“Epuka aibu ndogo ndogo babe, surely!” This was the message my wife texted me after I informed her of an interesting experience at a posh restaurant in Muthaiga.
This was in July 2021. A client, Makena, had called me for a lunch meeting. She was interested in a 31-acre piece of land I was selling in Kimana, Kajiado. She was in the country for a week and wanted to get the full details after which we would communicate online after she moved back to Boston where she worked as a medic.
Now, Nairobi is a city of many surprises. I got to know of a restaurant deep inside the Karura Forest, probably two or three kilometres inside a thicket. Built on a river bank which gives it such a unique view.
As I parked my jalopy, I wondered how a Kenyan living in the US had gotten to know of such a gem before I did - me, a whole real estate agent!
After exchanging pleasantries, a well-dressed waitress approached us and asked for our orders. She did not hand us a menu and since it was not placed on the table, I asked for one.
“Oh so sorry I forgot to mention, the menu is accessed via a QR scanner. Here is the QR code,” she pointed at what appeared to be a serviette holder.
My client appeared to be well aware of the workings of this restaurant. She was already holding one of the “serviette holders” as if taking a photo.
She went back to her phone and a few scrolls later, she made her order.
“I will have goulash with one white chapati.”
For a moment, I was stranded. My old battered smartphone did not have a QR code scanner. In fact, its whole camera was nearly dysfunctional. The camera lens was covered in dust after a screen replacement that didn't go smoothly, leaving a small hole that kept taking in dust and other dirt.
Some quick thinking suggested that I make an order similar to my client. Unfortunately, I had never heard of a meal known as goulash.
I was worried it might be something I am allergic to, a huge embarrassment in front of a client I was trying to earn their confidence. I opted for a more forthright approach.
“My phone appears to be acting up, can I kindly have a look at the menu from your phone,” I asked.
Turns out there was my favourite Ugali beef on the menu! 10 minutes later, our orders arrived. I was surprised to learn that goulash is just some fancy tumbukiza of Hungarian heritage. Everything went on nicely.
Makena and I actually became friends. After she made her down payment for the shamba, she joked that she hoped I would use my commission to get a better smartphone. I laughed.
Fast forward a year later. In September 2022, my old smartphone was still going strong. I am not sure strong is the right word - it was slow and prone to hanging every now and then, and sometimes lost power faster than you could say hello.
But it was still effective in making calls and texting - so effective that it sometimes texted my contacts on its own motion and made calls while it was in my pocket.
One afternoon, a client walked to my office and wanted to see a property I was marketing in Kenol. I got into his car and we drove to the site, about a kilometre from the Kenol-Saba Saba highway.
The meeting went on smoothly and after a hard day’s work, the client insisted that he had to buy me nyama choma to crown the day’s work. Three hours later, we were still at the nyama choma joint - conversations often become endless when it's election season.
It was when we got to the car that I realised that I had forgotten to charge my phone as I usually did when going offsite. The battery was dead.
We lost a few hours in the infamous Kenol market traffic, getting back to Nairobi some minutes past 9 pm. I needed to get a taxi and since my phone’s battery was dead, I asked for my client to call me an uber before dropping me in the CBD.
When I got home, my wife was in full panic mode. I had not alerted her before the phone went off. I apologised and promised to replace my phone’s battery soon.
Of course I forgot about it.
The old phone exhibited relatively normal performance but often took breaks when it mattered most. This was the case in November last year, just a few months after going comatose in Kenol. I was marketing a 3-bedroom mansion in Rongai. A couple that was interested in building their retirement home contacted me and we began talking about a potential sale.
The husband, Mutua, came to Rongai and I gave him a tour of the property. He liked it and promised to liaise with the wife before making the final decision.
A day later, Mutua called and told me to send him photos of the open plan kitchen and the backyard. His wife was very keen on these two elements and wanted to see it before they proceeded with the down payment.
I was in Rongai and took several photos which I shared with Mutua a few minutes later.
“Boss, hizo picha ni za ile nyumba niliona kweli? Wife amecomplain hataki kuishi hiyo place ati iko na giza sana.”
Turns out my poor phone had taken grainy photos that made the space appear dark and uninviting. My entrepreneurial mind became alert at the thought of losing a client due to such recklessness.
I called my wife and asked her to bring her phone to the site. We took better photos and sent them to Mutua, pleading that they give the property a second chance.
Mutua’s wife eventually agreed to visit and view the property to confirm it was as beautiful as it appeared in the second batch of photos.
This was the prompt that finally pushed me to get a new phone in December 2022 but I wouldn’t come around to doing so until two months later in February 2023.
I was cash-strapped since I was expanding my office. Fortunately for me, I found out about the concept of smartphone financing with Mogo Kenya. The arrangement allows you to own a smartphone and pay for it pole pole.
This is how I became the proud owner of the Samsung A54 256GB. I paid a downpayment and continued paying Ksh2,000 per week. Luckily, the upgrade brought about better fortunes and in January, I increased the amount to Ksh5,000 per week.
This allowed me to complete the repayment much earlier than we had initially agreed with Mogo. Early repayment comes with no penalties.
The new phone has increased the reach of my social media posts because my photos and videos are attractive and capture the beauty of the properties I market.
Some houses that had been going for months without getting clients have started attracting inquiries and sales are increasing significantly.
The customer experience has improved, particularly with the extra storage which means I am now able to keep as many photos and videos on my phone.
Customers who ask for specific images now get an instant response. This is unlike before when I had to spend time searching for the photos, or ask my wife to share them.
More importantly, the peace of mind has been amazing. I can enjoy social media - Tiktok videos are my favourite - as I wait for a meeting, without worrying about my battery dying. My phone no longer texts and calls people without my involvement.
I am even able to help my daughter with her homework, even when her mother is not around (before I had to use her mother’s phone)!
Oh, and I almost forgot, you remember Makena, my diaspora client who likes fine dining? She saw my WhatsApp status for a house I was selling in Nyali.
She referred her friend and if the sale goes through, I will have the biggest commission of my career!