How a Facebook post opened Habiyambere’s door into car dealership

Many people, especially the youth, use social media platforms to communicate with family and friends. For the jobless, it is a space to spend time and interact at leisure. However, for 27-year-old Hassan Habiyambere, social media has become a marketplace, offering him a boundless opportunity to start a car selling company.
The young entrepreneur at his car bond in Nyarugenge. / John Mbaraga
The young entrepreneur at his car bond in Nyarugenge. / John Mbaraga

Many people, especially the youth, use social media platforms to communicate with family and friends. For the jobless, it is a space to spend time and interact at leisure.

However, for 27-year-old Hassan Habiyambere, social media has become a marketplace, offering him a boundless opportunity to start a car selling company.

It all started in 2012 when the then employee of University of Rwanda’s College of Business Studies (CBS) helped a friend to sell his old car after he placed an ad on his Facebook page. The voluntary service made him Rwf150,000 richer; Rwf50,000 commission from the seller and Rwf100,000 from the buyer as a token of appreciation.

“It was like a miracle for me to make Rwf150,000 in one hour, much more than Rwf100,000 monthly salary at my workplace,” he says.

Though he was not using his Facebook account to advertise cars, Habiyambere says a few days later, another person who wanted to buy a car approached him to help him (buyer).

“So, I decided to create a Facebook page to advertise cars even when I did not have any cars, capital or selling point, but I was committed to develop and exploit this business opportunity,” he says.

The breakthrough

The young entrepreneur has been a struggler owing to fact that he comes from a humble background. When he dropped out school in Senior Three, a benefactor sponsored him to study electrical installation and repair at Centre de Formation de Gisenyi. The course, he says was to prove pivotal in his life, noting that it brought him another life-changing opportunity.

“I completed the course in 2010 and after doing different temporary jobs, I was sub-contracted for Rwf600,000 to fix electricity in one city school. I used the money I was paid to open a bank account because I planned to resume my studies,” he explains.

When Habiyambere joined Senior Four, he told the school head teacher that he was an electrician. The head teacher asked him to fix some of the faulty lines at the school campus, which he did in record time, a feat that earned him a full year scholarship. He was later also sponsored by Global Fund to complete his studies and joined University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics in 2013, from where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree last year.

The founder and managing director of UH CAR DEAL Company, earned Rwf100,000 per month from his job at CBS. Using his savings and a bank loan of Rwf2.5 million he bought an old car that he repaired and resold. The deal earned him Rwf500,000 profit. Because he lacked capital, he first concentrated on buying and selling used cars of RAA, RAB and RAC series.

Habiyambere had all this while intensified marketing campaigns on his Facebook page, and it was through this that one client requested him to import a car for him, a deal which he says earned him Rwf3 million in profit.

“After I secured the second order, I quit my job at CBS in 2014 and decided to start a company and concentrate on the venture to develop it further,” he says.

Winning tips

Though he was new in the car dealership business, had no selling point and lacked enough capital, he worked hard to create trust among buyers and other market players.

“It is challenging to convince the customers to trust you with their money when you are new in the business. So, one must ensure honesty, transparency and innovate to win over clients,” Habiyambere says.

He has created collaboration with companies and hires cars that customers use as they wait for their vehicles to be shipped in. He says this is one of techniques that have helped him win more buyers and consolidate his position in the cutthroat market.

“This service was enjoyed by the clients and the number increased daily as they were informing one another,” he adds. This also helped strengthen trust among customers, which he says has been the foundation of his enterprise growth.

Habiyambere says determination and confidence are central for one to succeed in this business and in life generally. He adds that he studies the services offered by competitors and on the global market and premises his or product pricing according to what they offer to have an edge over them.

Challenges

The entrepreneur says he lost Rwf1.5 million at one time when a person sold him a condemned car. Securing enough working capital is also a huge barrier for young and new entrants like him in the car sales business.

Achievements, plans

Habiyambere says his company is the local representative for SBT, a Japanese used car export company.

He also has partnership with Al-Futtaim Motors, a car selling firm that represents Toyota in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, as well as with some Korean car exporters. He employs about 12 staff, including one assistant and eight drivers, five of them are paid monthly salaries.

“My target is to expand operations to support government efforts aimed at reducing youth unemployment,” he says. Habiyambere notes that his dream is to represent global car makers and start selling new vehicles.

Advice

The Nyarugenge-based young entrepreneur advises youth to be innovative and solution-providers rather than focus on looking for jobs in other people’s companies or public service.

“Youth should instill in themselves the spirit of entrepreneurship and the need to solve challenges to ensure a better future,” he says, arguing that the more challenges, the more the opportunities. “Learning is a gift, even if pain is the teacher,” he says, quoting American actor James Garner, adding that where there is a will, there is a way.

Habiyambere advises those who plan to start businesses not to focus on money, but the service they give clients “because they are the ones with money”.

 

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