Buoyed by a successful period of five years in business, leading housing co-operative now sets higher goals as it enters a new and more demanding phase in its growth

By George Gichuki

More than anything else, a powerful idea forms a very important foundation for a successful enterprise. Indeed, visionary entrepreneurs take time in identifying their areas of strength (as well as weakness) and this informs the choice of the business they engage in to a very large extent. This is well captured in the hedgehog concept. The concept is very clear and straight forward. Viewed from an entrepreneurial point of view, before starting a business, one should consider answering the following questions. What can you be the best in the world at (and in retrospect what you cannot be the best in the world at), what drives the engine of your business and finally, what is your passion? The concept demands that one should deeply understand what he or she can be the best at.  It should not be mistaken with a strategy or a goal.  In that vein, if an entrepreneur cannot be the best in his or her core business, then that core business cannot (and should not) form the basis of his or her hedgehog concept.
Having been very successful in its core business (offering innovative and affordable housing solutions to Kenyans using the co-operative model) in the last five years, Urithi Housing is a good case study of how a business gets rewarded because of embracing the hedgehog concept. Urithi was started by a team of only ten members in a small office in Thika town. So far, within a span of only five years, this membership has grown to 24,000.  Whereas the maiden transaction of the fast growing housing co-operative society  was only Kshs. 360,000 ( a down payment from the sale of some  plots in the first piece of land it invested in) , in the  last financial year ( which ended on 31.12.2016),   it made a huge income of Kshs. 440,573,696, from the sale of various plots and houses. Such growth within a very short span of time is nothing short of phenomenal.


Passion, patience and persistence
“In our quest for growth, we have been guided by three principles – passion, patience and persistence,” says Mr. Samuel Maina, the chairman of Urithi. “Indeed, we are a household name in the country and one of the thought leaders in the real estate industry,” he adds. Mr. Maina further observes that during their first cycle, they have learnt that it is possible to grow as a co-operative society, if mismanagement of resources is avoided and the golden principles of transparency as well accountability are upheld at all costs while conducting business.
Despite encountering challenges like members being late in settling their debts and failure by some of them to fully understand how a co-operative model operates, Urithi is now training its guns on achieving the audacious goals it has outlined in its second cycle of growth.  In preparation for the grueling task ahead, the housing co-operative has put in place a versatile enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, developed a customer relationship management system and launched a loyalty card for its members, besides establishing a call centre operating for eighteen hours daily among other milestones.
The acquisition of a new customer relations management system will enable Urithi to manage its fast growing membership. Besides the system, the organization   has established a fully fledged customer care department. “The department will ensure that all our members and clients are well attended to and should there be any complaints, we guarantee that they shall be resolved within the timelines provided in our customer care charter,” observes Mr. Kelvin Muthuri, the chief executive officer ( CEO).

The fast growth that Urithi anticipates in its second cycle will be sustained against a backdrop of very heavy investment in technology.   “In the next five years and beyond, we shall leverage on technology in order to make Urithi great in  servicing  and satisfying  members,” says Mr. Geoffrey Kilonzo, the chief operating officer.  “Our digitalized services shall bring a fresh breath to our members as we seek to grow together,” he emphasizes.