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Kenyatta University UniCity Mall

Months after Kenyatta University completed its UniCity Mall, there’s not a single tenant. Uchumi Supermarket was to be the anchor tenant but things have not been going well for the former giant supermarket, and I doubt they have the capacity to open any new branch in the near future.

Without an anchor tenant, it would be very difficult to secure foot traffic for other smaller tenants, which ends up condemning the mall.

Just a few kilometres from UniCity, near NIBS, there’s another mall under construction by the name Spur. 

spur

spur
Spur Mall, Ruiru

Spur is actually located just a few metres from another well established ‘ghost mall’ that houses a Supermarket by the name Rexolmart.

A few kilometres away, Juja City Mall recently opened, perhaps with the advantage of being a little further from Nairobi, and having Tuskys as an anchor tenant.

Coming back towards Nairobi, another mall is being constructed, and I’m not kidding, right next to Mountain Mall. Basically those will be two malls sitting side by side, directly opposite Garden City Mall.

Mountain Mall
Mountain Mall

Following the perceived success of TRM and others before it, every businessman and their mother now wants to own a piece of the cake. None of them however wants to help bake a bigger cake by opening up factories or production facilities that will actually raise the middle class numbers.

Harris Marex on Facebook wrote a viral post on the dangers of this trend. Read it below.

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Juja City Mall and the Two Rivers Mall both in Kiambu are the latest entrants into the mall craze that has hit Nairobi and its environs. The completion of Safaricom’s Crystal Rivers Mall in Mavoko later this year will bring the number of malls within the 30km radius of Nairobi CBD close to 20. As Silas Gisiora Nyanchwani indicated the other day, Nairobi now has more malls than New York. The fact that Gateway Mall in Mavoko, Taj Mall and many other malls are not fully occupied means that the supply of space in malls in now higher than the demand. But we are still building more malls.

This is the tragedy of business in Kenya. Most new entrants just follow a craze. Instead of studying the market in search of the unmet needs and fill those voids, we study the market to identify the most popular business in the market and join the bandwagon. Those who started simu ya jamii and mpesa businesses made millions, before the two became a craze and profit margins started going south. Those who started Maruti transport business at the Fedha junction, Embakasi made good money before everyone brought their Maruti and eventually Nissan Vannetes. There are now more than 55 vanettes along a 3km route that can easily be served by 15. Those who used to make sh 4,000 a day 3 years ago in that route cannot go home with sh 1500 today. And you will still find someone taking a sh 800,000 loan to buy a vanette for the Fedha-Nyayo Estate route today even if the returns are less than 1000 after paying the driver, just because vannete is the craze in Embakasi and I have to fit into that craze, even though there is no need for more vehicles in that route. Now every building along Tom Mboya has shoes supermarket complete with a recording of that guy shouting stuff to attract passersby. My hood has more wines and spirits than schools and churches combined. Now almost every idiot that can type has a blog, copy pasing content from Ghafla and Nairobian. Uber might have 20 competing firms by the end of 2017.

Have we run out of unexploited business opportunities that the only option left is to copy paste the existing ones? Have we run out of human needs to meet or are we just too lazy to think out of the box or study the markets to unearth more needs to meet. As you plan to start a businness venture, ask yourself, am I just following a certain craze or there is an existing void I want to fill? Is the market segment I am about to enter already saturated? You can only enter an already saturated segment if the goods and services you want to provide stand waay high above the rest. Business is much more than a fashion trend. Do business to serve a need, to fill a void, not just to fit in.