In Kenya today, if you brought up the topic of buying land, everyone will warn you to beware of fraudsters. And it’s not without good reason. The media has reported numerous land and real estate scams, and ironically, co-founder and chief executive of Optiven, a real estate company, George Wachiuri was not spared either.
"We set up Optiven with my brother as young men ready to supply whatever our customers asked for. And then we became brokers in land sales," said Wachiuri, and that is how the real estate arm of Optiven was founded in 2008.
Ambition and thirst for success saw the brothers put all their money into their newly formed real estate business and it wasn’t long before the scammers struck. They got caught up in a bogus land deal that cost them everything.
"That year the company was conned of Ksh5 million ($46,700), nearly 10-year savings, in a land deal gone bad as we tried to acquire land in Syokimau, near Nairobi, to start us off," Wachiuri explains.
"For one year we had no business to speak of, but in 2009 we started rebuilding from the ground up. We picked ourselves up and still pursued land brokerage before we were able to buy and sell land for ourselves. After sometime, we decided to be more professional by coming up with a long-term strategy, a vision, mission and value statements to guide our operations in the new more formal setup," he says.
"Real estate is a very tricky business. It is where people lose the largest amounts of money to fraudsters especially in Nairobi. My own loss in a land buying scam drives my passion. I have undertaken to ensure that no one loses their money if they deal with us," he said. "It is said that at least three out of five people have been conned while trying to acquire land in Kenya. On a trip abroad, I heard from Kenyans that they cannot invest in land back in Kenya because most property companies are setup to con people."
Optiven has done everything to demystify that. Two decades of operations later, the company is not only poised to be listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), but it has won numerous awards and has been recognised for its professionalism.
Joining the Nairobi Stock Exchange
This year in April, Optiven, currently employing 400 permanent employees and about 1,000 causal workers, was accepted into the NSE’s […]