Former Diaspora finds takeoff in real estate back in Kenya
Now, one of the recognised names in real estate in Mombasa. His company manages property worth Sh25 billion with 800 employees. Thuranira started off with AirFrance as a customer service agent when it was operating in the country. “I pursued a diploma course in Travel and Tourism Management,” he says.
Just as he was settling into employment, the airline closed its passenger terminal in Nairobi after two years and Thuranira was back to square one. “I am not the kind of person who resigns to fate.
“I went there to study piloting at Dallas University in Texas, but by the second year I was already bored. However, I acquired a private piloting licence.
While in college, I worked at construction sites as ‘mtu wa mkono’. It turned out, this was the best job ever. It opened my eyes to the world of real estate,” he says. The real estate manager says his fascination with construction was such that he spent hours gazing at some of architectural marvels in Texas.
“As a trained pilot, I envisioned construction in the same way I did the landing and taking off a plane,” he says. To get some skills, he enrolled at the The Real Estate Business School in Texas and worked for various companies for six years.
Born and raised in Gikumene, Meru county, Thuranira saw an opportunity in the sector and decided to give it a try despite having no relevant experience and also being a foreigner.
After graduation, Thuranira worked for several companies back in Texas and it is while on employment that he realised that the middle class were making a lot of money. It is this realisation that nudged him to invest in real estate.
“I walked into a bank and asked for a loan of $20,000 about Sh2 million to buy a house in Dallas. I used $8,000 about Sh800,000 in renovations. Later, I sold the house for $40,000 (Sh4 million). I knew then I had hit a jackpot,” he says.
He went back to the bank paid his loan and borrowed more money that is how Royal Group of Companies was started in Texas. Then, he was 23 and had become a master in the property world of Texas.
“One of our approaches was to buy ranches and put up houses. However, one of the greatest challenges was to get white clients to trust me. It is a tough world, so I decided to play smart, so I let white employees handle white clients,” he says.
However, when the 2008 financial crisis hit US real estate business, his venture came crumbling down and this forced him to seek employment. However, this did not go on for long as he decided to come back to Kenya and formed My Space Properties.
The company helps buyers, investors, owners and developers meet their needs. Since then, he has helped grow the real estate industry at the Coast and his company has become a household name. “My fascination with building and constriction started when I was 14 years old.
I repaired a neighbour’s rabbit cage and I was paid Sh100,” he says. The CEO of my space says that he was never afraid of asking questions about real estate and his curiosity set him to his current path.
“I can be nagging when I want information or to learn something. This is why I got the job at the construction site in Texas,” he says. While working in the US, Thuranira was investing in land back home in Kenya.
“The financial crisis in US brought down Royal Group of Companies, we lost a lot of money and it was devastating, but home is the best, here I am seven years later,” says Thuranira.
“When I came back, I did research for six months. I hired agents to show me properties in Mombasa and understand challenges that made it difficult for developers to start real estate ventures, before I was satisfied that I could do business in the area,” he says.
“Most people in Mombasa have no title deeds, I avoid such land,” he says. Is the future of Kenya’s real estate still bright? “Yes Kenya is a developing country and many people are moving from up country to towns and people need houses.
Consequently, I do not see the bubble bursting soon as some people are predicting. Motto: “Investing is about risk, but take risk when you know you are strategically positioned to gain, don’t run for opportunities because others people are doing so. Be sure that is what you want.”