need.
It’s why these startups are so effective and especially in real estate and hospitality, why companies like ToLet.com.ng and Hotels.ng have grown immensely in such a short space of time. House hunting prior to ToLet.com.ng was riddled with disappointment, exhaustion, sore feet and an overall dampening of your expectations.
Agents served as property finders, financial experts and deal brokers and such an over-reliance on their expertise made it easy for fraudulent agents to take advantage of unsuspecting clients. Even agents with good intentions didn’t immediately translate to a quality experience for their clients. House and area descriptions were hard to come by and the search process was often long and arduous. Anyone who could simplify the search process by providing an adequate collection of listings to choose from already had a competitive edge over the traditional model.
This was their biggest advantage and it wasn’t long before Lagosians in need of rental spaces began flocking to their website and making user requests to inspect the properties of their choice. Users of ToLet.com.ng search for properties on the site free and only have to pay a basic service fee to access use of the site’s Area Specialists without having to pay any dime afterwards to anyone else.
There are about 20,000 listings to choose from at the moment covering over 143 areas and several local governments in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun, Oyo and Rivers state so that users are spoilt for choice and locations. The site eliminates agents who charge fees to tenants at every property or inspection and helps them negotiate with Landlords as well as Property Agents. Property agents can benefit from the site as well by using their to market their listings faster since they control the majority of rental search online.
ToLet and similar tech startups around the country can only get better from here forward and with even greater funding, the impact of technology on how we carry out real estate transactions can create a more wholesome experience for buyers. Virtual inspections might eventually replace real life inspections and transactions might be completed online without the need for any physical contact at all.
Technology, from the wheel to the web has not only been a major influence on human growth and development but a platform on which human networks and our understanding of the world around us can flourish. The future looks incredibly bright for Nigeria and the African continent and I can only see better days ahead. If that means we’re all going to be a little lazier, you can be sure I’m not complaining about that one bit.